NCCM welcomes RCMP charge of Syrian officer in Maher Arar case

Calls on federal government to compensate three other Canadians who were tortured in Syria & to sign UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture

-For Immediate Release-

(Ottawa – September 2, 2015) The National Council of Canadian Muslims (NCCM), a prominent civil liberties & advocacy organization, welcomes the RCMP’s announcement yesterday of charges against a Syrian intelligence officer accused of torturing Maher Arar.


Precedent-setting move

“The move to charge a foreign national in the case of torture against a Canadian is precedent-setting and sends a clear signal that torturers, wherever they are, are not immune to justice,” says Ihsaan Gardee, NCCM’s Executive Director.

Maher Arar’s story is well-known to Canadians. He is an Ottawa-based telecommunications software engineer who was arrested in the United States in 2002 and deported to Syria where he was tortured for almost one year. His wife, Monia Mazigh, campaigned vigorously to get him released back to Canada, along with human rights organizations including Amnesty International and the NCCM (then known as CAIR-CAN).

A federal public inquiry found that faulty intelligence provided by Canadian officials led to Mr. Arar’s terrible ordeal. The Canadian government apologized to him and offered him compensation.

Canada’s problematic position on torture

“While the RCMP’s latest move is welcome, this case should remind Canadians that our government’s position on torture remains deeply problematic,” adds Gardee.

“Currently, the government permits the sharing of information with states where torture may be practiced, and accepts intelligence that may have been obtained through torture. Experts agree that information gleaned from torture is unreliable and that the long term often debilitating psychological effects of torture remain with the victim. The government has also failed to sign the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. It is time for Canada to join other democratic nations to take a clear stand against torture.”

Three Canadians still without justice

“The government has also yet to provide any remedies to three other Canadian Muslim men, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, who were also detained and tortured in Syria. An inquiry into their cases found that Canadian officials also had a role to play in their detentions. These men and their families continue to wait for justice.”

Bill-C51 makes Canadians more vulnerable

“The passage of the new anti-terror measures this year means Canadians are more vulnerable than ever to these types of human rights breaches. The new laws will make it easier for intelligence officers to share information, and potentially seek to override constitutional rights and freedoms. Contrary to the recommendations of the Arar Inquiry, there remains little to no oversight over our security agencies,” says Gardee.


CONTACT: Amira Elghawaby, Communications Director, 613-254-9704