Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Maher Arar

Remember him? This Syrian-born Canadian citizen was picked up by US authorities while transiting through JFK airport en route to Montreal in 2002, and sent to Syria to be brutally tortured. He spent ten and a half months in detention, and went through a horrendous ordeal. In 2006, he was cleared of all terrorism allegations by the Canadian government. The Bush administration thumbed its nose at Canada, and refused to remove Arar from its terrorism watch list.

Attorney General Albert Gonzalez scoffed at claims of torture all along, and claimed it was a "deportation", not a "rendition". And of course, the Syrians had promised he would not be tortured. Thankfully, the days when Congress would turn a blind eye to such abuses seem to be over. Recently, Senator Patrick Leahy launched an angry verbal attack on Gonzalez, who shifted uncomfortably in his seat. It's worth watching. Leahy asked an obvious question: how could Gonzalez say that he trusted the Syrian not to torture Arar when the official policy of the Bush administration is that the Syrians cannot be trusted at all? No, they knew exactly what would happen to Arar in Syria. And they sent him anyway.

Again, it is time to quote the list of crimes against human life and dignity spelled out so eloquently in Gaudium Et Spes, and referred to as "intrinsically evil" by Pope John Paul in Veritatis Splendour:
"Whatever is hostile to life itself, such as any kind of homicide, genocide, abortion, euthanasia and voluntary suicide; whatever violates the integrity of the human person, such as mutilation, physical and mental torture and attempts to coerce the spirit; whatever is offensive to human dignity, such as subhuman living conditions, arbitrary imprisonment, deportation, slavery...."
It's all there, pure and simple...

And what many seem to forget is how the Bush administration responded to a federal lawsuit initiated by Arar in 2005. The implications go beyond Arar, and provide a mindset into how the administration views foreign nationals, and the application of human rights in general (remember their views on the "quaint" Geneva Conventions?). In this case, the administration argued that:
"Foreign citizens who change planes at airports in the United States can legally be seized, detained without charges, deprived of access to a lawyer or the courts, and even denied basic necessities like food... aliens have at most a right against "gross physical abuse."

1 comment:

ken said...

An interesting article. The line that Gonzales takes now is quite different from that US authorities took earlier and contrasts also with the Arar inquiry which found that Arar was probably reported on the basis of Canadian intelligence informatiion some of it quite false and/or misleading. I doubt that there is any compelling evidence against Arar. Gonzales is hiding his misdeeds through appela to national security. There is more on Arar at my website:
I republished that old article about the lack of alien rights at an airport. We had better hope Jesus' second coming is not through a US airport!