Canadian Authorities Investigating U.S. Officials Over Torture of Maher Arar
Today, the Supreme Court denied cert in Maher Arar's civil suit against U.S. officials for damages resulting from his seizure at JFK airport while changing planes and subsequent delivery to Syria where he was held for a year and tortured.
This afternoon, the Center for Constitutional Rights advised that following the Supreme Court's refusal, attorneys for Maher Arar disclosed for the first time that the RMCP (Royal Mounted Canadian Police) have been investigating the actions of both Syrian and U.S. officials for the past year. (Canada long ago apologized to Mr. Arar and paid him $ 9 million for having provided the U.S. with inaccurate information about him. The Obama Administration sided with the Bush Administration in Arar's lawsuit and refused to pay him anything or to conduct an investigation into the conduct of U.S. officials.) [More...]
The Supreme Court's action today refused to review a decision of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit, which was decided on the legal ground that Congress, not the courts, must authorize a remedy.
As a result, the substance of Mr. Arar’s case, first filed in January 2004, has never been heard and now never will be.
Mr. Arar said today of the Supreme Court's decision:
Mr. Arar said, “Today's decision eliminates my last bit of hope in the judicial system of the United States. When it comes to ‘national security’ matters the judicial system has willingly abandoned its sacred role of ensuring that no one is above the law. My case and other cases brought by human beings who were tortured have been thrown out by U.S. courts based on dubious government claims. Unless the American people stand up for justice they will soon see their hard-won civil liberties taken away from them as well.”
Law Prof. David Cole, who is affiliated with CCR, says:
"The courts have regrettably refused to right the egregious wrong done to Maher Arar. But the courts have never questioned that a wrong was done. They have simply said that it is up to the political branches to fashion a remedy. We are deeply disappointed that the courts have shirked their responsibility. But this decision only underscores the moral responsibility of those to whom the courts deferred – President Obama and Congress – to do the right thing and redress Arar's injuries."
Mr. Arar alleged in his civil suit that U.S. officials conspired with Syrian officials:
Mr. Arar alleges that the U.S. officials named in the suit conspired with Syrian officials to have him tortured in Syria, delivered Mr. Arar to his torturers, provided them with a dossier on him and questions to ask him, and obtained the answers tortured out of him. The legal arguments in the case revolved around whether U.S. officials can be sued for damages if that is the only remedy available to the victim, whether the officials acted “under color of foreign law” when they conspired with Syria to have Mr. Arar tortured there, and whether Mr. Arar has a right to pursue his claims under the Fifth Amendment and the Torture Victim Protection Act.
Said CCR Senior Attorney Maria LaHood, “The Supreme Court has effectively condoned torture by denying Maher’s right to seek a remedy. It is now up to President Obama and Congress to apologize to Maher for what the Bush administration did to him, to make clear that our laws prohibiting torture apply to everyone, including federal officials, and to hold those officials accountable.”
As to the news that Canada is investigating the actions of U.S. officials, CCR says:
“The U.S. should be conducting its own criminal investigation of the officials responsible for sending an innocent man to Syria for a year to be interrogated under torture, not covering for them. Again, the Canadians are doing the right thing by criminally investigating not only Syrian officials, but officials from the U.S. as well. The Obama administration should look to the Canadian example and do what's right - apologize to Maher and hold his torturers accountable.”
What should the Obama adminstration do? CCR says the Obama Administration and Congress can and must:
- Acknowledge the wrong done to Maher Arar in a public apology;
- Remove Maher Arar from the Watch List;
- Appoint outside special counsel to investigate and prosecute crimes relating to Maher Arar’s rendition;
- Remedy the harm done to Maher Arar; and
- Ensure that the U.S. does not send anyone to torture or arbitrary detention again.
You can send a letter to Obama and Congress telling them to do right by Maher Arar here.
Our past coverage of Mr. Arar's case is assembled here.
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