Maher Arar Loses ‘Last Hope’ in US Court Ruling

Published on
by
The Toronto Star

Maher Arar Loses ‘Last Hope’ in US Court Ruling

by
Mitch Potter

Canadian Maher Arar is shown in 2007 holding a copy of a Canadian inquiry report exonerating him. (TOM HANSON/CP FILE PHOTO)

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.

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