Select this search icon to access the search form

Main menu

Facebook Share

USA: Apologize to torture survivor Maher Arar

    Thursday, November 8, 2012 - 00:00

    Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen and father of two, was travelling home to Canada from visiting his wife’s family in Tunisia in 2002. While changing planes at New York City’s JFK airport, he was detained and held for 12 days by US authorities. He was then transferred secretly, via Jordan, to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured.

    "It was so painful," Maher Arar said of the beatings he endured, "that I forgot every enjoyable moment in my life."

    Released without charge and allowed to return home to Canada in 2003, Maher Arar received an apology and compensation from the Canadian government for its role in his treatment. But the U.S. government has failed to apologize or offer Maher Arar any form of remedy despite its obligation to do so under the UN Convention Against Torture and other human rights treaties. In fact, the Department of Justice successfully fought Maher Arar’s attempts to pursue redress in court, based not on the merits of his claim but supposed “significant national security concerns.”

    Torture is immoral, illegal and a crime. It’s time for the US to take responsibility for its actions.

    Take Action

    Please write letters to President Obama urging the US government to publically apologize to Maher Arar and help end torture forever. At the very least an apology should include acknowledgement of the facts about the human rights violations to which he was subjected, acceptance of responsibility, formal recognition of the USA’s obligations to restore his dignity, reputation and rights, and acceding to the Canadian government’s request that his name be removed from any watch lists.

    Note: you can also take action online (see link in the right hand sidebar).

    Write to:

    President Barack H. Obama 
    The White House 
    1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW 
    Washington, DC 20500 

    Email: (via webform)
    Salutation: Dear President Obama

    More Background

    A Canadian judicial inquiry confirmed in 2006 that he had been tortured in Syria, considered it likely that US authorities had relied on inaccurate information provided by Canadian authorities, and noted that thorough investigations by Canadian authorities had not in fact found “any information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities”. The Canadian government subsequently recognized the role Canadian officials played in his ordeal, and gave him compensation and a formal apology.  

    In contrast, the USA refused categorically to cooperate with the Canadian inquiry and, although a small number of members of Congress took the initiative individually to apologize to Maher Arar via a video link to him in Canada at a committee hearing in the US House of Representatives in 2007, the US President and full Congress have failed to apologize or to offer Maher Arar any form of remedy. Indeed, the Department of Justice successfully fought his attempts to pursue redress in court, based not on the merits of his claim but supposed “significant national security concerns.”

    Canadian officials have also requested that the US government remove Maher Arar’s name from the US watch list.  That request has been refused. It remains impossible for him to travel to the USA or over US airspace, and he faces constant uncertainty about other countries that may have adopted the USA watch list. He feels strongly, too, that having his name removed from the list would be an important part of restoring his reputation.