Canada bans its agencies from sharing information that could lead to torture

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canada, which has been accused of sharing intelligence that led to the torture of prisoners abroad, on Monday issued rules to prevent its security agencies from disclosing or requesting information from other countries if it would result in mistreatment.

The rules also prohibit Canada’s spy agency, border services agents and federal police from using information likely obtained through torture, unless it is necessary to prevent death or significant injuries.

The directions replace 2011 rules put in place by the previous Conservative government that was replaced by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau’s Liberals in 2015.

The Liberals appear to have publicized the rules to repair the government’s reputation, according to experts who noted that it is unusual for a country to publicly disclose such guidelines.

“Canada has taken the lead in this regard, partly because it has been stung by past history,” said University of Ottawa professor Wesley Wark.

In one high-profile case, the Conservative government in 2007 apologized and paid C$10.5 million to compensate Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria by U.S. agents after Canadian police mistakenly labeled him an Islamic extremist.

Earlier this year, Canada apologized to three Canadian men of Arab descent who said they had been tortured in Syria and blamed Canadian secret services for their ordeal.

The Canadian Security Intelligence Service, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police and the Canada Border Services Agency will be prohibited from disclosing or requesting information that would result in a “substantial risk of mistreatment,” the government said.

Information that was likely obtained through torture also cannot be used if there is a risk it would lead to further mistreatment.

“The government of Canada unequivocally condemns in the strongest possible terms the mistreatment of any individual by anyone for any purpose,” Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale said in a statement.

Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada, said the clearer rules were an improvement over the previous directions that allowed for information to be shared with other countries in exceptional circumstances.

“There’s been a lot of pressure in Canada over the last several years as the previous guidelines came to light and all of the inadequacies in those guidelines gathered quite a bit of concern,” said Neve.

Reporting by Leah Schnurr; Editing by Jim Finkle and Phil Berlowitz