"In sharing my experiences with you, I hope that the effects of torturing a human being will be better understood," said Maher Arar to the members of Congress. "I also hope to convey how fragile our human rights have become, and how easily they can be taken from us by the same governments that have sworn to protect them."
Mr. Arar, a Syrian-born Canadian citizen, was detained at JFK Airport in September 2002 while changing planes on his way home to Canada. The Bush administration labeled him a member of Al Qaeda and sent him not to Canada, his home and country of citizenship, but against his will to Syrian intelligence authorities renowned for torture. He was tortured, interrogated and detained in a tiny underground cell for nearly a year before the Syrian government released him, stating they had found no ties to terrorism. The Canadian government, after an exhaustive public inquiry, also found that Mr. Arar had no connections to terrorism. In January 2004, just three months after he returned home to Canada from his ordeal, CCR filed a suit on Mr. Arar's behalf against John Ashcroft and other U.S. officials.
CCR Attorney Maria LaHood said, "Congress and the courts must hold those responsible for Maher's torture and rendition accountable. The government owes Maher a formal apology for what it did to an innocent man and must launch a full and open investigation into his case."
This was Mr. Arar's first appearance before a governmental body in the U.S., but his testimony was given via video-link because the U.S. government will not allow him to enter the country. Although Mr. Arar will not be available for interviews, his CCR attorneys are available to comment.
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.