Ottawa ‘ Justice Dennis O’Connor has confirmed the worst fears of Organizations with Intervenor Status at the Arar Inquiry: that Canadian officials were complicit in the torture of Maher Arar and other Canadian citizens.
‘Justice O’Connor has documented in astonishing detail how the very officials tasked with protecting the rights of these Canadian citizens failed to live up to that responsibility, and worse yet, were directly involved in passing on questions for interrogations where torture would be used,’ said Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada.
The report details the callous disregard for the very real likelihood that government actions would directly contribute to the torture of these Canadian citizens. In particular, there is chilling reference to an October 10, 2002 memo in which a Foreign Affairs official warns that a decision to send a line of questioning about Abdullah Almalki to Syrian security agencies might ‘involve torture.’ The RCMP chose to ignore the concern and proceeded anyway:
‘The RCMP are ready to send their Syrian counterparts a request that Al Malki be asked questions posed by the RCMP, questions relating to other members of his organization. Both ISI and DMSCUS/HOM [Ambassador Pillarella] have pointed out to the RCMP that such questioning may involve torture. The RCMP are aware of this but have nonetheless decided to send their request’ (Report of the Events Relating to Maher Arar: Analysis and Recommendations, page 209).
Intervenors welcome Justice O’Connor’s recommendation that a further process of ‘independent and credible’ review into the cases of Mr. Abdullah Almalki, Mr. Ahmad El Maati and Mr. Muayyed Nureddin be instituted (Analysis and Recommendations, page 278), and urge the government to act on this recommendation without further delay. These men have waited far too long for answers and accountability.
Organizations intervening at the Arar Commission are also pleased that Justice O’Connor says that his Interim Report should remove any ‘taint or suspicion’ that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or constitutes any threat to the security of Canada (Anaylsis and Recommendations, page 59).
Justice O’Connor is also clearly of the view that Mr. Arar is entitled to compensation and has encouraged the Canadian government to be flexible in how that compensation should be assessed, recognizing the suffering he has been through, the damage of the improper and unfair leaks, his difficulty in finding employment and the impact of the inquiry itself. Justice O’Connor has also signaled that an apology might be appropriate (Analysis and Recommendations, page 362-363).
‘The report offers a staggering catalogue of deficiencies, mistakes and even deliberate wrongdoing, all of which laid the ground for the severe abuses suffered by Mr. Arar and the other three men named in this report,’ said Neve.
Those responsible should be held accountable and the reforms recommended by Justice O’Connor should be immediately implemented in order to guard against future repeats of these tragedies.
Justice O’Connor has also recommended that Canadian agencies involved in national security investigations implement written policies prohibiting racial, religious or ethnic profiling, and training to sensitize those agencies to the realities of Canada’s Muslim and Arab communities. Intervenors urge the government to prioritize the implementation of these recommendations.