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Posts Tagged ‘judicial review’

Khadr in the Canadian Supreme Court

January 30, 2010 Leave a comment

Readers who are following the progress of Guantánamo-related cases through domestic courts around the country will be no doubt familiar with the case of Omar Khadr (left). Arrested and detained in Guantánamo Bay while he was a minor, Khadr is a Canadian citizen who had secured a lower court ruling directing the Canadian government to make representations for his release. The Government challenged that decision in the Supreme Court, largely on the basis that the exercise of diplomatic functions is an Executive function from which the courts ought to exclude themselves or, at least, in which they ought to minimise their role quite significantly.

In the Canadian Supreme Court’s decision in Prime Minister of Canada v Omar Khadr [2010] CSS 3 there is a clear recognition of the participatory role of the Canadian government in the unlawful detention with statements provided by Canadian officials being one of the bases for his continued detention. However, while Khadr was entitled to a remedy the Supreme Court did not grant the remedy sought, i.e. an order that Canada request his repatriation. The Court did not accept that the government was immune from constitutional scrutiny when it comes to deciding on perogative powers. Rather, the court asserted its jurisdiction to decide (1) whether a claimed perogative power exists, (2) if so whether the Charter of Rights or constitutional norms have been breached in the exercise of that power, and (3) to make specific orders. However, the Court could not make an order directing the government to request repatriation as to do so is to infringe too greatly on the executive power relating to foreign affairs. The Court held that the appropriate remedy in such a case is to declare a breach of rights and then leave it to the government to decide how to react to that breach.

The judgment seems to be a mixture of judicial muscularity (the claim that the conduct of foreign affairs is not an area within which the government can act without scrutiny) and deference (the claim that the government can not be directed to act in a certain way without the foreign affairs arena). While this might, at first, seem to indicate a contradictory viewpoint on the part of the Supreme Court, in my view it is in fact a good example of the kind of ‘nudging’ judgment we have seen in both the US and the UK superior courts in the ‘War on Terrorism’ (I have written about this here in the MLR and, forthcoming, also in the OJLS with an early, unproofed version here). What will happen if the Government does nothing or is not forced into doing something by parliament and ‘the people’? That is perhaps the lingering question from Khadr. The hope is that it will not fall to the Court to decide it and, instead, the government will take steps to try to have Khadr repatriated.

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Proportionality, Administrative Decision-Making and Judicial Review

January 25, 2010 Leave a comment

Last week saw the Supreme Court hand down its judgment in the important case of Meadows v Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform [2010]. This case considered whether a proportionality analysis is generally applicable to administrative decisions that have an impact on one’s constitutional and/or fundamental rights. This case, in which the Supreme Court appears to have introduced a general requirement for proportionality analyses in all administrative action that has individual rights implications, is a potentially monumental one that might have wide-ranging implications for administrative decision-making in this jurisdiction for quite some time to come. Although the case takes place within the context of asylum and refugee law it seems quite clear that its implications are much broader than this; the ratio as stated is a general one applicable to all situations of rights-endangerment by administrative review, although of course the severity of potential interferences with individual rights will be a factor to be taken into account in the conduct of any proportionality analysis.

The facts

The case concerned an applicant for asylum in Ireland who claimed that she suffered a real risk of persecution if returned to Nigeria because she would be forced to enter into a marriage arranged by her father and would be subjected to female genital mutilation. The applicant had been refused asylum on the basis that she was determined not to have made out a well founded fear of persecution on a Refugee Convention ground and was subsequently unsuccessful before the Refugee Appeals Tribunal, which was not satisfied that she had established “a credible connection between her circumstances and forced marriage and female genital mutilation”. On applying for leave to remain in the state, the applicant claimed that forcing her to return to Nigeria would violate her rights in both national and international law given the severity of the danger that it was alleged awaited her there. The application for leave to remain was refused, with the Minister claiming he was satisfied that the prohibition on refoulement was not breached and that “the interests of public policy and the common good in maintaining the integrity of the asylum and immigration systems outweigh such features of [the] case as might tend to support [the applicant] being granted leave to remain in this State.”

The claim

In the Supreme Court case Meadows argued that whether or not questions of fundamental human rights had been taken into appropriate account in administrative decision making ought to be considered in judicial review proceedings. Judicial review is a means of challenging the decision-making process and not the outcome, but if the process is found to have been deficient then the outcome is a priori also deficient. Unreasonableness has always been a basis for judicial review and this case essentially centred on whether or not a decision making process could be said to be unreasonable if it is found that a proportionality analysis was not properly engaged in, taking into account the grave repercussions of interference with individual rights that might flow from an administrative decision.

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