60,000 People Demand Apology to Torture Victim Maher Arar from President Obama

Press Release
May 21, 2012

60,000 People Demand Apology to Torture Victim Maher Arar from President Obama

Human Rights, Religious Groups Deliver Petition Today

(Washington, D.C.) – Today, Amnesty International USA, the Center for Constitutional Rights, and the National Religious Campaign Against Torture delivered to the White House a petition of more than 60,000 signatures asking President Obama to extend a formal apology to Maher Arar. Arar is a Canadian citizen who was detained in 2002 by the United States and sent to Syria where he was tortured and imprisoned without charge for a year. Arar was ultimately released and allowed to return to Canada. He was never charged with a crime.

Maher Arar, who lives in Canada with his family, expressed appreciation for Americans working on his behalf. “I am very grateful to all those Americans who have worked hard on this first-of-its-kind campaign seeking an apology from an administration that chose to turn a blind eye on holding torturers to account,” Arar said. “The efforts of those who worked on this campaign will never go in vain as future generations will look back in history and remember them as the true American patriots.”

The Canadian government, which had supplied inaccurate intelligence to the United States, formally apologized to Arar and paid him compensation. The United States, however, has never apologized for its role and still lists Arar on a U.S. watch list. U.S. courts dismissed a federal lawsuit filed on his behalf.

“Two years ago, the Obama Administration obstructed Maher Arar’s quest for justice in the Supreme Court,” said Maria LaHood, senior staff attorney, the Center for Constitutional Rights, who represented Maher Arar in a lawsuit against Bush Administration officials. “President Obama must finally step up and apologize for the torture inflicted by the previous administration, and clear the name of an innocent man.”

Though Arar was detained and rendered to torture during the Bush administration, human rights groups believe the responsibility now falls on President Obama to issue an apology to Mr. Arar on behalf of the United States.

“The bottom line is that Arar was held illegally, stripped of his rights and rendered to a brutal Syrian regime where he was tortured – all at the behest of the United States,” said Suzanne Nossel, Amnesty International USA executive director. “Despite being freed and exonerated by his home country, Canada, the United States has never apologized to Arar. This is unconscionable. There must be accountability for torture. To do anything less is a blatant miscarriage of justice.”

The United States’ failure to apologize motivated NRCAT, Amnesty International USA, and the Center for Constitutional Rights to organize today’s delivery of signatures to the White House. Today marks the anniversary of President Obama’s 2009 speech on national security delivered at the National Archives, where he acknowledged that “All too often, our government made decisions based on fear rather than foresight.”

“U.S.-sponsored torture has done great harm to the reputation of the United States,” said Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture (NRCAT), a leading organization in today’s coalition efforts. “An apology by our nation to Maher Arar has the power to potentially heal our relationships with many other nations. Torture is immoral, illegal and counterproductive. An apology to Maher Arar would be an important step in ensuring that the U.S. never tortures again.”

We call upon the President to issue an apology to Maher Arar and all of the victims of U.S.-sponsored torture. He can take a meaningful step by recognizing Arar’s case when he makes a statement on June 26, International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Contacts:

Samantha Friedman (NRCAT), o: (202) 265-3000, c: (202) 215-9260, samantha@rabinowitz-dorf.com
Sharon Singh, Amnesty International USA, o: (202) 675-8579, c: (202) 459-8703, ssingh@aiusa.org
Dorothee Benz, Center for Constitutional Rights, (212) 614-6480, press@ccrjustice.org