May 24, 2012
May 24, 2012
Human rights groups in the U.S. have sent a 60,000-signature petition to the White House, urging President Barack Obama to formally apologize to Syrian-born Canadian, Maher Arar, who was deported to Syria from the U.S. under the suspicion of having links to al-Qaeda, a Canadian newspaper reported on Tuesday.
Arar, a 41-year-old telecommunications engineer, was detained during transit at John F. Kennedy International Airport in 2002 on his way home to Canada from a family vacation in Tunis.
“I am very grateful to all those Americans who have worked hard on this first-of-its kind campaign seeking an apology from an administration that chose to turn a blind eye on holding torturers to account,” Canada’s The Star, reported Arar as saying in a statement. The National Religious Campaign Against Torture, Amnesty International USA, and the Center For Constitutional Rights, are the three human rights groups who are behind the petition.
The U.S. government has long argued that Arar’s case was simply that of deportation, but many described his ordeal as that of “extraordinary rendition” or the transfer of a person from one state to another. Held without charges in a solitary confinement for two weeks, Arar was sent to Syria, a country notoriously known for its lack of human rights. He stayed in Syria for almost a year.
In 2006, a report by the Commission of Inquiry into the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Arar, said that the Syrian Canadian was mistakenly put on the terrorist watch list.
The report put the responsibility on Canada’s police force for lacking experience and on the United States’ for his rendition and subsequent torture. Later, reports emerged of how thousands of airline passengers were discovered to have been mistakenly placed on the terrorist watch lists.
In 2009, Obama ended the “extraordinary rendition” program and introduced procedural safeguards concerning individuals who are sent to foreign countries, however, some rights groups claim those safeguards aren’t adequate.
Canada apologized but not U.S.
While the Canadian government gave its formal apology to Arar in 2007, and gave him $10.5 million in compensation, the U.S. never apologized and he remained on the U.S. watch list. In 2010, the U.S. Supreme Court denied Arar’s appeal seeking exoneration.
“It’s a very clear case, and there’s no reason why our government, which is the one that sent him to Syria in the first place, shouldn’t apologize and follow the good lead of Canada,” The Star reported Rev. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, as saying.
Meanwhile, Killmer added that he does not expect the White House to issue a formal response.
The petition which was released on Monday fell on the third anniversary of Obama’s landmark anti-torture speech in Washington.
Since the September 11 terrorist attacks in 2001, assaults on freedoms have been widely criticized, especially by rights groups.
Rights Groups have slammed the Patriotic Act which was signed into law by President George W. Bush on October 26, 2001. The Patriotic Act allowed law enforcement agencies the ability to search telephone, e-mail communications, medical, financial, and other records.
In 2011, Obama extended the act for more four years.