Inquiry condemns roles of Canadians in extraordinary rendition case governments worldwide must follow suit and investigate their roles in sending people to torture
Yesterday, in a landmark finding with major international repercussions, a Canadian Inquiry determined that the actions of Canadian investigators contributed to Maher Arar’s illegal rendition to Syria where he spent a year in detention and was subjected to torture. The inquiry faulted Canadian investigators with:
- Wrongly sharing intelligence reports with other countries without written conditions about how that information is used;
- Wrongly providing Americans inaccurate, unfair and overstated evidence about Mr. Arar’s alleged terrorist leanings;
- Erroneously accepting information about Mr. Arar from Syrians without determining whether it was extracted through torture;
- Leaking inaccurate details about Mr. Arar to news media to damage his reputation and protect themselves;
- Hiding their mistakes from top government officials.
- A lack of a single, coherent approach to efforts to obtain Mr. Arar’s release.
REDRESS, and The Association for the Prevention against Torture and World Organisation against Torture (OMCT), organisations internationally-renowned for their work on the prevention of torture and the promotion of the rights of torture survivors to effective and enforceable remedies, intervened in the inquiry to underscore the international dimensions of the questions under scrutiny.
Despite the growing body of evidence of worldwide complicity in the CIA’s rendition programme, underscored by Swiss Senator Dick Marty’s 14th June Council of Europe report and the recent admission by President Bush of secret CIA prisons, the Canadian Inquiry is one of a kind.
Governments worldwide have failed to look seriously at their roles in renditions and their complicity in torture. Much more action is needed if governments’ commitment to eradicate torture, is worth the paper it is written on.
- We call on Governments worldwide to undertake effective and impartial investigations, duly scrutinised by the public, into all allegations of complicity in the CIA extraordinary rendition programme;
- We call on Council of Europe Member States to implement the COE proposals issued 30 June, including to “adopt a comprehensive legislative framework for accountability and supervision covering both national and foreign security services which often co-operate closely;”
- We call on the Canadian Government to implement the recommendations of the Inquiry, including the need to investigate broader patterns of complicity suggested by the renditions of three additional Canadians: Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, and the need to provide effective forms of reparation to Mr. Arar, such as compensation and apology. The Canadian Government should also consider seriously the findings of this report with a view to determining the civil and/or criminal liability of any Canadian officials as well as the appropriateness of disciplinary action.
Maher Arar, a computer engineer from Ottawa, Canada, was detained in the United States in September, 2002 while in transit in New York. Even though he was traveling on a Canadian passport, US officials sent him to Syria, where he was allegedly tortured and jailed for nearly a year. The Inquiry (www.ararcommission.ca) was established amidst serious concerns of Canadian complicity in the rendition.
The Inquiry, set up in 2004, is the first veritable inquiry at the national level into governments’ complicity in the CIA renditions programme. There were repeated challenges by the Canadian Government to the public disclosure of evidence on national security grounds, which have led to the redaction of a portion of the Report. Whilst Commissioner O’Connor, the Chair of the Inquiry was satisfied that all relevant Canadian information to the mandate has been examined,” he has urged “the government to refer this dispute to the Federal Court for an expeditious resolution so that the public might get maximum disclosure.”
REDRESS, The Association for the Prevention of Torture and World Organisation against Torture (OMCT) intervened in this Inquiry alongside 15 Canadian organisations. David Crossin, QC and M. Kevin Woodall of Crossin Coristine Woodall acted on a pro bono basis for the 3 international intervenors.