Canada MPs seek complaint to US, Syria on terror deportation


Richard Moore

Original source URL:

Canada MPs seek complaint to US, Syria on terror deportation
by Michel Comte
Fri Sep 29, 11:23 PM ET

Opposition lawmakers have called on the Canadian government to chastise 
Washington and Damascus for the US deportation of a Canadian man to Syria, where
he was tortured in 2002.

"Why is the minister of public safety waiting to lodge an official complaint 
with US authorities?" Bloc Quebecois MP Serge Menard asked the government in the
House of Commons.

Maher Arar was stopped in New York, on his way to Canada from a trip to Tunisia 
in September 2002, and was deported to Syria where he was jailed and tortured 
for more than a year.

A Canadian report released in mid-September stated that US authorities had 
likely relied on faulty intelligence provided by the Royal Canadian Mounted 
Police (RCMP) to hold and deport the 36-year-old software engineer to Syria.

But, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli said Thursday US authorities were 
advised of the mistake while Arar was still in US custody in New York.

Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day sidestepped questions Friday.

Last week, Day said the government had removed Arar from its security watch list
and asked US Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff to do the same in the 
United States.

On Thursday, Foreign Minister Peter MacKay told reporters: "We have contacted 
both governments of the United States and Syria but we have not lodged official 
complaints per se as yet. We are contemplating that action."

"I have raised the issue with (US Secretary of State Condoleezza) Rice. 
Officials have contacted the Syrian government with respect to the report, but 
there has been no official complaint lodged to date," he said.

Syria denies the torture claims and Washington has refused to accept blame for 
any wrongdoing in the case.

US officials thought it unlikely Arar would be tortured when they deported him 
to Syria, a State Department spokesperson revealed Friday.

"There were assurances that his treatment would meet the standards of the Geneva
Conventions," Sean McCormack told reporters. "We had to have a reasonable 
expectation that he was not going to be tortured or maltreated. We were able to 
assure ourselves of that."

McCormack also said US officials did not consult with their Canadian 
counterparts before they deported Arar from New York in 2002.

But, Arar countered in a conference call with reporters that US authorities 
"knew that Syria tortured people," citing US State Department human rights 
reports on the country.

"The torture issue came up mostly during a six-hour interview ... two days 
before they sent me to Syria," he said. "That interview was mostly about why I 
didn't want to go back to Syria ... I explained to them repeatedly that if they 
sent me back to Syria, I would be tortured."

He added that "nightmares" from his detention in a "Syrian dungeon" linger and 
his young son still worries "that his father may not come back" whenever Arar 
leaves for a trip.

In a statement, Arar thanked Zaccardelli after they spoke by telephone for 
"apologizing to us and for acknowledging that serious mistakes were made that 
caused my family and me serious harm."

However, he expressed disappointment that no RCMP officers were disciplined for 
making those errors.

Arar also said he is "still anxiously awaiting an apology from the prime 
minister on behalf of the entire Canadian government" and for Washington to 
remove his name from its no-fly lists.

Copyright © 2006 Agence France Presse.
Copyright © 2006 Yahoo! Inc. All rights reserved.

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