Sunday, June 28, 2009

No More Impunity!

Demand an Apology, Accountability, and Compensation for Three Canadians Targetted for Torture

As Canada Marks the United Nations International Day in Support of Victims of Torture June 26, Contact Prime Minister Stephen Harper, "Public Safety" Minister Peter Van Loan to Demand Canada End its Involvement in Torture (contact details below)


Three Canadians -- Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin -- were tortured overseas with the complicity of their own government. We are calling on the Government of Canada to issue an apology, provide compensation, ensure that all officials responsible are held accountable, take steps to eliminate false information about these men and their families from Canadian and international databases, and demand that the federal government issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture.

Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati, and Muayyed Nureddin are Canadian citizens who were targetted for torture by agencies of their own government.

All were falsely labelled as alleged threats to Canada's "national security," and all wound up in Syrian torture chambers (and, in one case, Egyptian torture chambers as well) where they were interrogated and tortured based on questions that came from Canada. A problematic secret federal review of their cases (The Iacobucci Inquiry, which unfortunately excluded the men, their lawyers, the press, and public from participating) nonetheless found that Canadian agencies were complicit in the men's overseas detention, interrogation, and torture.

Last week the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security of the House of Commons called for an immediate apology for all thee men, along with compensation "for the suffering they endured and the difficulties they encountered." The committee released a report that also called on the federal government to "do everything necessary to correct misinformation that may exist in records administered by national security agencies in Canada or abroad with respect to" the three men and their family members.
(full report: )

Importantly, the Committee called on "the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture for all departments and agencies responsible for national security. The ministerial directive must clearly state that the exchange of information with countries is prohibited when there is a credible risk that it could lead, or contribute, to the use of torture."

Unfortunately, the committee did not go far enough in demanding actions that could end the culture of impunity that continues to thrive with respect to torture in the highest levels of the Canadian government, from CSIS and the RCMP to the Justice Dept. and Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade. Indeed, names were named in both the O'Connor Inquiry (which examined the case of Maher Arar) and the Iacobucci inquiry, and it is clear in both reports that the actions of Canadian officials led to the torture of Canadian citizens abroad.

Yet there has been a disturbing silence on the issue of holding officials accountable. In fact, with one exception, it appears that all officials who appear to have been complicit either directly or indirectly in that overseas detention, interrogation, and torture, have received promotions.

Perhaps the most high-profile of those Canadian officials is Michel Cabana, who ran Project AO-Canada (the investigation that was found to have been based on false information that led to the overseas detention, interrogation, and torture of Maher Arar, Abdullah Almalki, and Ahmad El Maati). Remarkably, Cabana is now the Assistant Commissioner of the RCMP, one heartbeat away from the top job in a national police force that has been implicated in torture.

We have serious questions about the suitability of Mr. Cabana to hold such a high position in an organization that is supposed to be cleaning up its act and ending its complicity in torture.

With the recent court orders to repatriate yet two other Canadians tortured with the complicity of their own government (Omar Khadr and Abousfian Abdelrazik), we need to ask: how many more cases of torture-by-proxy exist, and how many more will continue to occur unless there are major systemic changes in the way things are run in Ottawa?

While we work towards those systemic changes, we join the call from the Parliamentary committee "to immediately implement all the recommendations from these inquiries, as the failure to do so could result in further serious violations of the rights of Canadians."

While the committee calls for an oversight committee of all agencies involved in "national security" investigations, we remain concerned that such a committee can only review human rights disasters AFTER they have occurred. Rather, we need pre-emptive action to stop torture-complicit spies from doing further damage to folks in this country and abroad.

The Federal government will state that such recommendations cannot be agreed to because civil suits are in progress, yet Maher Arar received an apology before his case was heard in court. The Committee also disagrees with this position, declaring "The majority of the Committee does not agree with the government’s position that issuing apologies can influence the course of civil actions. The majority is of the opinion that the government must officially recognize the harm caused to these Canadians." Indeed, the government could end the civil suit process immediately by fairly addressing the damage that has been inflicted on the men and their families.

While there remain many other tangled webs of Canadian involvement in torture (the case of rendition survivor Benamar Benatta, who still seeks a public review of his case, the ongoing secret rendition-to-torture hearings taking place in the Federal Courts under the name of "security certificates," Canada's involvement in the U.S.-based School of the Assassins, complicity in the torture of people in Afghanistan, among many others), we have an opportunity to take immediate steps to ensure a small measure of justice for Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.

1. Please write a polite, simple letter to Public Safety Minister Peter Van Loan, copying Stephen Harper and your MP, calling on them to immediately apologize for and provide compensation for Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, as recommended by the Standing Committee on Public Safety and National Security.

Please add in as well that you feel officials involved in facilitating their torture need to be held accountable, and that systemic changes are required to permanently end further Canadian involvement in torture. Remind them that the committee also calls on " the Government of Canada issue a clear ministerial directive against torture and the use of information obtained from torture." Please remind them as well that false information about these three men and their families exists in government databases around the world and here in Canada, and every effort must be made to erase those lies.

Personalize the letter if you can.

Peter Van Loan
Telephone: (613) 996-7752
Fax: (613) 992-8351

Stephen Harper
Telephone: (613) 992-4211
Fax: (613) 941-6900

Contact details of MPs via (click on "Members of Parliament (Current)")


More information:
Stop Canadian Involvement in Torture:
PO Box 73620, 509 St. CXlair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0,

More details on the men and their cases, plus video interviews:

Committee report:

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