Paul Cavalluzo is counsel to the Canadian federal commission investigating the extraordinary rendition of Canadian citizen Maher Arar. In an interview with the Washington Post, Cavalluzo summarized the Arar Commission's findings as follows:
This is really the first report in the Western world that has had access to all of the government documents we wanted and saw the practice of extraordinary rendition in full color... . The ramifications were that an innocent Canadian was tortured, his life was put upside down, and it set him back years and years.
A brief outline of the Arar Commission's factual findings follows:
- Maher Arar and his wife were wrongly put on a watch list of the US government, being described as "Islamic extremist individuals". The US placed the Arar's on this list after the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) provided incorrect information to US authorities.
- Arar was detained by US authorities during a layover in New York's JFK Airport, on September 26, 2002, while returning home solo from a family vacation. He was held in the States for 2 weeks before being flown on a private plane to Jordan. From Jordan, Arar was driven across the Syrian border where he was tortured and questioned in a notorious Damascus prison. No charges were ever filed against Mr. Arar.
- In the words of Justice Dennis O'Connor, who authored the Arar Commission's findings, "I am able to say categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offense or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada." Justice O'Connor concludes, "Canadian investigators made extensive efforts to find any information that could implicate Arar in terrorist activities... . The results speak for themselves: they found none."
- Additionally, the Canadian government tried to smear Arar upon his return from Syria in October, 2003, releasing "confidential and sometimes inaccurate information about the case to the media for the purpose of damaging Mr. Arar's reputation or protecting their self-interest or government interests," according the Christian Science Monitor, quoting Canada's Globe and Mail (sorry -- registration required.)
- Regarding the role of the Americans, Justice O'Connor lamented, "They removed [Arar] to Syria against his wishes and in the face of his statements that he would be tortured if sent there. Moreover, they dealt with Canadian officials involved with Arar's case in a less than forthcoming manner." (The New York Times, quoting the Arar Commission.)
For his part, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli apologized, today. Acknowledging that no words could rescind the grave mistakes for which Arar suffered, Zaccardelli said he was "painfully" aware of those mistakes by the RCMP. Zaccardelli continues to resist calls for his resignation, in light of the RCMP's role in the injustice done to Arar. US authorities, on the other hand refused to participate in the investigation, and have been unavailable for comment.
According to The Economist (sorry -- subscribers only), "Arar has filed civil lawsuits against the Canadian, American, Syrian, and Jordanian governments". This could prove expensive for the governments involved, not solely due to the legitimate damages that Mr. Arar may claim, but because there are three other Canadian citizens with similar claims of extraordinary rendition at US hands. Who predict how many innocent citizens of other countries have been subjected to this stomach-wrenching practice.
In the words of US constitutional scholar Jack Balkin, the US program of extraordinary rendition "perpetrate[s] a mockery of justice." Indeed.