Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen and father of two, was travelling home to Canada from visiting his wife’s family in Tunisia in 2002.While changing planes at New York City’s JFK airport, he was detained and held for 12 days by U.S. authorities. He was then transferred secretly, via Jordan, to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured.
He was released without charge and allowed to return home to Canada. A Canadian judicial inquiry confirmed that he had been tortured in Syria, considered it likely that US authorities had relied on inaccurate information provided by Canadian authorities, and noted that thorough investigations by Canadian authorities had not in fact found “any information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities”. The Canadian government subsequently recognized the role Canadian officials played in his ordeal, and gave him compensation and a formal apology.
In contrast, the USA refused categorically to cooperate with the Canadian inquiry and, although a small number of members of Congress took the initiative individually to apologize to Maher Arar via a video link to him in Canada at a committee hearing in the US House of Representatives in 2007, the US President and full Congress have failed to apologize or to offer Maher Arar any form of remedy. Indeed, the Department of Justice successfully fought his attempts to pursue redress in court, based not on the merits of his claim but supposed “significant national security concerns.”
Canadian officials have also requested that the US government remove Maher Arar’s name from the US watch list. That request has been refused. As such, it remains impossible for him to travel to the USA or over US airspace, and he faces constant uncertainty about other countries that may have adopted the USA watch list. He feels strongly, too, that having his name removed from the list would be an important part of restoring his reputation.
Torture is immoral, illegal and a crime. Apologize to Maher Arar and help end torture forever. Urge President Obama and Congress to do the same.
Image:Gulfstream III: N829MG (Later re-registered as N259SK) A plane of the same make was used in secret transfer of Maher Arar from the US to Syria where he was detained for 13 months without charge, during which time he was tortured.
Torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment are always wrong. It is a violation of states' international human rights obligations and there are no circumstances under which such abuses can be justified. Ten years after US officials sent him to face torture in Syria, Maher Arar continues to be denied access to a means of getting redress from the US government.
To mark 26 June 2011 the International Day in support of Victims of Torture take action to end torture and demand the apology and other remedies and reparations which Maher Arar, and all torture victims, deserve.
1) Add your name to Amnesty International's petition below
2) Copy and paste the letter below and send it to President Obama here: http://www.whitehouse.gov/contact
Apology to Maher Arar Overdue
Dear President Barack H. Obama,
I urge you to apologize to Maher Arar for the torture he suffered because of the actions of US officials. It’s the right thing to do and it’s required of the US government by law.
Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, and other human rights treaties, the US government is obligated to fulfil the right of torture victims to remedy and redress—including an apology—for what they suffered.
I urge you to ensure that the US government’s obligation to provide Maher Arar with full remedy and redress is fulfilled, including by:
• Issuing an official public apology, including acknowledgement of the facts about the human rights violations to which he was subjected, acceptance of responsibility, and formal recognition of the USA’s obligations to restore his dignity, reputation and rights -- acceding to the Canadian government’s request that his name be removed from the watchlist would greatly contribute to the restoration of his reputation;
• Ensuring that he has access to a process capable of verifying the facts and publicly disclosing the full truth about the human rights violations to which he was subjected;
• Publicly confirm the launching of independent investigations capable of identifying those responsible and initiating proceedings to impose criminal and disciplinary sanctions;
• Ensuring that the US government contributes to his full recovery, including his access to the necessary medical and psychological care as well as legal and social services;
• Ensuring that he receives full compensation for all economically assessable damage caused by the USA’s detention and transfer of him to face torture in Syria, including in respect of all: physical and mental harm; lost opportunities, including employment, and any education and social benefits; material damages and loss of earnings, including loss of earning potential; moral damage; and costs required for legal or expert assistance, medicine and medical services, and psychological and social services.
Further, I urge you to ensure that the treatment to which Maher Arar was subjected is not repeated, including by:
• Ensuring that the law does not permit the authorities to deprive anyone who alleges they have been subjected to torture or other ill-treatment, enforced disappearance, or similar human rights violations, of access to justice (whether by invoking secrecy or immunities or other obstacles to justice).
• Ensuring that no-one is transferred to the territory or custody of another state without an effective opportunity to have an independent court assessment of the possible risk of torture or other ill-treatment he or she would face in that country or any other country to which he would be transferred.
• Ensure that the evidentiary threshold for preventing such transfers is brought into line with international standards.
• Prohibit the practice of transfers designed to avoid established legal processes.
• Prohibit reliance on diplomatic assurances to justify transfers in cases of risk of torture or similar human rights violations.
• Review and reform the laws that contributed to or allowed his transfer to torture and other ill-treatment, his enforced disappearance, and the deprivation thus far of any effective remedy or redress from the USA.
• Ensuring that US no fly lists do not operate in a discriminatory manner and include an appeal or review process that is transparent, accessible and fair.
Finally, I call on you to ensure full accountability for the many human rights violations committed by or on behalf of the U.S. government in the name of countering terrorism, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance:
• Set up an independent commission of inquiry to investigate
• Prosecute all those who broke the law
• Fulfil the rights to remedy and redress of all victims
Torture is a grave violation of human rights. It must end forever.