Today, the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) charged a Syrian official for the torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar almost 13 years ago. Arar, a dual Canadian/Syrian citizen, was arrested at New York City’s JFK airport on September 26, 2002. After being held 12 days by US authorities, he was clandestinely sent, via Jordan, to Syria, where he was held for a year, including 10 months in a small, dark underground cell during which time he was subjected to torture.
Setting a ground-breaking global precedent, the RCMP has charged Colonel George Salloum, a Syrian military intelligence officer, with carrying out and overseeing the torture to which Maher Arar was subjected while imprisoned in Syria between October 2002 and October 2003. These charges are the result of an exhaustive investigation that has been ongoing throughout the past 10 years. A Canadian commission of inquiry concluded in 2006 that Arar was not implicated in any manner in acts of terrorism. The Canadian police paid compensation and offered Arar an apology.
A U.S. lawsuit was dismissed on national security grounds without ever having been considered on the merits, and the U.S. government has failed to apologize or offer Arar any form of remedy.
In response to the announcement of the charges, Naureen Shah, Director of Amnesty International USA's Security and Human Rights Program, issued the following statement:
"Arar's nightmare began at the hands of US officials, yet the U.S. government has never apologized for his torture. Now, the Canadian police's decision to bring criminal charges makes the U.S. government’s failure even more untenable.”
“The US government is obligated by international law to ensure full accountability for human rights violations, including the crimes of torture and enforced disappearance. In the case of Arar, as with many others, the government has failed to take responsibility for its actions, prosecute those responsible, and offer an apology and reparation.”
“If the United States does not do its part to bring to justice those who perpetrated torture in its name, it is sending the message that torture in the name of national security is acceptable and that it remains a policy option.”
Full accountability means an investigation by US authorities into the rendition of Arar and other torture survivors, prosecution of any wrongdoing and reparations for survivors.