OTTAWA, Sept. 18 â€” A government commission on Monday exonerated a Canadian computer engineer of any ties to terrorism and issued a scathing report that faulted Canada and the United States for his deportation four years ago to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured.
The report on the engineer, Maher Arar, said American officials had apparently acted on inaccurate information from Canadian investigators and then misled Canadian authorities about their plans for Mr. Arar before transporting him to Syria.
â€œI am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constituted a threat to the security of Canada,â€ Justice Dennis R. Oâ€™Connor, head of the commission, said at a news conference.
The reportâ€™s findings could reverberate heavily through the leadership of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police, which handled the initial intelligence on Mr. Arar that led security officials in both Canada and the United States to assume he was a suspected Al Qaeda terrorist.
The reportâ€™s criticisms and recommendations are aimed primarily at Canadaâ€™s own government and activities, rather than the United States government, which refused to cooperate in the inquiry.
But its conclusions about a case that had emerged as one of the most infamous examples of rendition â€” the transfer of terrorism suspects to other nations for interrogation â€” draw new attention to the Bush administrationâ€™s handling of detainees. And it comes as the White House and Congress are contesting legislation that would set standards for the treatment and interrogation of prisoners.
â€œThe American authorities who handled Mr. Ararâ€™s case treated Mr. Arar in a most regrettable fashion,â€ Justice Oâ€™Connor wrote in a three-volume report, not all of which was made public. â€œThey removed him to Syria against his wishes and in the face of his statements that he would be tortured if sent there. Moreover, they dealt with Canadian officials involved with Mr. Ararâ€™s case in a less than forthcoming manner.â€
* * *
The Syrian-born Mr. Arar was seized on Sept. 26, 2002, after he landed at Kennedy Airport in New York on his way home from a holiday in Tunisia. On Oct. 8, he was flown to Jordan in an American government plane and taken overland to Syria, where he says he was held for 10 months in a tiny cell and beaten repeatedly with a metal cable. He was freed in October 2003, after Syrian officials concluded that he had no connection to terrorism and returned him to Canada.
Greenwald has more:
So on top of operating secret torture gulags in Eastern Europe, we also kidnap people, charge them with no crime, given them no opportunity to defend themselves, send them off to be tortured for months, and then when it turns out that they are completely inncoent, we block them from obtaining compensation in our courts because our Government claims that national security would be jeopardized if they were held accountable for their behavior.
How can you be an American citizen and not be completely outraged, embarrassed, and disgusted by this conduct? What the Bush administration is doing on so many levels is a grotesque betrayal of every national value and principle we have claimed to embraced and fought for. Can it even be debated at this point that the Bush administration has so plainly, as Billmon described it the other day, “forfeit(ed) forever its ability to chastise the human rights abuses of others without triggering a global laughing fit”? Who would ever take seriously the notion that a Government that engages in this behavior can lecture anyone on human rights abuses or import democratic values around the world?