[Ppnews] Report Criticizes US on Rendition and Torture of Innocent Canadian
Political Prisoner News
ppnews at freedomarchives.org
Tue Sep 19 11:33:22 EDT 2006
TWO STORIES FOLLOW
AMERICAN LAWYERS FOR CANADIAN RENDITION VICTIM
MAHER ARAR REACT TO REPORT FROM COMMISSION OF INQUIRY
Commission Finds that Mr. Arar Was Not Involved
in Terrorism and Says Canadian Authorities Were
Not Involved in Decision to Render him to Detention and Torture in Syria
September 18, 2006, Ottawa, Canada, and New York,
NY The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR)
was by Maher Arars side today as the Canadian
Commission of Inquiry established to investigate
his case released its final report. Canada
conducted an exhaustive multi-year investigation
that involved the cooperation of U.S. agencies:
it found no information to implicate Mr. Arar in
terrorism. While a U.S. District Court dismissed
Mr. Arars case against high-ranking U.S.
government officials on national security grounds
in February, CCR is currently appealing that
decision to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.
The Canadian Commission found that:
- A good deal of the information Canada passed to
the U.S. about Mr. Arar before he was detained in
the U.S. was inaccurate, some inflammatory and unfairly prejudicial.
- There is no evidence that Canadian authorities
were complicit in the U.S. decision to detain Mr. Arar and remove to Syria.
- After 9/11, the U.S. appeared ready to use
extreme measures to deal with threats of
terrorism, possibly some that might be
unacceptable to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP).
The Commission recommends that in the future
information should never be provided to a foreign
country where there is a credible risk that it
will cause or contribute to the use of torture.
It also states that Canada should assess Mr.
Arar's claim for compensation in light of its
findings and respond accordingly.
Maher Arar said, "I have waited a long time to
have my name cleared. I was tortured and lost a
year of my life. I will never be the same. The
United States must take responsibility for what
it did to me and must stop destroying more
innocent lives with its unlawful actions."
CCR Staff Attorney Maria LaHood, who represents
Mr. Arar, said: "The report begins to draw back
the veil of secrecy that the U.S. and Canadian
governments have draped over Mr.. Arar's
rendition and torture. It is shameful that the
U.S. has hidden behind the doctrine of State
Secrets to protect itself from being held
accountable for the gross injustice it
perpetrated on Maher. The U.S. is the leader in
extraordinary renditions and requires the
complicity of other nations to carry out its
program of extraordinary rendition; it is clear
that it will find a less willing ally in Canada
in the future because of what it did to Maher Arar."
Ms. LaHood went on to say, "Tellingly, the
Americans have never provided the Canadian
authorities with any information of their own
about Mr.Arar that would have supported the
removal order to send him to Syria. Given close
cooperation between the RCMP and the American
agencies, it seems likely that, if they had such
information, they would have supplied it to the Canadians."
Mr.Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was
detained at J.F.K. Airport in September 2002 on
his way home to his family in Canada. He was held
in solitary confinement and interrogated without
the benefit of legal counsel. The Administration
labeled him a member of Al Qaeda and rendered him
not to Canada, his home and country of
citizenship, but to Syrian intelligence
authorities renowned for torture. Mr... Arar
spent ten months detained in Syria, where he was
brutally interrogated and tortured, without
charge. After nearly a year of confinement,
Syrian authorities released Mr.Arar, publicly
stating that they had found no connection to any
criminal or terrorist organization or activity.
Upon his return to Canada, Mr. Arar was never
charged with any crime; nor has he been charged
with any crime by the United States.
Canadian Inquiry Finds Torture Survivor Maher
Arar Completely Innocent, Criticizes U.S. For 'Rendition' to Syria
The Canadian government has acknowledged for the
first time that one of the most well-known
victims of CIA 'extraordinary rendition' is a
completely innocent man. On Monday, a judge
concluded a major investigation into the case of
Maher Arar. The Syrian-born Canadian was detained
nearly four years ago by U.S. authorities at JFK
airport and was sent to Syria where he was jailed
for a year and repeatedly tortured. We speak with
Arar's attorney, Maria LaHood. [includes rush transcript]
Four years ago this month, a Canadian citizen
named Maher Arar was on his way back to Canada
from a family vacation in Tunisia. The
Syrian-born man had a stopover at JFK airport in
New York. The date was September 26, 2002. He
wouldn't see his family for another 374 days.
After being questioned at the airport, U.S.
officials took him to an immigration facility in
New York. Two weeks later he was secretly flown
to Jordan aboard a Gulfstream Jet. Maher Arar
ended up in Syria where he was held in a cell,
the size of a grave. He was repeatedly tortured.
For weeks his family didn't even know where he was.
On Monday, the Canadian government admitted for
the first time that Arar was a completely
innocent man. Justice Dennis O'Connor released
the findings of a two-year major investigation
into the disappearance of Arar. The judge wrote,
"I am able to say categorically that there is no
evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed
any offence or that his activities constituted a
threat to the security of Canada."
The official inquiry said that there is no
evidence that Canadian officials played a direct
role in his detention or deportation. However
Justice O'Connor found that the U.S. government's
decision to send Arar to Syria was likely based
on inaccurate and misleading information provided
by Canadian authorities. The judge also
criticized the Bush administration's actions. The
judge wrote, "They removed him to Syria against
his wishes and in the face of his statements that
he would be tortured if sent there."
* Maria LaHood, lawyer for Maher Arar. She is
an attorney with the <http://www.ccr-ny.org>Center for Constitutional Rights.
AMY GOODMAN: Maher Arar's attorney, Maria LaHood,
joins us on the phone right now. She's a lawyer
with the Center for Constitutional Rights and she
is in Canada. We welcome you to Democracy Now!, Maria LaHood.
MARIA LAHOOD: Thanks, Amy, for having me on.
AMY GOODMAN: It's good to have you with us. You
have spent the last few days with Maher Arar. Can
you talk about his reaction to the judge's
finding? And clearly lay out what this report says.
MARIA LAHOOD: Maher is really relieved. Hes
certainly happy to have his name finally cleared
and to try to move on with his life. The inquiry,
as you mentioned, it's been a two-year process.
You know, the judge, commissioner looked at over
20,000 documents. There were over 70 witnesses.
There was in-camera testimony. He looked at all
of the national security documents. And he
basically found that, as you said, there was no
evidence implicating Maher in terrorism. There
had been a long investigation by law enforcement
agencies here, and it actually even continued
after Maher got back from Syria, and the
investigation included U.S. cooperation. The
justice said, the commissioner said that the U.S.
never provided Canada with its own information to
support that Maher had al-Qaeda ties and that it
likely would have given the close cooperation if it had had it.
So all of this incorrect information, this
inflammatory information that Canada provided to
the U.S. was what was used in the U.S.'s
designation of him as an al-Qaeda member and to
send him to Syria to be tortured. Some of that
information -- you know, first of all, the RCMP
here gave information to the U.S. saying that
Maher and his wife Monia were Islamic extremists
with al-Qaeda ties. That was just false. Everyone
-- I guess every witness that the inquiry
interviewed said that that was false and that
there was no reason to say that, no basis at all.
There was evidence or there was statements given
to the U.S. government saying that Maher was in
the vicinity of Washington, D.C. on 9/11. That
was false. They said that when they requested an
interview with Maher, that he refused to be
interviewed and suddenly left to Tunisia. That
was patently false. So this is the information
that the U.S. government used to determine that
he was an al-Qaeda member and to send him to
Syria to be tortured. And now, this is the
information that they claim, I imagine, is a
state secret, which prevents him from seeking
justice in the United States for what they did to him.
AMY GOODMAN: I first interviewed Maher Arar in
2003. It was November, just a few weeks after he
was sent back to Canada from Syria. He described what happened to him there.
MAHER ARAR: Really, I mean, when I arrived there,
I just couldn't believe it. I thought first it
was a dream. I was crying all the time. I was
disoriented. I wished I had something in my hand
to kill myself, because I knew I was going to be
tortured, and this was my preoccupation. That's
all I was thinking about when I was on the plane.
And I arrived there. I was crying all the time.
So, one of them started questioning me, and the
others were taking notes. And the first day it
was mainly routine questions, between 8 to 12.
And the second day, that's when the beatings
started, because, you know, on the first day they
did not find anything strange about what I told
them. And they started beating me with a cable,
electrical threaded cable, and they would beat me
for three, four times. They would stop again, and
they would ask questions again, and they always
kept telling me, You are a liar, and things
like that. So, the beating continued for the
first two weeks. The most -- the most intensive
-- the intensive beating was really the first
week, and then after that it was mostly slapping,
punching on the face and kicking.
So, on the third day when they didn't find
anything, third or fourth day, they -- in my
view, they just wanted to please the Americans,
and they had to find something on me. So, because
I was accused of being an al-Qaeda member, which
is nowadays synonymous with Afghanistan, they
told me, You've been to a training camp in
Afghanistan. And I said, No. And they started
beating me. And I said -- well, I had no choice.
I just wanted the beating to stop. I said, Of
course, I've been to Afghanistan. I was ready to
confess to anything just to stop the torture.
AMY GOODMAN: That was Maher Arar speaking to us
in November of 2003 just after he had been
released from the Syrian jail and was back in
Canada. We spoke to him again just months ago,
talking about the psychological effects of that
year's detention. This is Maher Arar again.
MAHER ARAR: Im completely a different person. I
still have fears. I don't take the plane anymore.
I don't fly. I lost confidence in myself. I feel
overwhelmed. My -- there is some kind of
emotional distancing between me and my kids and
my family. They ruined my life. They ruined my
life, and I have not been able to find a job.
People try to -- you know, some people I know,
they try to distance themselves from me. It's --
you know, I don't know how to describe it. I
don't think there is any word I could use to
describe what I am going through. And I thought
when I came back it would take me a month or two
months or a year or two years to get back to
normal life. Its been two years and four months
since I came back to Canada, and there are things
that are improved a little bit, but Im still not
the same person, and Im still suffering psychologically.
AMY GOODMAN: That is Maher Arar, speaking to us
in February of this year. This is years after his
year detention in Syria, after he was tortured.
He was sent there through the CIA's extraordinary
rendition, as it is called. Maria LaHood is with
us in Ottawa. She has been with Maher Arar.
Maria, can you describe what it was like when the
judge handed down his findings?
MARIA LAHOOD: Well, it was, you know -- these
findings are over -- its three volumes and its
over 1,200 or almost 1,200 pages. So, you know,
we were given the reports to look through. So
everyone was furiously trying to look for
information. And, you know, we were all thrilled
to see that Maher's name was cleared. There was
some information in there that came out that was
new information, like this false information that
the RCMP gave the U.S. that was really troubling.
There was also information that Mahers -- you
know, not only Mahers wife was put on a list,
but actually his children were put into
intelligence databanks. You know, they are nine
and four now. They were one years old and five
years old before. And so, it was really troubling
to see that, but really quite a relief and
exciting to have a public inquiry in this
country, to have people applauding Maher for the
hero that he is, you know. Today it's on the
front page of all the newspapers. It's amazing,
especially in comparison to what happens in the
U.S., where they still claim he's an al-Qaeda
member and won't let anything be released.
AMY GOODMAN: The Ottawa Citizen reporter Juliet
ONeil, her home was broken into by the
authorities in Canada. She was one of those who
had reported on what happened to Maher Arar.
MARIA LAHOOD: Right. There was a lot -- a big
part of the investigation has to do with what
happened after Maher got back and the fact that
there were government leaks. There was, you know,
not only just government incompetence, but what
seems to be, you know, an effort to ruin his
reputation, to claim he wasn't tortured, to sort
of stain his name. And I think that's the same
thing that's being done in the U.S., basically.
By keeping secrets and saying he's a member of
al-Qaeda, you know, you can cast doubt on the
unlawful atrocious behavior of the government.
And I think that's what's been done.
But now, at least there is a clear record and a
clear statement by the commission that Maher has
been cleared. I mean, of course, these findings
have to be accepted by the Canadian government,
along with all the findings. I mean, you know,
one of the findings is that the Canadian
government should register its objections with
the U.S. government for what happened to Maher,
for how he was treated, like you said, for the
fact they sent him to Syria despite his
objection, despite the fact that he said he would
be tortured, the fact that the U.S. officials
were less than forthcoming with the Canadian
officials about what they were going to do. They
didn't let them know that Syria was an option
until the day before they sent him. They breached
the Vienna conventions on consular relations by
not contacting the Canadian consulate for five
days. These are all findings in the report.
AMY GOODMAN: And so, what happens now? I mean,
you have the judge in the United States, David
Trager, who wrote in response to your lawsuit,
Maher Arar's lawsuit here in the United States,
he wrote in the judgment, One need not have much
imagination to contemplate the negative effect on
our relations with Canada if discovery were to
proceed in this case and were it to turn out that
certain high Canadian officials had, despite
public denials, acquiesced in Arars removal to Syria.
MARIA LAHOOD: Exactly. This commission finding
completely alleviates that concern, by finding
that Canadian officials were not complicit in
Maher's detention in the United States or in his
removal to Syria. I mean, the reason that the
judge dismissed this case, he claimed that
national security and foreign policy
considerations precluded him from holding the
federal officials liable, even if what they did
violated customary international law and violated
our treaties. And what you said, that was one of
the reasons, that he was concerned about
relations with Canada, because if it came out
that Canadian officials were complicit. And this
report says they are not complicit. They were not
complicit in his rendition to Syria. I mean, I think another --
AMY GOODMAN: Go ahead.
MARIA LAHOOD: Okay. The other -- I mean, you
know, even after -- I mean, we're appealing the
dismissal now on these grounds, and we hope that
that will be successful. I mean, we still face
the government's state secrets assertion, which
is where they say that the reason they deemed him
a member of al-Qaeda is a state secret and the
reason we sent him to Syria instead of Canada is
a state secret. Well, here, we now know, you
know, that it's very likely that the reason they
deemed him an al-Qaeda member is this incorrect
information from Canada. And the fact that more
information has become public undermines the
state secrets privilege, the fact that other
governments are investigating this and the U.S.
won't will hopefully put pressure, you know,
pressure on the government to actually
investigate, pressure to actually disclose
information about what happened to Maher.
AMY GOODMAN: And in Canada right now, what about
compensation for Maher Arar? His Canadian lawyer,
Julian Falconer, saying theyre recommending some
kind of compensation and Maher Arar's separate
civil suit against police services and federal
agencies. Is the government quietly negotiating
with him right now upon the release that
completely vindicates him of this report?
MARIA LAHOOD: Well, the commissioner did put in
his recommendations that the government should
assess Maher's claim for compensation, in light
of his findings, and respond accordingly. So, you
know, there will be, Im sure, some discussions
of how that's going to happen. It hasn't been decided yet how it will be done.
AMY GOODMAN: And any evaluation going on in the
press of how the media was used by the government to smear, to tar Maher Arar?
MARIA LAHOOD: You know, I haven't seen that, but,
you know, it's a very good point. And I think,
you know, there were a lot of people who were
complicit in what happened to Maher. It doesn't
just stop with the high government officials.
There were people in low-level positions in the
INS. There were people in -- you know, there were
the private jets. There were the people who
didnt get the information out. There were the
people who got the misinformation out. And there
are people that continue to be complicit in what
happened to him. And hopefully, again, the more
information that comes out, the more we will find
out, and eventually I hope that Maher will be cleared in the U.S., as well.
AMY GOODMAN: Maria LaHood, I want to thank you
for joining us from Vancouver. Maria LaHood is
the attorney with the Center for Constitutional
Rights representing Maher Arar, who has just been
completely vindicated by a Canadian report. He
had been the subject of what's called
extraordinary rendition by the U.S. government,
taken off a plane at Kennedy airport and sent off
to Syria where he was tortured. When we come
back, we'll be joined by the president of the
Center for Constitutional Rights, Michael Ratner,
to talk not only about this case, but what's
going on in Washington, D.C. and the Republican
revolt on the issue of torture.
The Freedom Archives
522 Valencia Street
San Francisco, CA 94110
-------------- next part --------------
An HTML attachment was scrubbed...
More information about the PPnews