Monday, December 1, 2008

Maher Arar's Story with Links: Prepare for the US Trial to Begin Ninth of December

Accountability is not about seeking revenge; it is about making our institutions better and a model for the rest of the world. Accountability goes to the heart of our democracy. It is a fundamental pillar that distinguishes our society from police states. - Maher Arar

CURRENT case summary and items for US TRIAL: beginning December 09, 2008
Here

The Arar Commission released its official report on Maher Arar's case on September 18, 2006. Commissioner Dennis O'Connor cleared Maher of all terrorism allegations, and found that the actions of Canadian officials very likely lead to his ordeal.

STORY IN BRIEF ( With focus on Canada's accountability and action)

Maher Arar is a 34-year-old wireless technology consultant. He was born in Syria and came to Canada with his family at the age of 17. He became a Canadian citizen in 1991. On Sept. 26, 2002, while in transit in New York’s JFK airport when returning home from a vacation, Arar was detained by US officials and interrogated about alleged links to al-Qaeda. Twelve days later, he was chained, shackled and flown to Syria, where he was held in a tiny “grave-like” cell for ten months and ten days before he was moved to a better cell in a different prison. In Syria, he was beaten, tortured and forced to make a false confession.

During his imprisonment, Arar's wife, Monia Mazigh, campaigned relentlessly on his behalf until he was returned to Canada in October 2003. On Jan. 28, 2004, under pressure from Canadian human rights organizations and a growing number of citizens, the Government of Canada announced a Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Maher Arar.

On September 18, 2006, the Commissioner of the Inquiry, Justice Dennis O'Connor, cleared Arar of all terrorism allegations, stating he was "able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

Read more about Maher's story in fuller detail with chronology, links:
Here

A Message from Maher Arar:

It was four years ago that the horrible ordeal I suffered first began. People ask me repeatedly how, during this time, I have been able to cope with the stress of surviving torture, the stress of not being able to find a job, the stress endured at the inquiry, and the stress from the countless hours I spend doing media interviews and talking to my lawyers on the phone. The answers are simple: I draw my strength from my faith; from my loving, caring, strong wife; and from the support and generosity I have received from Canadians. I have rediscovered Canada through its people, people who made me feel proud of being Canadian.

What has also given me the determination to persevere is the obligation I have felt as a human being to keep my case alive in hope that the attention will help other innocent people. Three years ago, I made a very difficult decision to tell my painful, personal story to the Canadian public. I made it clear at that time that I wanted to achieve three objectives.

The most important and first objective was to clear my name.

Justice Dennis O'Connor did so in his report from the Commission of Inquiry examining my case when he stated that he was "able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada."

In his findings, Justice O'Connor had this to say regarding my innocence:

Mr. Arar has asked that I "clear his name." His concern, understandably, is that the publicity surrounding his case has raised suspicions that he has been involved in illegal activities. Unfortunately, Mr. Arar has been the subject of a good deal of publicity, some of which has inaccurately portrayed his status in Canadian investigations and his possible connections to terrorist activities. The result has been that Mr. Arar, already the victim of inhumane and degrading treatment in Syria, has been subjected to further suffering owing to the release of information that has unfairly damaged his reputation here in Canada.

I have heard evidence concerning all of the information gathered by Canadian investigators in relation to Mr. Arar. This includes information obtained in Canada, as well as any information received from American, Syrian or other foreign authorities. I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada.

The public can be confident that Canadian investigators have thoroughly and exhaustively followed all information leads available to them in connection with Mr. Arar's activities and associations. This was not a case where investigators were unable to effectively pursue their investigative goals because of a lack of resources or time constraints. On the contrary, Canadian investigators made extensive efforts to find any information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities. They did so over a lengthy period of time, even after Mr. Arar's case became a "cause celebre."

The results speak for themselves: they found none.

My second objective was to hold those people responsible to account.

The Canadian government has full access to both the public and confidential reports prepared by Justice O'Connor. Since the release of the report the Canadian public has consistently asked the government to take concrete actions to hold those Canadian officials responsible to account. But nothing has been done so far, and the public's trust in the government's ability to restore faith in our institutions has clearly been shaken.

It is important to highlight that the inquiry report does not point the finger at any one person or institution alone. It is also crucial to focus on demanding concrete changes rather than focusing on asking some officials to resign from their jobs. This is because accountability is not about seeking revenge; it is about making our institutions better and a model for the rest of the world. Accountability goes to the heart of our democracy. It is a fundamental pillar that distinguishes our society from police states.

My third objective was to make sure that this does not happen to any other Canadian.

Unfortunately this has already happened to three other Canadian citizens: Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El-Maati and Muayyed Nureddin. The similarities between their cases and mine are striking. We were all detained at the same branch of the Syrian military intelligence, tortured by the same people and asked questions that would be of interest to Canadian police and security agencies. It is my hope that the government acts on its promise and holds an independent review of their cases, as recommended by Justice O'Connor in his report.

If the government wants to prevent another tragedy from happening, it must fully implement Justice O'Connor's comprehensive and balanced recommendations.

In my opinion these recommendations, if implemented fully, will protect our national security and safeguard our hard-won civil liberties. We have heard encouraging statements from Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, indicating he intends to implement the recommendations. It is my hope that he will act immediately.

Justice O'Connor will also make further recommendations in a second report before the end of the year. This second report will outline proposals for a new approach to reviewing the RCMP's activities regarding national security investigations. It is my view and my hope, based on testimony at the inquiry, that this should go beyond the RCMP and include at least CSIS and Foreign Affairs.

It is important to make a distinction between "review" and "oversight." Oversight will be more effective as it will prevent tragedies from happening again while review means that tragedy has happened already and an investigation needs to be launched to find out what went wrong.

Here's a good example to illustrate the point: The existence of an oversight agency could have prevented the RCMP from sending false information about me to their American counterparts or, at a minimum, could have made a huge difference when it came to correcting the record early on. Quick hearings could have been held, at the end of which all Canadian agencies could have been ordered to issue a "one voice" letter clearing me of any wrongdoing. Certainly this could have resulted in my being released earlier and also could have served as a deterrent to those Canadian officials who embarked on the damaging smear campaign after my return to Canada.

I hope that many lessons have been learned from my case. Canadians have invested time, effort and money in this inquiry. Now is the time to make sure this investment pays off, by insisting that the government implements all of Justice O'Connor's recommendations. Doing so will help Canada restore its tarnished reputation for promoting and protecting human rights around the globe.

Thank you,

Maher Arar

(END of Maher Arar Website entry for front page)
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A few videos you may want to see/hear on Maher Arar and related:

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

Here

Note from blogger of One Heart for Peace - Look for Maher Arar and much more related to his case in the weeks ahead...

3 comments:

Connie L. Nash said...

Here is the first group to call for Action now (right before this trial-suit) that I've seen...

On December 9, 2008, demand action by the U.S. government when Maher Arar's attorneys return to the U.S. Court of Appeals seeking justice for his rendition to torture.

While the black cloud of George W. Bush is finally lifting, the crimes perpetuated by his administration will not be undone or erased in January. Join us to hold high levels of the Bush administration-former Attorney General John Ashcroft, former Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, and FBI Director Robert Mueller, as well as numerous U.S. immigration officials-accountable for the torture and rendition of Maher Arar.

Join us in New York City:

1. BEFORE DECEMBER 9th: Make media and build public pressure in support of Maher Arar and other victims of extraordinary rendition. Write a letter to your local paper about Maher Arar and why you think it is important that the court hear his case. Plus, help spread about the rally using these fliers.
www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=3977
www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/Maher%20Arar%20flier%20for%20local%20actions.doc

2. DECEMBER 9th: RALLY OUTSIDE THE COURTHOUSE: 12:30 PM - 2:30 PM, Foley Square. There will be a rally and procession to the courthouse at Foley Square for victims of extraordinary rendition and torture. You can join the rally at Worth & Centre Streets (near the Brooklyn Bridge-City Hall, 4,5,6 and R,W subway trains).

Join us in solidarity elsewhere:

1. BEFORE DECEMBER 9th: Make media and build public pressure in support of Maher Arar and other victims of extraordinary rendition. Write a letter to your local paper about Maher Arar and why you think it is important that the court hear his case.
www.unitedforpeace.org/article.php?id=3977

2. DECEMBER 9th: RALLY AT YOUR LOCAL FEDERAL COURT: Organize a rally outside your local federal courthouse demanding that the court allow Maher Arar's case to move forward. Click here for materials to help you coordinate your event.
www.unitedforpeace.org/downloads/Maher%20Arar%20flier%20for%20local%20actions.doc

In 2002, Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was detained at JFK airport on his way home from a family trip. He was interrogated, prevented from having assistance from a lawyer, and sent against his will to Syria, a country renowned for torture. He was interrogated, tortured and held in a grave-like cell for over ten months in Syria. No country, including the U.S., has ever charged him with any crime. But the Bush administration continues to keep Maher Arar on a watch list, has refused to appoint a special prosecutor to investigate U.S. officials who sent Mr. Arar to Syria, and is actively seeking to deny Mr. Arar justice in U.S. courts.

U.S. courts have given in to the U.S. officials' efforts to prevent justice from being served by refusing to determine whether it was unconstitutional to send Mr. Arar to Syria to be tortured and arbitrarily detained. In 2006, a federal judge dismissed Mr. Arar's claims, not on the merits, but because of national security and foreign policy concerns. In June of this year, a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided 2-1 that Mr. Arar's case could not proceed, on largely the same grounds. The dissenting judge found that this decision gives federal officials the license to "violate constitutional rights with virtual impunity."

Rather than upholding the rule of law, the Constitution, and human rights, the courts have instead deferred to the Bush Administration, giving it unchecked authority where it claims national security and foreign policy concerns are at stake.

But in an extremely rare occurrence, the full Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided to rehear Maher Arar's case on December 9, 2008. This time around, we need to make sure that the court knows that United States officials do not have license to ship people off to other countries to be tortured or disappeared. We need to make sure the court knows that there must be accountability for torture, and that measures taken in the name of national security must comply with the law.

Go here to read more about the case at the Center for Constitutional Rights.
www.ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/arar-v.-ashcroft

Connie L. Nash said...

Look up and watch for more on Maher Arar also at Cage Prisoners, NC Stop Torture Now, Talking Dog, Counter Punch, Keith Olberman. MSNBC..

Connie L. Nash said...

http://www.atimes.com/atimes/Middle_East/JH20Ak01.html

http://harpers.org/archive/2007/11/hbc-90001676http://current.com/items/89597992