Monday, February 8, 2010

Benamar Benatta: Another Detainee Canadians Transferred to Torture

Benamar Benatta: Another Detainee Canadians Transferred to Torture;
Take Action to Demand a Public Inquiry into Canada's First 9/11 Rendition to Torture

While headlines rightfully scream about the scandal of Canadian troops transferring Afghan detainees to torture, an Algerian refugee here in Canada continues waging a lonely struggle to determine why Canadian officials decided to illegally render him to the United States on September 12, 2001 with the false, dangerously inflammatory accusation that as a Muslim who knew about airplanes, he was connected to 9/11. The resultant five years of indefinite detention in the U.S. under conditions that the United Nations declared constituted torture continue to haunt Mr., Benatta, who was eventually returned to Canada where his refugee claim was accepted (adding further concerns that a person in need of protection was so callously thrown back to the U.S., from whence he could have been deported to his death in Algeria).

While Greater Toronto area residents can attend a free International Human Rights Day public event featuring Mr. Benatta and Prisoner of Tehran author Marina Nemat on Wednesday, December 9 at 7:15 pm at Steelworkers Hall, 25 Cecil Street (mark your calendars!), all are invited to respond to the call to demand a public inquiry (see below)


Toronto Action for Social Change (founding member of the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review,

Read more about Benamar's case here:

Contributions to the Benatta Education Fund can be sent to Toronto Action for Social Change, PO Box 73620, 509 St. Clair Ave. West, Toronto, ON M6C 1C0. Put Benatta in the memo portion of cheque. All funds will go toward Mr. Benatta's efforts to complete his education. If you would like a charitable tax receipt email us at for details.

Below is an appeal from the British Columbia Civil Liberties Association regarding the case.

Please forward this item widely and take a moment to email the PM and his Ministers about this case, calling for an immediate inquiry into how Canada helped send this man off to torture in the US. Thanks, Tom

Please send your emails to

Prime Minister Harper,

Minister of Public Safety Van Loan

An inquiry is needed to determine how Canada became an accomplice to torture in the U.S.
By Tom Sandborn, Special to the SunOctober 9, 2009

Most Canadians know the name Maher Arar. It has been clearly established and admitted by our government that misconduct by Canadian officials played a role in Arar's shameful rendition to torture in Syria.

Far fewer of us know the name Benamar Benatta. We should, because credible accounts suggest that Benatta, an Algerian national who applied for refugee status in Canada in the week before 9/11, was rendered back across the border into the hands of American officials who held him for five years, despite the fact the FBI dismissed suggestions he was a terrorist only months after his involuntary surrender to American custody.

During his five years of American imprisonment, Benatta says he was tortured, and a 2004 report from the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention agrees his treatment "could be described as torture." When handed over to American officials, Benatta had been in Canadian custody for seven days and should have had the benefit of due process guaranteed by law and the Charter.

Instead, it appears he was unceremoniously bundled into the back of a car and shipped across the border into the hands of men who were willing to ignore his rights and subject him to years of unwarranted detention and maltreatment.

Since his return to Canada in 2006, Benatta has received the refugee status he asked for in 2001. What he has been denied is any credible explanation of how Canada came to act as an accomplice to torture in his case. He has been calling since his return for an impartial and public investigation that would provide him, and the Canadian people, with an account of how this civil liberties and human rights nightmare was allowed to unfold.

This summer, the BCCLA ( ) wrote to Canada's prime minister, attorney general and minister of public safety, calling for just such an inquiry. To date, we have received no substantive reply. Benatta, finally safe in Canada after his American ordeal, deserves a public accounting for the role Canada played in sending him into harm's way. The Canadian people deserve reassurance that our tax dollars will not in the future be used to open the door to a torture chamber.

It is past time for an inquiry into the Benatta case. The BCCLA again urges this government to finally do the right thing and convene such an inquiry.

Tom Sandborn is a member of the board of directors of the B.C. Civil Liberties Association.

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