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Maher Arar Loses ‘Last Hope’ in US Court Ruling
WASHINGTON—Canadian torture victim Maher Arar’s rendition ordeal is now a closed file in the wake of a U.S. Supreme Court decision to end judicial review of the U.S. role in sending him to Syria eight years ago.
The U.S. High Court on Monday declined review of Arar’s case – a development that means the Syrian-born man’s case “now never will be heard” in an American courtroom, according to the U.S.-based constitutional rights organization arguing on his behalf.
Arar himself acknowledged the decision “eliminates my last bit of hope in the judicial system of the United States.
“When it comes to ‘national security’ matters the judicial system has willingly abandoned its sacred role of ensuring that no one is above the law,” he said in a statement.
In the wake of the high court decision, the Center for Constitutional Rights is calling on U.S. President Barack Obama and the U.S. Congress to follow Ottawa’s lead in issuing an apology and compensation to Arar.
“The courts have regrettably refused to right the egregious wrong done to Maher Arar. But the courts have never questioned that a wrong was done. They have simply said that it is up to the political branches to fashion a remedy,” said CCR attorney David Cole.
“But this decision only underscores the moral responsibility of those to whom the courts deferred – President Obama and Congress – to do the right thing and redress Arar’s injuries.”
Arar’s grim odyssey began in September, 2002, when he was detained during a stopover at JFK Airport on suspicion of terrorist activity. The Bush administration then shipped him against his will to his native Syria, where he was tortured in an underground cell in Damascus for nearly a year.
Arar—the first and best-known victim of a process known as “extraordinary rendition”—won full exoneration from Ottawa in 2007, including public apologies and $10 million in damages, after an exhaustive public inquiry.
Later that year Arar was able to testify via video at a U.S. House Joint Committee Hearing convened to discuss his rendition to Syria. During the hearing individual members of Congress apologized to Arar. But the U.S. government has yet to formally acknowledge any mistakes in his case.