Saturday, January 27, 2007

An Apology for Arar

Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen detained by U.S. authorities at JFK International Airport and sent to Syria for interrogation, has been given a formal apology by Canadian prime minister Stephen Harper and awarded almost $9 million in compensation by the Canadian government.

The government of the United States, on the other hand, has refused to acknowledge that its suspicion of Arar was--or is--unwarranted. The Washington Post reports:

Harper and Arar both criticized the United States for its refusal to accept the exhaustive Canadian inquiry that found Arar was an innocent man. Public resentment in Canada has swelled this week over U.S. officials' insistence that Arar should remain on its "watch list" of potential suspects, as well as the testy comments of U.S. Ambassador David Wilkins, who said Canada had no business questioning who was on the list.

The United States has never acknowledged it made a mistake in the Arar case, which has become one of the most public embarrassments in the U.S. practice of "extraordinary rendition" of suspects to other countries for interrogation and imprisonment. Last week, Sen. Patrick J. Leahy (D-Vt.) demanded an explanation for the administration's stance. He complained that American officials "knew damn well, if he went to Syria, he'd be tortured. It's beneath the dignity of this country to send somebody to another country to be tortured."

For more on the Arar case see these earlier posts: