#SalimIsFree: A family reunited thanks Amnesty supporters
By Alex Neve, Secretary General of Amnesty International Canada
Two years ago, a nightmare of abuse and injustice erupted without any warning for Canadian citizen Salim Alaradi, who was living with his family in the United Arab Emirates and running a successful business selling household appliances. Security forces rushed in and arrested him at the hotel where was vacationing with his family in Dubai.
Salim, originally from Libya, appeared to have been swept up in a wave of arbitrary arrests that were connected to wider political dynamics related to the UAE government’s political machinations in Libya. What followed was 645 days behind bars; 645 days of secrecy and abuse. Salim was originally held incommunicado, with UAE officials refusing to acknowledge he was in detention or to provide any details about where he was held. Amnesty was so concerned during those early days that we talked of his case as a “disappearance”.
For close to two years Salim endured torture, ill-treatment, untreated medical concerns, unfair legal proceedings, and other human rights violations.
Salim’s family rallied to his side. From their home in Windsor, Ontario they reached out to the media, to Canadian officials and to Amnesty and other human rights groups.
Amnesty responded quickly, both internationally and here in Canada. Urgent Actions, press releases, media interviws, government meetings, petitions, letter writing, assistance to Salim’s family, collaborating with their lawyer and cooperation with other groups and activists followed.
And at long last, on May 31st of this year, closing in on two years of cruel imprisonment, Salim was free, acquitted by a UAE court. He returned to Canada in late June and headed home to Windsor with his family.
What a special moment, therefore, when Salim and three of his children (pictured above) were able to travel up to Ottawa this week and stop by the office to share personal thanks with Amnesty International and our close ally, the International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group. As he tweeted at the time, “no visit could be complete” without a chance to pass on thanks to Amnesty and the ICLMG from his entire family.
Salim expressed deep appreciation for everything that Amnesty and ICLMG did to help secure his freedom. He told me he knows that without that support and the pressure we helped to generate he might very well still be behind bars. It was good to hear that he is concentrating right now on spending time with family and friends and being sure he gets the medical treatment he needs to recover from the torture he endured. He will also be looking at options to keep pushing for investigations to ensure that those responsible for the violations he went through are brought to justice. We assured him that Amnesty and the ICLMG will continue to stand by him in that quest.
How wonderful to be able to share word about the visit later in the evening, noting that while once we tweeted regularly with our demand to #FreeSalim, now we can celebrate the fact that #SalimIsFree.
Read more about Salim Alaradi's story here.
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Alex Neve has been the Secretary General at Amnesty International Canada since January 2000. He has participated in many Amnesty International missions, and has represented Amnesty International at international meetings such as the Summit of the Americas and the G8 Summit. Alex holds a Bachelor Laws from Dalhousie and an LL.M In International Human Rights Law from the University of Essex. In 2009 he was awarded an honorary Doctorate of Laws degree from the University of New Brunswick. He was named an Officer of the Order of Canada in 2007. Follow him on Twitter @AlexNeveAmnesty