Imagine spending years in prison without being charged with a crime or knowing exactly what you’re accused of. A film about the human impact of the “War on Terror,” The Secret Trial 5 is a sobering examination of the Canadian government’s use of security certificates, a Kafkaesque tool that allows for indefinite detention without charges, based on evidence not revealed to the accused or their lawyers. Over the last decade, this rare and highly controversial device has been used to detain five men for nearly 30 years combined. To date, none has been charged with a crime or seen the evidence against them. Through the experience of the detainees and their families, the film raises poignant questions about the balance between security and liberty.
If you think 9/11 had little impact on our individual rights, this film will change your mind. It tracks the experience of five immigrants, labelled terrorists, who were detained without charges, let alone a trial, via the rarely used security certificate.
Director Amar Wala talks to their lawyers and advocates and the detainees themselves, who were locked up based on evidence they were never allowed to see. After sustained campaigns, some were released and placed under house arrest, where the conditions, ironically, were worse than those in prison. But the star of the movie is detainee Mohamed Harkat’s wife, Sophie, who became the human face of the protest.
If the doc seems biased, don’t blame the filmmakers. There wasn’t a single representative of the authorities who would talk.
– Susan G. Cole, NOW Toronto