Jeff Sallot / Globe and Mail & CBC.ca News – 2005-11-02 08:31:49
Ottawa Calls on Syria to Jail Citizen’s Torturers
Jeff Sallot / Globe and Mail
OTTAWA (October 28, 2005) — Canada is demanding that Syria investigate and prosecute those responsible for the torture of Maher Arar and three other Canadian Muslim men during brutal interrogations in a military prison in Damascus after the al-Qaeda attacks of 2001.
“It is shocking,” Deputy Prime Minister Anne McLellan said of a fact-finder’s report about the torture endured by Mr. Arar, an Ottawa software engineer, Abdullah Almalki, an Ottawa businessman, Ahmad El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, and Muyyed Nureddin, a former Islamic school principal.
Foreign Affairs Minister Pierre Pettigrew said the Syrian officers who tortured the Canadians should be brought to justice. “These people should be convicted.”
Mr. Pettigrew said he gave Syrian Ambassador Jamil Sakr a copy of the report by fact-finder Stephen Toope, a law professor and expert on torture cases.
The minister said he told the ambassador that Canada considers these “very, very serious allegations,” and demands that the regime in Syria launch a proper criminal investigation and prosecution. Mr. Sakr did not return phone messages left at the embassy.
Given Syria’s poor human-rights record, Canada’s diplomatic protest is unlikely to produce a result, said Lorne Waldman, Mr. Arar’s lawyer.
If Ottawa is serious about obtaining justice for the four men, it would amend federal legislation to clear the way for them to sue the Syrian government in Canadian courts, Mr. Waldman said. Foreign states are shielded from lawsuits under sovereign-state immunity.
Mr. Arar is suing the federal government for what he says was the complicity of the RCMP, the Canadian Security Intelligence Service and other agencies in his ordeal. A federal commission of inquiry under Mr. Justice Dennis O’Connor is investigating those allegations.
Mr. Toope, appointed by Judge O’Connor, said in a 23-page report released yesterday that there is no doubt Mr. Arar was tortured in Syria and that the horrible ordeal has devastated the Arar family.
Mr. Toope also said Mr. Almalki, Mr. El Maati and Mr. Nureddin are credible witnesses whose vivid descriptions of conditions and interrogation techniques at Far Falestin fully support Mr. Arar’s account of his yearlong ordeal.
“Mr. Arar’s psychological state was seriously damaged and he remains fragile,” the Toope report says. “His relationship with members of his immediate family has been significantly impaired. Economically, the family has been devastated,” the report adds.
The findings could lead the Arar commission to recommend that Mr. Arar receive financial compensation from the Canadian government if it is found to have been complicit, Paul Cavalluzzo, chief counsel for the commission, said in an interview.
The best thing for the Arar family would be to be able to turn the page once the commission issues its report, probably by the end of next March, rather than have to go through a civil trial, Mr. Cavalluzzo suggested. He said that what he finds most troubling about the Toope report is its finding “not just of the physical and psychological hell Mr. Arar has been through but the unbelievable impact it has had on his present life, not only economically, but in terms of his family relationships.”
Mr. Arar told CBC Newsworld he finds some comfort in the fact that the report finds his account truthful, but he is still waiting for Judge O’Connor’s report on the question of Canadian government complicity in his arrest and deportation.
Mr. Arar still has shoulder pain, possibly from his confinement in a tiny cell, the report notes.
Mr. Toope interviewed doctors who treated Mr. Arar for posttraumatic stress disorder. “Psychologically, Mr. Arar’s experiences in Syria have been devastating,” the report says. Mr. Arar kept sensing that bugs were crawling over his body, particularly around his genitals.
He has been unable to work and has nightmares. He grinds his teeth at night to the point of causing facial pain. He suffers frequent headaches.
The report says Mr. Arar feels guilty that he often is preoccupied with his own concerns and impatient with his children.
He cannot contemplate air travel, even within Canada, fearing the plane might be diverted to the United States.
The Toope report says that the experience of the inquiry has compounded Mr. Arar’s psychological pain. A devout Muslim, he has found it difficult to read the Koran since his return to Canada.
Intelligence Chief Warns Iraq War Poses
‘Serious Concern’ for Canada’s Safety
(October 31, 2005) — Jim Judd, the director of Canada’s spy agency, is speaking openly about the way the war in Iraq is creating new dangers for Canada.
Judd appeared before a Senate committee on Monday to answer questions about the Canadian Security Intelligence Service, or CSIS. He said the agency is experimenting with a new, more transparent approach. But his frank responses are also raising some touchy questions about the Iraq War.
Although Canada didn’t join the US-led war in Iraq, Paul Martin’s government has avoided publicly contradicting claims by US President George W. Bush’s administration that it is making the world safer.
But 10 days ago Judd said the US war in Iraq was creating “long-term problems” for other countries. And testifying before the Senate committee he said Iraq provides militants with both motive and opportunity.
“It’s been an issue in terms of providing individuals more of an opportunity to learn new techniques and expertise in this. And more generally, it may serve as a motivation. It’s a serious concern,” he said.
Judd’s assessment is nothing new in intelligence circles, says intelligence expert Wesley Wark of the University of Toronto. “We’ve created in Iraq, as many experts now recognize, a virtual failed state where one didn’t exist before. A huge set of problems have been created there.”
Wark says spies and politicians increasingly don’t agree. “It’s a very acute problem, I think, this divide between the professional view and the political view, in terms of how we’re really going to run a broad-based war on terror in the future.”
Judd says the main terror threat facing Canada comes from radicalized Canadians. And he says CSIS has seen Iraq cause that radicalization in real cases.
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