Justice does prevail! (In Canada)

Posted on January 28, 2007

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Maher Arar, the Canadian software engineer who was detained by American officials in 2002 and deported to Syria, where he was jailed and regularly tortured, will receive 11.5 million Canadian dollars ($9.75 million) in compensation from the Canadian government, under a settlement announced Friday.

The compensation ends a lawsuit brought by Mr. Arar and follows a recommendation from a judicial inquiry into his case. That inquiry said the expulsion to Syria was caused by false assertions made by the Canadian police to United States officials, saying that Mr. Arar was an Islamic extremist linked to Al Qaeda.

Mr. Arar, traveling on a Canadian passport, was pulled aside by immigration agents in New York as he changed planes on his way home to Ottawa from Tunisia. He was instead flown to Syria, his birthplace.

The Canadian judicial inquiry cleared Mr. Arar of any terrorism connections in September 2006, and concluded that anonymous Canadian officials had orchestrated a defamation campaign against him after his return from Syria in October 2003.

After apologizing, the Canadian Prime Minister renewed calls for the United States to remove Mr. Arar from its terrorist watch list. “Canada fully understands and appreciates and shares the United States’ concerns with regard to security,” he said. “However, the Canadian government has every right to go to bat when it believes one of its citizens has been treated unfairly by another government.”

After reviewing a confidential file concerning Mr. Arar, however, Stockwell Day, Canada’s public safety minister, said that it contained “nothing new” that justified blocking Mr. Arar from entering the United States.

This week, David H. Wilkins, the United States ambassador to Canada, publicly rebuked Mr. Day. “It’s a little presumptuous for him to say who the United States can and cannot allow into our country,” Mr. Wilkins said at a news conference in Edmonton, Alberta.

Mr. Arar has been unemployed since his ordeal in Syria, where he had been held for 10 months in a 3-by-6-foot cell and beaten repeatedly, often with a frayed electrical cable.

I’ve been waiting for this result for years now what a great precedent! And what an unusual act by the Conservative government. Still, Canadian conservatives have always been willing to uphold the law, unlike their counterparts in the south.

Before neo-cons freak out at me about us Arabs all probably being terrorists (because probably is apparently the same as beyond a reasonable doubt) note that both the United States and Canada are signatories of the Convention Against Torture, which prohibits deporting people to countries where they may be tortured no matter what. This, of course, is a convention which means nothing to the United States and is vigorously and shamelessly broken. Nevertheless, is has been signed and ratified by Congress.

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