mardi 21 août 2012

La Cour d’appel réaffirme la souveraineté du pouvoir législatif du Parlement en refusant de donner force de loi aux développements en droit international dans une cause impliquant la Loi sur l'immunité des États

par Samuel Grondin
Étudiant, Université de Sherbrooke

En matière de droit international, il existe parfois un fossé législatif entre les normes applicables de droit national interne et celles gouvernant l’ordre mondial. En raison de la souveraineté du Parlement et de son pouvoir législatif, les sources normatives de droit international peuvent ne pas être intégrées à l’ordre juridique interne d’un pays. Le jugement Islamic Republic of Iran c. Hashemi (2012 QCCA 1449) explicite cette réalité alors qu’il est question d’une possible exception législative qui s’harmoniserait avec le droit international.

Dans cette affaire, le demandeur, tant en sa capacité personnelle qu’à titre de liquidateur de la succession de la journaliste Zahra Kazemi, intente au Canada une action en justice contre la République islamique de l’Iran ainsi que trois personnes ayant joué des rôles clefs dans le décès sous torture de cette dernière en Iran. Il réclame à cet effet les dommages vécus par la défunte en Iran et les siens au Canada.

Une requête en irrecevabilité est alors soulevée en vertu de la Loi sur l’immunité des États en invoquant l’immunité de juri­diction devant tout tribunal au Canada dont bénéficie tout État étranger. La liste des exceptions expressément mentionnée à cette immunité ne trouvant pas application en l’espèce, il est plaidé qu’il existe une nouvelle exception tant en droit interne canadien qu’en droit international à l’effet que l’immunité étatique ne peut s’appliquer en cas de graves violations des droits humains comme la torture.

D’une manière unanime, la Cour d’appel analyse ce point de droit et, tout en condamnant tout acte de torture, refuse d’étendre la liste actuelle des exceptions mentionnées à la Loi sur l’immunité des États en affirmant la primauté du pouvoir législatif du Parlement.
[7] Torture of a human being is evil and abhorrent. Under Canadian law such conduct attracts severe criminal and civil sanctions. Several parties appearing in this case base their appeal or their intervention on a rule of international law and jus cogens which prohibits torture and which, according to them, requires civil remedies against a sovereign state to proceed unhindered by any notion of immunity where this state caused or allowed its agents to engage in torture. But another rule of international law, one which the Parliament of Canada incorporated into its legislation, extends to sovereign states a jurisdictional immunity in foreign courts and appears to limit the exceptions to the principle of state immunity. 
[8] This case and this appeal result from a possible conflict between these two rules. They raise the question whether either one of these rules should prevail over the other. In my view, there is no conflict between these rules: they apply independently of one another. 
III. Relevant statutory and constitutional provisions 
[27] Though the case raises issues which transcend domestic law, it nonetheless centers on the notion of state immunity under Canadian law. It is therefore appropriate to quote the legislative and constitutional provisions which according to the parties may delineate the scope of this notion in domestic law and as it may apply to the plaintiffs’ case. 
[28] The SIA provides as follows:  
[30] As I mentioned above, the judgment appealed from dealt with a dual exception to dismiss which the defendants based on the state immunity provided for by s. 3 of the SIA. That argument hinges on the proposition that the SIA provides a complete and clear codification of the law of state immunity in Canada. In their factum as respondents in the Estate’s appeal, the defendants develop this proposition, as does the Attorney General of Canada as the impleaded party. The Estate, AIFC, CCIJ and CCLA challenge the same proposition from different angles. First, according to them, recent developments in domestic and in international law point to the conclusion that there is now afoot an exception to immunity governed by the common law and international law, and which would apply to grievous violations of human rights such as torture. Second, they also contend that torture cannot be characterized as a sovereign act. According to them, s. 3 of the SIA is ambiguous and must be interpreted in accord with the Charter as well as the jus cogens, so as to allow the claims of both the Estate and Mr. Hashemi. 
A. What is the reach of s. 3 of the SIA? Does the SIA contain a complete codification of state immunity and exceptions thereto? Is the notion of immunity inherently applicable to acts of torture? 
[34] It is beyond doubt that, facially, the Estate’s claim falls outside the four corners of s. 6 of the SIA: this is so for the precise reason that all the allegations concerning Ms. Kazemi refer to events which occurred in Iran, including the “death or personal or bodily injury”inflicted on her. And it is nowhere argued by any of the parties that, by itself, the claim for “reimbursement for legal expenses incurred by the [the Estate] in the preparation of the present proceedings” qualifies under s. 6(b)as a claim for “damage to or loss of property … that occurs in Canada”. Such an argument, were it made, would distort beyond recognition the language used by Parliament, for it would extend the exception to immunity in Canada whenever a person’s death was wrongfully caused outside of Canada by the action of a state now being sued in Canada by that person’s estate. 
[35] On the completeness or exhaustiveness of the SIA, the motion judge first expressed his view in the following terms at paragraph [51]: “The SIA is a complete statute which suffers no intrusion from the common law, international law or Canada's international treaty obligations.” In the concluding paragraphs of the judgment, he added this comment:
[213] There are no exceptions to the general principle of state immunity other than those specifically mentioned in the SIA. Our legal system does not permit any importation of non-codified principles of common law or international law. The purpose of the SIA was precisely to enunciate legal rules applicable to the subject of state immunity. This legislation is restrictive in nature and should be narrowly interpreted and applied even though exceptions to a restrictive statute should, generally speaking, be more liberally interpreted and applied. Here, given the statutory wording used which calls for exceptions to be specifically identified, no additional exceptions not specifically mentioned in the SIA may be considered.
1. The completeness of the exceptions set out in the SIA 
[36] This argument gravitates around the first six words of s. 3(1) of the SIA. As I understand the argument, it posits that there has now come into existence a rule of customary international law which prohibits states from engaging in torture, that an exception to the principle of state immunity – not mentioned in the SIA – has simultaneously emerged in international law, that it avails against states in breach of this prohibitive rule, and that in interpreting the SIA and the development of Canadian common law, a court may, or perhaps even must, look to such rules to achieve an outcome in harmony with international law. 
[41] Such a contradiction does not afford a justification for scaling down the obvious “interpretation”, or perhaps more accurately, the “reading” of a clear statutory rule. In the Schreiber case, Justice LeBel quotes Justice Pigeon in an earlier judgment of the Supreme Court of Canada, Daniels v. White:
... this is a case for the application of the rule of construction that Parliament is not presumed to legislate in breach of a treaty or in any manner inconsistent with the comity of nations and the established rules of international law. It is a rule that is not often applied, because if a statute is unambiguous, its provisions must be followed even if they are contrary to international law... 
In other words, this rule of construction comes into play only in the presence of an ambiguous statutory provision. I do not think it could be disputed that the rule in question continues to apply in Canadian law. Where as here a statute contains a provision which is clear and is inconsistent with binding principles of customary international law, this provision may, in the words of Justice LeBel in Hape, “violate international law and offend the comity of nations”, but Parliament in the exercise of its sovereignty does have the power to enact it in that form.
[42] The Estate and some of the interveners invite us not to adopt the interpretation of s. 3(1) the SIA which the Court of Appeal for Ontario favoured in Bouzari v. Islamic Republic of Iran.[4] In my view, what Goudge J.A. wrote on behalf of the Court in paragraphs [56] to [59] of his reasons is entirely apposite – in fact, it coincides with most of the preceding observations on the SIA. I therefore see no reason to depart from his reasoning: the exceptions to state immunity in Canadian positive law are those set out in the SIA, not in some remnant of a hypothetical common law doctrine that would coexist with the Act, or in some rule of customary international law that might modulate the interpretation of a statutory phrase which in fact is in no need of interpretation. Such a rule of customary international law, if it existed, could easily have been integrated in the SIA by a legislative amendment but Parliament did not do so.
Le texte intégral du jugement est disponible ici:
Référence neutre: [2012] ABD 292

1 commentaire:

  1. Veuillez noter que la demande d'autorisation de pourvoi à la Cour suprême a été autorisée le 7 mars 2013.

    Intitulé : Estate of the Late Zahra (Ziba) Kazemi et al. v. Islamic Replubic of Iran et al.

    Samuel Grondin


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