Parents of alleged ex-ISIL follower ask RCMP to probe his reported torture in Kurdish Syrian prison

They claim a little-known section of the Criminal Code allows police here to look into allegations of Canadian citizens being tortured in foreign countries

Article content

The parents of Jack Letts have taken a novel new tack in their efforts to help the alleged former ISIL follower, asking the RCMP to investigate accusations he was tortured by the Kurdish forces holding him in northeast Syria.


Article content

John and Sally Letts invoked a little-known section of the Criminal Code that they say allows police here to look into allegations of Canadian citizens being tortured in foreign countries.

They cite evidence he was held in a tiny solitary-confinement cell for over a month and a suggestion that he’d been tortured with electricity.

And one of the couple’s lawyers says even Canadian government employees who knew of that mistreatment and did nothing about it could be held criminally liable.

“Nothing prepares you as a parent to hear your child tell you they have been tortured,” said John Letts in a statement Thursday. “For years we were scared of saying anything in case there would be retaliation against him by the Kurdish forces that are holding him, but it’s been almost five years and our silence has not made the situation any better.”


Article content

Nothing prepares you as a parent to hear your child tell you they have been tortured,

John Letts

The RCMP was  unable to comment on the request by deadline.

The parents have also been lobbying the federal government to bring their British-raised son here to potentially face the Canadian legal system. But it’s been an uphill battle amid widespread public distaste for anyone linked to the Islamic State.

Global Affairs Canada has shown little inclination to help. The Opposition Conservatives have said they’re opposed to moving Letts to this country, and Liberal MPs declined recently to meet with the parents.

Letts was born and raised in Oxford, England, but has been a joint Canadian-British citizen all his life. His father is from Canada and his mother spent most of her childhood here. The U.K. revoked his citizenship two years ago, meaning his only nationality now is Canadian.


Article content

As a teenager with serious obsessive-compulsive disorder he converted to Islam, then travelled to Kuwait to explore the religion further. Letts later surfaced in Syria, living for a time in ISIL’s de-facto capital of Raqqa. Horrors committed there, like the videotaped beheading of hostages, caused outrage around the world.

There’s some indication the 26-year-old initially supported the Islamic State’s violence — he told a BBC journalist while hooded Kurdish guards watched over him that he once was willing to carry out a suicide bombing — but there’s no evidence he participated in any. His parents say he grew strongly opposed to the group and eventually fled Raqqa. Letts was captured by Kurdish troops soon after.


Article content

In a phone call with a Global Affairs Canada official in 2018, he said he’d been kept in a cell that had no toilet and was little bigger than him for 35 days, driving him to attempt suicide. He told his parents in a letter, according to the statement, “I’m scared of electricity. It’s one of my fears. I’ve actually been tortured.”

The family’s lawyers say one section of the Criminal Code allows the RCMP to investigate alleged torture abroad if the complainant is a Canadian citizen. Another says any official — or person acting with the acquiescence of an official — is guilty of a crime if they torture someone.

If taken up by the Mounties, the case could go beyond just looking at the people actually involved in allegedly mistreating Letts, Tayab Ali, the Letts’ family’s British lawyer, said Thursday.


Article content

Under international law and the Canadian Criminal Code, government officials who were aware of the allegations of torture and didn’t act — who “acquiesced” — could also be prosecuted, argued Ali.

“If the rule of law is to be followed, this could be really serious for a number of people,” said the lawyer.

If the rule of law is to be followed, this could be really serious for a number of people

Tayab Ali

As for charging someone in the semi-autonomous region of war-torn Syria, it’s not as much of a long-shot as it sounds, suggested Ali. British police have carried out such investigations and in some cases would have prosecuted alleged torturers from other countries had they travelled to Britain, he said.



Postmedia is committed to maintaining a lively but civil forum for discussion and encourage all readers to share their views on our articles. Comments may take up to an hour for moderation before appearing on the site. We ask you to keep your comments relevant and respectful. We have enabled email notifications—you will now receive an email if you receive a reply to your comment, there is an update to a comment thread you follow or if a user you follow comments. Visit our Community Guidelines for more information and details on how to adjust your email settings.

Source link

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.