The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.

Canadian Appeals U.S. Torture Lawsuit

by Catherine Komp

Dec. 14, 2006 – A Canadian survivor of "extraordinary rendition" is appealing a federal court’s decision to dismiss his lawsuit against the US government.

Maher Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, charged the US government with violations of due process and the Torture Victim Protection Act after US officials detained him in 2002 and ordered his removal to Syria where he says he was imprisoned and tortured at the hands of Syrian officials. More than 12 months passed before Arar was finally released.

The suit, filed in January 2004, named then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and officials with the Immigration and Naturalization Service.

Last February, US District Judge David Trager threw out the case, citing "national-security and foreign-policy considerations." Judge Trager also said Arar, as a foreign national, lacks standing in a US court.

In appealing the decision on Monday, the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) called the national-security argument "groundless speculation."

"Again and again, the Bush administration has committed grievous abuses and then claimed those same abuses are 'state secrets' that cannot be revealed in open court," said CCR Director Vincent Warren in a press statement. "The facts of Maher's case are well known. The government merely seeks to hide its illegal and immoral behavior from the public and avoid accountability for its actions. They ruined a man's life – let him see justice."

As previously reported by The NewStandard, the Bush Administration is also using the "state secrets" claim in an attempt to quash a lawsuit filed by another rendition survivor, German citizen Khaled El-Masri.

CCR, in its appeal of the Arar case, argued that the US Supreme Court affirmed that claims of torture "committed anywhere" are within the jurisdiction of federal courts.

Plaintiffs also say the Second Circuit Court earlier affirmed foreign nationals have the right to bring claims under the Torture Victim Protection Act. The 1991 Act states that anyone who "subjects an individual to torture shall, in a civil action, be liable for damages to that individual."

"Had private parties abducted Arar and transported him to Syria to be tortured by Syrian authorities, they would unquestionably be liable under the TVPA," wrote the plaintiffs. "There is no reason why abuses by US officials should be exempt from liability under the TVPA when the same abuses by private parties are actionable."

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The NewStandard ceased publishing on April 27, 2007.


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Catherine Komp is a contributing journalist.

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