Testimony given by Konrad Sigurdson, director-general of consular Affairs at DFAIT
The following was taken from the testimony of Konrad Sigurdson, Director General of Consular Affairs Bureau in the Dept. of Foreign Affairs, when questioned by commission counsel.
Konrad Sigurdson received a Bachelor of Arts from the University of Mantioba. He started working for the government in 1967, and became the High Commissioner in Pakistan while concurrently being the Ambassador to Afghanistan from Sept. 1, 2001 to Aug. 31, 2003. He has been the Director General of Consular Affairs Bureau in the Dept. of Foreign Affairs since Sept. 2003. Garr Pardy held this position before him.
William (Bill) Graham was Minister of Foreign Affairs between Sept. 2002 and Dec. 2003. The Deputy Foreign Affairs Minister was Lavertu in Sept. 2002, and has been Peter Harder since June 2003.
Structure of Consular Affairs in the Dept. of Foreign Affairs
In the Foreign Affairs Dept. there is a branch for Africa and the Middle East, with a Middle East bureau and a Middle East and North Africa bureau. Sigurdson said that consular officials in Damascus and Tunis fall under the Middle East and North Africa bureau, with officials in Damascus reporting to the Middle East division (and an official named McRae) and officials in Tunis reporting to the Maghreb and Arabian Peninsula division (and an official named Sylvain).
The Americas branch contains a North American bureau, and consular officials in New York report to the US General Relations, who is named Mcdonald, in that bureau.
The Corporate Services, Passport and Consular Affairs Branch is Sigurdsonís branch, which is denoted as the Consular Affairs Bureau, JPD, Director General K. Sigurdson. As Director General of Consular Affairs, Sigurdson says it is his responsibility to manage the various services like Client Services, Program Services, Emergency Services and Case Management.
Case Management has 12 case management officers who are responsible for different parts of the world, liaise with consular officers in the field and are responsible for the case of a detained, imprisoned, missing, murdered or deceased individual. Sigurdson confirmed that this is where the Arar file would be found.
Detainment/Maher Ararís Case
When asked, Sigurdson named Nancy Collins in NY at the time that Arar asked for consular assistance there, and Myra Pastyr-Lupul in Damascus, who worked there through most of 2002 and into 2003 after Rhonda Richards was moved to Dubai.
Sigurdson said that consular officials report/consult Sigurdsonís bureau, rather than a geographic desk, through e-mails and that there would be a lot of communication when trying to ascertain where a detained individual is. He said that while the Vienna Convention requires Canada be notified of a detained Canadian citizen, that doesnít always happen. He said that the consular official will phone their contacts on an informal basis before going to higher official sources, and after any informal or formal ďinterventionĒ, the consulate will report to Ottawa. When all interventions are exhausted, Sigurdson or the Director of the Division of Case Management will call their counterparts in the relevant geographic division and tell them about the situation. The geographic division will work with consular affairs, and as the case progresses may involve the legal department, communications or intelligence as they try to ďramp up the stakesĒ. The ADM of the Africa and Middle East branch would then become Sigurdsonís ďbossĒ. Counsel confirmed with Sigurdson that as the stakes rose in Ararís case, Garr Pardy was then reporting to the ADM of Africa and the Middle East.
When counsel asked if NY or US officials informed the Canadian consulate that Arar was being detained in NY, Sigurdson first replied that he wasnít there at the time and ďmade a point of not becoming too familiar with it, so I donít confuse my role here.Ē When asked again, he said that Ararís family was the first to inform consular affairs that he hadnít arrived.
When asked in a hypothetical case where someone was expected but never arrived in NY, Sigurdson said the consul would phone the airport and find out from airport, enforcement or US immigration authorities about the personís whereabouts.
Sigurdson also said that a detained person is ďat the mercyĒ of the legal system of the country they are in. The consulate assists in finding and facilitating communication with a lawyer, notifying friends and family of the situation and helping the individual communicate with friends and family. He said the consulate will try to get immediate and regular access to the person within 24 hours, try and resolve the case as quickly as possible and try to ensure adequate nutrition, dental and medical care (first through informal means, then formal means like a letter to a Ministry of Foreign Affairs).
Sigurdson said that if there are suspicions of human rights violations, they try to gain access to the individual to monitor their well-being, and if they suspect mistreatment, they speak to the authorities of the detention centre. If that fails, consular officials will contact Sigurdson or another bureau to work with the legal branch on other interventions. Sigurdson said aggressive action over mistreatment may offend the detaining state and have repercussions for the detainee. He also confirmed that if a consular official suspects torture, they can demand to see the detainee alone, but that that request can be denied under international law.
When counsel asked about the bureau of International Crime and Terrorism, which Sigurdson said he didnít think this office would play a role in Ararís case.
Sigurdson, when asked, explained that the brochure called ďA Guide for Canadians Imprisoned AbroadĒ is held by missions and is given to someone imprisoned or detained.
The Vienna Convention, Consular Affairs and U.S State Dept. Reports
The Vienna Convention covers consular relations, and under the convention, one must request consular assistance before they can receive it. Sigurdson said that the arresting/detaining state must notify the person of their right to contact a consulate (this may happen in days or weeks depending on the country), and if the person wants it, the receiving state must notify the consulate that this person is in their custody.
Sigurdson also explained that if a person is of dual nationality, the country they reside in is called the first nationality. If they are detained in the country of second nationality, that country can refuse access to the individual on the grounds that the person is a citizen of their country, denying their other citizenship and depriving the individual of rights under the Vienna Convention.
Sigurdson said there are 1.3 million calls of service requests, but only 184,000 cases/files. 9%, or 16,000 cases involve different people in 180 countries. He said that as of June 14, 2,150 Canadians are in prison in other countries, and 1,515 are in the US. He said probably about 500 more didnít wish to notify the consulate.
Sigurdson confirmed that every officer in the field has access to a Manual of Consular Instructions. He said a consular official may not know about something like the use of rendition, because it is a fairly new concept, but that knowing about a countryís human rights record is important because the first objective is to ensure the well-being of an individual and officials should know of anything that can help or hurt a detainee.
Sigurdson said consular officials should know that the US State Dept. reports exist and what they conclude. Sigurdson said that Canadaís Dept. of Foreign Affairs produces reports about political and human rights situations, but doesnít do country reports like the US State Dept. The travel reports donít mention human rights either, and Sigurdson said thatís because itís not certain that information would be helpful.
Cross-Examination of Sigurdson by counsel for Maher Arar.
When asked, Sigurdson confirmed that a new travel report about Syria was issued after Ararís detention, and that updates were made to the US report. However, when Waldman asked if they considered issuing a warning to Muslims about travelling to the US after Ararís detention, Sigurdson said no.
Waldman stated that Arar was detained on Sept. 26, and his family notified the consulate on Sept. 27, yet Arar did not get consular access till Oct. 3 (seven days later). When asked if the US acted in accordance with the Vienna Convention, Sigurdson said the seven-day delay was reasonable.
When asked what happens after 24 hours go by and there is no consular access, Sigurdson said that consular officials first need to see the person, assess their state and circumstances, arrange for a lawyer and then report back to Ottawa. Waldman asked how long before things are taken to a higher level if no consular access is given, and Sigurdson said immediately, and that they would start lower level (informal) interventions.
Waldman then asked if alerts about renditions have been sent to consular officials in the US, Sigurdson said he wasnít aware of any but that itís not in his mandate so he doesnít know.
He then added that Canadaís Minister of Foreign Affairs and the US Secretary of State exchanged letters saying there would be no renditions to the second country without ďnotice and consultationĒ.
No questions from counsel for the Attorney General.
No re-examination by commission counsel.