White House backs torture-abroad law; Bypasses U.S. interrogation restraints

Oct. 1, 2004 | Toronto Star


The White House has endorsed a proposed bill that would make it legal for U.S. intelligence officials to deport individuals to countries known to use torture to extract information.

The “9/11 Recommendations Implementation Act” marks the first time the U.S. government has officially scripted its policy known as “extraordinary rendition,” whereby American authorities can circumvent their own restraints on interrogations by sending suspects to countries known to employ harsh tactics.

Canadian Maher Arar alleges he was a victim of this practice, which is the crux of the lawsuit he has launched against the U.S. government. Arar was detained in New York on Sept. 26, 2002, on a stopover flight to Canada, and after two weeks was quietly deported on a private plane to Syria, via Jordan. He says he was questioned and tortured for almost two weeks, then held without charges in deplorable conditions for a year.

“What does this mean for Canada? Should we keep maintaining the sharing of information knowing now, publicly, that this is going to happen?” Arar said in an interview Wednesday. “This administration is now showing their real face and hopefully people now understand what kind of human rights they’re trying to violate.”

Arar’s lawyer, Lorne Waldman, said passage of the legislation would provide further impetus for Canada to review current arrangements with the U.S. on intelligence sharing agreements and immigration laws.

In particular Waldman pointed to the proposed Safe Third Country Agreement, a Canada-U.S. regulation that would force refugees to seek safe haven in the first country they reach. As many as one-third of refugees seeking asylum in Canada come from the U.S., which means they would be sent back there to make refugee claims.

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