Basheer Kablawi’s fight to stay in Canada took a turn for the worst on September 10 when the Federal Court ruled that membership in the Syrian Socialist Nationalist Party (“SSNP”) can render an individual inadmissible to Canada pursuant to s. 34(1) of the Immigration and Refugee Protection Act.
As part of its ruling, the Court found that suicide bombings against military targets constitute acts of terrorism.
Section 34(1) of IRPA provides that:
34. (1) A permanent resident or a foreign national is inadmissible on security grounds for
(a) engaging in an act of espionage or an act of subversion against a democratic government, institution or process as they are understood in Canada;
(b) engaging in or instigating the subversion by force of any government;
(c) engaging in terrorism;
(d) being a danger to the security of Canada;
(e) engaging in acts of violence that would or might endanger the lives or safety of persons in Canada; or
(f) being a member of an organization that there are reasonable grounds to believe engages, has engaged or will engage in acts referred to in paragraph (a), (b) or (c).
Mr. Kablawi was born in what is today Israel. Shortly after Israel’s war of independence in 1948, he fled to Lebanon. From 1972 to 1991 he was a member of the SSNP. The SSNP is a secular, nationalist political party in Syria and Lebanon. It advocates the establishment of a Syrian nation state which would be composed of what is presently Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, Jordan, Israel, the West Bank, Gaza, Cyprus, Kuwait, and Turkey. It is the second largest political group in Syria, with over 100,000 members. In Lebanon it is allied with Hezbollah. (As an aside, those who read Christopher Hitchens will known that he was beaten by SSNP members after he defaced one of their posters in Lebanon.)
Much of Mr. Kablawi’s time since arriving in Canada in 1998 has been spent arguing that Canada should not consider the SSNP to be a terrorist organization. He has been, and now with this judgment continues to be, unsuccessful.
Actions of the SSNP During the Israel-Lebanon War
In its decision, the court referred to numerous news reports that documented SSNP military actions against civilians during the Israel-Lebanon war. These actions included:
August 1, 1985, New York Times (from Associated Press), reporting an SSNP suicide car bomb killed three Israeli soldiers and five Lebanese civilians;
August 10, 1985, The Economist (no author listed), reporting that the August 1, 1985 suicide bombing was the fourth since April of that year committed by the SSNP and also reporting on the SSNP’s failed coup in Lebanon in 1960 and alleged responsibility for the assassination of President-Elect Bechir Gemayel in 1982;
July 11, 1986, The Times (London), by Robert Fisk, reporting that the SSNP claimed joint responsibility with the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine (PFLP) for an attempted infiltration into Israel;
July 16, 1986, The Times (London), by Robert Fisk, reporting on a suicide car bomb in Jezzine, Lebanon, undertaken by the SSNP;
May 17, 1988, New York Times, by Neil A. Lewis, reporting on the capture of three SSNP members who attempted to smuggle explosives over the border with an intent to carry out a car bomb assassination as a part of a factional dispute; and
October 19, 1988, New York Times, by Joel Brinkley, reporting on an SSNP car bomb in Beirut which wounded at least two Lebanese civilians.
Given the documented evidence of the SSNP engaging in suicide bombings, Mr. Kabwali argued that suicide bombings against military targets do not constitute terrorism.
Suicide Bombings are Terrorist Actions
He argued that as suicide bombings against military targets are not primarily intended to cause death or bodily injury to civilians, then they are not terrorist actions.
The Federal Court disagreed, and found that terrorism includes targeting “any other person not taking an active part in the hostilities in the situation of armed conflict, when the purpose of such act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or abstain from doing an act”.
Furthermore, it noted that the definition of terrorism adopted by the Supreme Court of Canada focuses on the protection of civilians. As the modus operatus of a suicide bomber is to blend in with civilians, which will inevitably lead to the death of civilians, then suicide bombings against military targets are acts of terrorism.
Other Examples of Terrorism
The Court also mentioned the other examples of acts of terrorism committed by the SSNP:
The attempted coup against the Lebanese Government in 1961 whereby hostages were taken;
Multiple suicide or car bomb attacks in the towns and cities of Lebanon during the Lebanese Civil War whereby civilians lost their lives alongside military personnel;
The assassination of the Lebanese leader in 1982; and
The attempted assassination of rival SSNP faction members by car bombs in the U.S. who are presumably civilians as well.
The Federal Court thus affirmed that membership in the SSNP constituted membership in a group that has committed acts of terrorism, and that past and present SSNP members are thus inadmissible to Canada.
The implication of the decision is clear. Individuals who have previously (or currently) been affiliated with or interacted with the SSNP need to consult experienced legal counsel. A legal submission will need to be made regarding whether the person was actually a member of the organization, and whether they need to apply for a Minister’s exemption to the inadmissibility.