Canadian Centre for International Justice

OPPORTUNITIES FOR JUSTICE

If you or your family members have suffered certain kinds of human rights abuses, you may be able to pursue justice in legal or other ways. Many processes exist around the world and in Canada to address violations of human rights but it can be very difficult to learn what opportunities for justice exist. This website can help you learn more.

Assess Your Options

Our assessment tool will take you through a series of questions about the acts committed against you or your family members and suggest possible options for pursuing justice.

Justice Institutions

Learn about different bodies that address human rights abuses by reading short descriptions of international courts, United Nations committees, regional human rights commissions and Canadian processes.

International

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International Criminal Court (ICC)

ICC

Located in The Hague in the Netherlands, the ICC is the first permanent international criminal tribunal. It was established to prosecute individuals accused of committing the gravest international crimes, including war crimes, crimes against humanity, genocide and aggression. In addition to determining criminal guilt or innocence, the ICC can order reparations to victims, and can provide assistance to some victims in countries where it operates through its Trust Fund for Victims.

The ICC is governed by an international treaty called the Rome Statute. Over 120 countries have ratified the treaty, which means that they contribute to the ICC's budget and accept its jurisdiction over their citizens and over acts that happen on their territory. The ICC can also receive the legal authority to investigate any situation when authorized by the UN Security Council (as happened in the cases of Sudan and Libya, which are not parties to the Rome Statute). Most European, Latin American and African countries have joined the ICC, as well as Canada and Japan. Non-members include the United States, China, Russia, India and most Middle Eastern countries.

The ICC's Prosecutor can launch investigations at the behest of state parties, the UN Security Council, or on her own initiative. For that reason, people can submit information to the Prosecutor about possible crimes. The ICC is intended to be a court of last resort, meaning that it will not act on cases that are already subject to genuine judicial proceedings at the national level. The ICC is also limited to crimes that occurred after July 1, 2002, the day the Rome Statute entered into force. Since it was created, the ICC has opened investigations concerning alleged crimes in eight countries, all of them in Africa.

The ICC can also receive the legal authority to investigate any situation when authorized by the UN Security Council (as happened in the cases of Sudan and Libya, which are not parties to the Rome Statute). Non-members can also request the ICC to have jurisdiction, as happened in the case of Cote d'Ivoire. (Note: Our "Assess your options" questionnaire is unable to include situations in with the UN Security Council or a non-member state decides to retroacivitely give jurisdiction to the ICC. As a result, it may in the future become possible for the ICC to prosecute crimes that happened in countries in the past, including Syria and Palestine for instance.)

For more information on the ICC and on current cases, see: http://www.icc-cpi.int/EN_Menus/ICC/Pages/default.aspx and http://www.iccnow.org.

For information about submitting a complaint to the Prosecutor, see http://www.icc-cpi.int/en_menus/icc/structure%20of%20the%20court/office%20of%20the%20prosecutor/siac/Pages/default.aspx.

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U.N. Committee against Torture (CAT)

CAT

The CAT is a United Nations body that may consider alleged violations of the rights set out in the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, an international treaty that entered into force on 20 June 1987.

Complaints may be brought by individuals, or third parties on behalf of individuals, against the 67 countries (as of April 2014) that have ratified the Convention and accepted the CAT's authority to hear such complaints. Victims must first pursue legal remedies in the country alleged to be responsible for the human rights violation, although an exception to this rule exists where domestic remedies are unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief to the victim. Individual complaints are referred to the Working Group on Complaints, which consists of three to five committee members. If they decide that the complaint warrants consideration from the CAT, it will then be examined on its merits in closed meeting. The individual complainant and a representative from the accused country may be allowed to attend the proceedings and provide clarifications at this stage. The proceedings will conclude with the Committee expressing its views on the case, in writing, to the parties involved.

Links:

http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cat/pages/catindex.aspx

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet17en.pdf

* The United Nations Committee Against Torture has a strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you have to file a complaint with the United Nations Committee Against Torture within a "reasonable time", unless you can demonstrate that it had not been possible to submit the complaint within that time limit.
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U.N. Human Rights Committee

The HRC is a United Nations body created to monitor compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), an international treaty that entered into force on 23 March 1976. The ICCPR covers a wide range of civil and political rights and prohibits certain actions by the 168 countries that are parties to it (as of April 2014). They include, among other things, the prohibition of serious crimes such as arbitrary killings by security forces, genocide, slavery, and torture.

Individuals can lodge complaints against countries for allegedly violating their rights, provided that the country has ratified the First Optional Protocol to the ICCPR. As of April 2014, this Protocol has been ratified by 117 countries. Victims must first attempt to seek justice in the country where the alleged rights violation took place, but there are exceptions to this rule where legal redress in national courts are unavailable, ineffective, or unduly prolonged.

Individual complaints are initially assessed by the Chairperson of the Working Group on Communications. Only complaints that meet the standards for admissibility are transmitted to the government accused of a violation to obtain its views. At the second stage, the complaint is forwarded to the Working Group on Communications, a panel of five human rights experts who consider petitions in two sessions annually. The Working Group on Communications can dismiss a complaint, seek more information, or make recommendations to the Working Group on Situations for further consideration. Finally, the Committee will express its views and recommendations on the situation to the individual and the country concerned.

Links:

Official Site of the HRC: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CCPR/Pages/CCPRIntro.aspx

FAQs: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/petitions/individual.htm

For an example of a complaint that CCIJ assisted to file before the HRC, see: http://www.ccij.ca/cases/samathanam/

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U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

CERD

The CERD is a United Nations body was established to supervise the implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination, an international treaty that entered into force on 4 January 1969. The CERD can consider complaints from individuals or groups of individuals claiming to be victims of any of the rights set forth in the Convention. In order for the individual complaints to be considered, the individual or group of individuals must first seek justice within the country where the abuse occurred. However, there is an exception to this rule in the cases when the application of domestic remedies is unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief. The complaint should be submitted within six months after all available domestic remedies have been exhausted.

Links:

Official CERD website http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cerd/pages/cerdindex.aspx

Model Complaint Form for an Individual Communications under the convention http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/docs/annex1.pdf

* The U.N. Commitee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination has a very strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you only have 6 months to file a case at the U.N. Commitee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (except for Spain, which only allows 3 months).
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U.N. Committee on Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)

CEDAW

Established in 1982, CEDAW is a United Nations body that consists of experts on women's rights from around the world. It monitors implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, an international treaty which addresses the basic human rights of women that entered into force on 3 September 1981. In 1999, the General Assembly of the United Nations adopted an Optional Protocol to the Convention that allows individuals to make complaints to the CEDAW. Complaints against countries that have ratified this Optional Protocol must be submitted in writing and cannot be anonymous. In order for the individual complaints to be considered, the individual or group must first seek justice within the country where the abuse occurred, unless that process is unreasonably prolonged or unlikely to bring effective relief. There is no time limitation for bringing claims.

Links:

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CEDAW/Pages/Introduction.aspx

A model form for the submission of communications to the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women: http://www.un.org/womenwatch/daw/cedaw/protocol/modelform-E.PDF

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U.N. Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)

CED

The CED is a United Nations body made up of independent experts that monitor the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, an international treaty that entered into force on 23 December 2010. The CED considers complaints from individual about alleged violations of the Convention, provided that the country allegedly responsible for those violations has recognized the competence of the CED to do so. By April 2014, only 17 countries had accepted the CED's legal authority. Complaints must be submitted in writing and must relate to a disappearance which took place after the Convention's entry into force. Additionally, the victim must have attempted to seek justice in the country responsible for the alleged disappearance.

Once the CED has received a complaint which meets the requirements for admissibility, it will contact the government of the country concerned and request that it investigate the matter. Any complaint received from the country regarding the whereabouts of a disappeared person will be communicated to the individual who filed the complaint. Cases will be closed once the exact whereabouts of a disappeared person have been determined. At that stage, the claim may be brought before another United Nations mechanism, if further violations of the disappeared person's rights have been uncovered.

Links:

Official website of the CED http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CED/Pages/CEDIndex.aspx

Model complaint form http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=INT%2fCED%2fBRD%2f7147&Lang=en

Fact sheet http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet6Rev3.pdf

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U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)

CESCR

The CESCR may consider complaints about violations of the rights set out in the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, an international treaty that entered into force on 3 January 1976. Complaints may be brought by individuals, groups of individuals, or third parties on behalf of individuals, provided that a country has ratified the Optional Protocol to the Covenant. Complainants must have first pursued legal remedies in the country where the alleged violation took place, and the communication should be filed within one year of the final decision from a domestic court or tribunal. When examining complaints, the CESCR will consider the reasonableness of the steps taken by the government in question to implement the rights set forth in the Covenant. In doing so, the CESCR will bear in mind that there a re a range of policies that a government may adopt to implement these rights.

Links:

http://www.ohchr.org/en/hrbodies/cescr/pages/cescrindex.aspx

http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Publications/FactSheet16rev.1en.pdf

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/TBPetitions/Pages/IndividualCommunications.aspx#ICESCR

* The U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights has a strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you only have one year to file a case at the U.N. Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, unless you can demonstrate that it had not been possible to submit the complaint within that time limit.
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U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

CRC

The CRC is a United Nations body of experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child, an international treaty that entered into force on 2 September 1990. The CRC also monitors the implementation of the two Optional Protocols to the Convention; one concerns the involvement of children in armed conflict, and the other concerns the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography. The CRC's Optional Protocol regarding individual complaints came into force on April 14, 2014. Children under the age of 18 can now submit written complaints to the UN committee if they have suffered abuses or mistreatment at the hands of countries that ratified this Protocol. Individual complaints can only be made after seeking and failing to get redress from the responsible government. Individuals must make their complaint within a year of a decision from a domestic court or tribunal. If the CRC decides that it will consider a complaint, the responsible government will be given the opportunity to respond to the allegations. The CRC will then issue its views and recommendations.

Links:

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CRC/Pages/CRCIntro.aspx

https://treaties.un.org/doc/source/signature/2012/CTC_4-11d.pdf

* The U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child has a strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you only have one year to file a case at the U.N. Committee on the Rights of the Child, unless you can demonstrate that it had not been possible to submit the complaint within that time limit
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U.N. Working Group on Enforced Disappearances (WGEID)

WGEID

The United Nations WGEID was established 29 February 1980 with a mandate to " examine questions relevant to enforced or involuntary disappearances of persons." The WGEID can consider cases whether or not the government that is allegedly responsible has ratified any particular treaty, and can even consider cases where no national case has been attempted. In order to be examined by the WGEID, reports of disappearances must be submitted in writing. Cases of disappearances can be submitted by relatives of disappeared themselves, or by organizations acting on their behalf (with prior consent of the relatives).

The WGEID also has the power to take certain actions in urgent circumstances, such as when people have been recently arrested or detained or are believe to be at risk of disappearance. In these cases, the Minister of Foreign Affairs of the concerned country is contacted by the WGEID through the most direct rapid means available.

Links:

Official website http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Disappearances/Pages/DisappearancesIndex.aspx

How to use the WGEID http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/Issues/Disappearances/how_to_use_the_WGEID.pdf

Form to submit a communication on a victim of an enforced disappearance http://www.ohchr.org/Documents/issues/Disappearances/Communication_form_E.doc


Regional

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Inter-American Commission of Human Rights

IACHR

Any individual, group of persons, or organization can bring a complaint to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights for violations of the American Convention on Human Rights and the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man, as well as other Inter-American human rights conventions. The alleged violation must have been committed by a government that has ratified the relevant convention, and all member states of the Organization of American States (OAS) are responsible for upholding the rights in the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man.

Complaints brought to the Commission are called "petitions". When a petition is received, a preliminary evaluation is conducted. This evaluation concludes with one of three results: a decision to open the petition for processing, a decision to request additional info­rmation, or a decision not to process the petition. If a petition is admitted for processing, the Commission analyzes the parties' allegations and writes a report. The report may include recommendations to a government to restore rights that have been violated, to prevent the same violations from occurring again, or to provide reparations to victims. The IACHR can also ask a government to take urgent precautionary measures to prevent irreparable harm to a person or persons. If the state fails to comply with the Commission's recommendations it can refer the case to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, a separate body that can make legally binding decisions.

Links:

The Commission website: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/

Informational brochure about filing complaints: http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/docs/pdf/HowTo.pdf

Information on the Inter-American human rights system from the International Justice Resource Center: http://www.ijrcenter.org/regional/inter-american-system/

* The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has a very strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you only have 6 months to file a case at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
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African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights

Individuals and NGOs may bring complaints to the ACHPR alleging violations of the rights listed in the African Charter on Human and Peoples' Rights, an international treaty that entered into force on 21 October 1986. All African countries have ratified the Charter with the exception of South Sudan. Communications alleging a human rights violation are addressed to the Secretariat of the ACHPR, located in Banjul, The Gambia, where they are registered. A majority of commissioners decide that the ACHPR should officially consider the complaint. The ACHPR will then determine whether the victims have already attempted to obtain redress from a national court or tribunal and whether it was submitted in a reasonable amount of time.

If the complainant's application is admitted by the ACHPR, a written response from the concerned government will be solicited. In rare cases, the complainant and the responsible government will provide oral argument. When it has made its judgment, the ACHPR will issue its recommendations, which set out actions to be taken by the government to remedy the violation.

Recommendations are not themselves legally binding. However, they are submitted to the African Union's Assembly of Heads of State and Government. If adopted, they become legally binding. Although the Charter does not specifically provide a mandate to the ACHPR to grant remedies, the ACHPR has taken on this power. In the past, it has given declaratory judgements (affirming that a right has been infringed), monetary damages, and other forms of non-monetary relief (such as suggested amendments to rights-infringing laws).

The ACHPR website: http://www.achpr.org/

The Communications procedure: http://www.achpr.org/communications/procedure/

Information on the African regional human rights system from the International Justice Resource Center: http://www.ijrcenter.org/regional/african/

* The African Commission has a strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you have to file a case at the African Commission within a "reasonable time", unless you can demonstrate that it had not been possible to submit the complaint within that time limit.
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European Court of Human Rights

ECHR

The ECHR is a permanent international court based in Strasbourg, France. It rules on complaints from individuals and governments concerning alleged violations of the civil and political rights set out in the European Convention on Human Rights, which entered into force on 3 September 1953. Victims need not be a citizen of a country that has ratified the Convention, but rather the alleged violation must have been committed by a ratifying country. Individuals can file complaints at the ECHR after they have pursued legal remedies in their home country. Complaints must be filed within six months of a final decision from a domestic court. Furthermore, complaints that are incompatible with the Convention or its Protocols cannot be heard.

The process is conducted in writing, and in the initial stage, the victim does not need to be represented by a lawyer (but a lawyer is necessary once the government accused of a violation has been notified). An application may be considered by a single judge, a Committee (3 judges) or a Chamber (5 judges). Decisions from a Chamber can be further referred to a Grand Chamber (17 Judges). Judgements of the ECHR are binding and enforced by the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, and have led governments to alter their legislation and administrative practices, as well as pay compensation in a wide range of areas. A total of 93,397 applications were decided in 2013.

Links:

http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=home

http://www.echr.coe.int/Pages/home.aspx?p=applicants&c

* The European Court of Human Rights has a very strict limitations period. If you have tried to file a case in your country and it was unsuccessful, you may only have 6 months to file a case at the European Court of Human Rights

National or Canadian

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The Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC)

ECCC

The ECCC, also known as the Khmer Rouge Tribunal, is a hybrid initiative between the Cambodian government and the United Nations. The ECCC has a legal mandate to prosecute senior leaders and those most responsible for atrocities committed during the Khmer Rouge regime between 17 April 1975 and 7 January 1979. To date the ECCC has completed the trial of Kaing Guek Eav (Duch) and a trial of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan. A second trial of Nuon Chea and Khieu Samphan is in progress. While there are plans to prosecute two further cases, the identities of the accused in those matters have not been made public, and there are some questions about whether or not the cases will proceed. The ECCC is currently accepting applications for victims to participate in these latter two cases.

The ECCC has an innovative mandate for victim participation, allowing individuals to file complaints before the ECCC, as well as apply to participate as civil parties in the proceedings. While there is no mandate for financial compensation to individual victims, civil parties can request collective and moral reparations in cases where a defendant is found guilty. These have included public memorials and education programs.

For information on the ECCC, see the tribunal's website (http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/) and the Cambodia Tribunal Monitor (http://www.cambodiatribunal.org).

For more information about victim participation at the ECCC, see: http://www.eccc.gov.kh/en/victims-support

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War Crimes Chamber of the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina

The War Crimes Chamber in the Court of Bosnia and Herzegovina was established in 2002 and commenced operations on 9 March 2005. The WCC was created as part of an initiative to transfer cases from the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) to the national jurisdiction and thereby relieve the backlog of cases at the ICTY, help rebuild the judicial system in Bosnia and Herzegovina, and promote reconciliation by bringing accountability for war crimes. Unlike the ICTY, the WCC is not an ad hoc international tribunal and does not have a time-limited existence. It operates in accordance with the Criminal Code and Criminal Procedure Code of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

The WCC is currently conducting trials of lower to mid-level suspects for war crimes committed in the territory of the former Yugoslavia since 1991. Cases before the WCC may be initiated by the ICTY and then transferred to the WCC, or through investigation by the State Prosecutor of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Links:

http://www.sudbih.gov.ba/?jezik=e

http://www.trial-ch.org/en/resources/tribunals/hybrid-tribunals/war-crimes-chamber-in-bosnia-herzegovina.html

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Criminal Prosecution in Canada

Individuals present in Canada who are alleged to have committed international crimes may be prosecuted in Canadian courts. Criminal prosecutions are undertaken by Canada's Department of Justice, which includes a specialized War Crimes Program. International crimes, including genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes, are all crimes in Canada regardless of where they were committed. Prosecutions of international crimes are rare in Canada, however. Only two prosecutions have been brought under the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act since its enactment in 2000, both for people accused of involvement in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. Desire Munyaneza was convicted of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity, and Jacques Mungwarere was acquitted of the charges against him for genocide and crimes against humanity.

War Crimes Program: http://justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/wc-cdg/succ-real.html

For more information on the Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes Act: http://www.international.gc.ca/court-cour/war-crimes-guerres.aspx?lang=eng

For information about the criminal prosecution of Jacques Mungwarere, see: http://www.ccij.ca/cases/mungwarere/

For information about the criminal prosecution of Désiré Munyaneza, see: http://www.ccij.ca/cases/munyaneza-2/

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Civil lawsuit in Canada

Individuals may be able to file a civil lawsuit in a Canadian court under certain circumstances. Civil lawsuits are different from criminal proceedings. A civil lawsuit addresses a dispute between two private parties, whereas in a criminal trial the government acts as a prosecutor to hold an individual or organization to account for breaking the law. In a civil lawsuit, there is no possibility of a criminal sentence. A civil lawsuit is generally brought to seek monetary compensation for wrongdoing. The victim can sue a person, government or company that she or he believes is responsible for the wrongdoing. If the victim wins the case, the losing party may be required to pay financial damages to compensate the victim for lost income or property, to account for suffering that has been caused, or to act as a financial penalty to deter such behaviour in the future.

To initiate a civil lawsuit, a person whose rights have been violated must submit a pleading to a Canadian court that has the legal authority to settle the dispute with the person or organization accused of causing a harm. There are restrictions on who can have legal standing as a complainant, and limitations on who can be sued. There have been very few civil lawsuits in Canada having to do with torture, war crimes and other international human rights violations. One reason is because foreign governments and individual government officials usually have legal immunity in Canadian courts and thus lawsuits against them are often dismissed. Unless the Supreme Court of Canada changes this situation in an upcoming ruling, or Parliament changes the law, the option of a civil lawsuit may only be available against individuals who had no connection to a government or against corporations.

For basic information on criminal and civil suits in Canada, see http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/csj-sjc/just/08.html.

For examples of civil suits that CCIJ has been involved with, see suits against the government of Iran on behalf of Zahra Kazemi and Houshang Bouzari, and against Anvil Mining on behalf of the Canadian Association against Impunity.

* There is usually a limitations period for filing a civil lawsuit in Canada. Some cases must be filed within two years of when the abuse(s) occurred though sometimes this period is longer.
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Immigration penalties in Canada

In some cases, people suspected or convicted of committing serious human rights abuses can be prevented from entering Canada or forced to leave the country. Where the Canadian government has reasonable grounds to believe a person has committed or was complicit in war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide, it may bar the person's entry to Canada or force his or her departure. Such people may have their Canadian citizenship revoked, be deported from Canada, be extradited to a foreign state or be surrendered to an international tribunal to face a criminal trial. They may also be denied refugee protection. The Canadian Boarder Services Agency (CBSA), sometimes with the assistance of the Department of Citizenship and Immigration (CIC), conducts investigations against suspects, and refers cases to the Immigration and Refugee Board (IRB) for a determination about whether a person should be permitted to enter or remain in Canada.

Links:

http://www.justice.gc.ca/eng/cj-jp/wc-cdg/part.html

For information on these issues and the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act see http://cbsa.gc.ca/security-securite/wc-cg/wc-cg2011-eng.html

For an example of a case CCIJ was involved with resulting in exclusion from refugee protection, see: http://www.ccij.ca/cases/demirovic/

In what country did the abuse(s) occur?
Most justice institutions only have authority over abuses that occur in some countries but not others. For example, the United Nations Committee Against Torture can only examine possible cases of torture when the country responsible has agreed that the Committee can examine cases involving that country.
Did people who are citizens of any other country participate in committing the abuse(s)?
Some justice institutions only have authority over abuses committed by people who are citizens of certain countries. For example, citizens of countries that agreed to the treaty of the International Criminal Court can be prosecuted by the Court, even if the crimes occurred in a different country.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that there were not citizens of any other country who participated in the abuses. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.
What other citizenship did they have?

What is the date on which the abuse(s) happened? (If the abuse lasted for more than one day, select the most recent date on which the abuse occurred).

Select a date using the calendar below.

The authority of some justice institutions is restricted to abuses committed before or after certain dates. Often, this is the date when a country agreed to a particular treaty. For example, the International Criminal Court can only investigate abuses that occurred after July 1, 2002, when the Court's treaty came into force. Also, some justice institutions require survivors or families to file their cases within a certain amount of time after the abuses occurred. This is known as "prescription" or a "limitations period."
At the time of the abuse(s), what country was the victim a citizen of?
This question is often important in criminal proceedings, and some national courts have authority to hear cases involving crimes committed against their citizens abroad. For example, the government of Canada has the power to criminally prosecute people who commit certain crimes against Canadian citizens even if they occur outside Canada.
At the time of the abuse(s), was the victim a citizen of any other country?
Of which other country was the victim a citizen at the time of the abuse(s)?

Was the abuse committed against a woman?

Was the abuse committed against a child under the age of 18?

Describe the abuse(s) committed against the victim. Select ALL that apply from the following options.

Different justice institutions have authority over different kinds of human rights abuses. Some, like the United Nations Human Rights Committee, can consider a wide range of abuses. Others, like the Committee Against Torture, can consider a smaller set of abuses. Selecting the relevant acts on this list will provide the information necessary to determine which abuses might have been committed and therefore which justice institutions might be available.
Did the abuse(s) take place during a war?
Some justice institutions have authority over crimes that occur as a part of an international or civil war. These are known as "war crimes." Other institutions have authority over crimes that did not happen during a war. For example, the International Criminal Court may be able to prosecute the murder of a civilian as a "war crime" if soldiers committed that murder during a war.
Were these kinds of abuses committed against many other people in the country at that time?
Some justice institutions have authority over crimes that are widespread or systematic in nature. These are known as "crimes against humanity." For example, the International Criminal Court can prosecute murder as a "crime against humanity" if that murder was part of widespread violence against civilians.
Was the victim targeted because of her/his race, ethnicity, religion or nationality?
Some justice institutions have authority over the crime of genocide, which refers to certain acts that are committed with the intention to destroy a particular group. For example, the International Criminal Court may be able to prosecute the killing or forced displacement of people of a particular religion or race.

Who committed the abuse(s)?

Select ALL that apply from the following options.

The authority of some justice institutions is limited to acts committed by government officials and does not extend to crimes committed by civilians. For example, "torture" is a human rights abuse that usually requires government involvement. If someone is beaten but there is no government involvement then it usually is not considered "torture" and falls outside the authority of international justice institutions.
Please answer 'unknown' if you are not completely sure who was responsible for the abuses. An answer of 'unknown' to this question will not eliminate any of the justice options.
Are any of the people responsible for the abuse(s) currently living in Canada?
Certain legal processes in Canada are possible when the person responsible for abuses is living in Canada. For example, the Canadian government may be able to criminally prosecute, deport or revoke the citizenship of someone living in Canada who might have been involved in human rights abuses.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that none of the people responsible for the abuses are currently living in Canada. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.
Do any of the people responsible for the abuse(s) ever visit Canada?
Canada has the authority to pursue justice against people who committed certain abuses in other countries. When such a person visits Canada or tries to visit Canada, it may be possible for the Canadian government to take action, most likely through immigration penalties like deportation or denial of a visa.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that none of the people responsible for the abuses ever visit Canada. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.
Do any of the people responsible for the abuse(s) ever travel outside the country where the abuse(s) happened?
Many countries around the world have the authority to prosecute people present in their territory who committed certain abuses, no matter where the abuses happened. Although analysis of this option is beyond the scope of this website, the answer to this question could be useful to CCIJ if you decide to contact us about your justice options.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that none of the people responsible for the abuses travel outside the country. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.
In your opinion, in the country where the abuse(s) occurred, are the courts fair and independent, such that justice can be achieved there?
Many justice institutions assume that governments have the primary responsibility to investigate and punish abuses in the place where they happened. For this reason, their authority may be limited to situations in which the responsible government is unwilling or unable to take action or the courts are not fair and independent.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that the courts are not fair and independent. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.
Did the victim or the victim's family try to bring a case or a complaint before the courts, the police or other authorities in the country where the abuses occurred?
If the survivor or victim's family has tried to bring a case in the country where the abuses occurred but that case failed for certain reasons, this may make it more likely that an international justice institution may look into the case.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that the victim or the victim's family did not try to bring a case or a complaint. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.
What was the result?
If the survivor or victim's family has tried to bring a case in the country where the abuses occurred but that case failed for certain reasons, this may make it more likely that an international justice institution may look into the case.
Has the victim or the victim's family submitted a complaint to any other international court or body?
Some justice institutions want to avoid duplicating the work of other institutions. As a result, many will decline to accept a case if another tribunal or international body is already reviewing the case.
An answer of 'unknown' to this question assumes that the victim or the victim's family did not submit a complaint to any other international court or body. In other words, for this question an answer of 'unknown' will have the same result as 'no'.

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