November 4, 2009, New York – In response to news of an Italian court’s conviction of 23 U.S. officials for their role in the extraordinary rendition of a Muslim cleric unlawfully seized from the streets of Milan more than six years ago, Center for Constitutional Rights Executive Director Vincent Warren issued the statement below. On Monday, an 11-judge panel of the Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit here in New York dismissed the case of CCR client and rendition victim, Canadian citizen Maher Arar:
"Today the Italian legal system held 23 U.S. officials accountable for unlawfully grabbing a man, Abu Omar, off the streets of Milan and sending him to be tortured in Egypt. In 2006 and 2007, the Canadian government concluded an extensive public inquiry and apologized to our client Maher Arar for its role in his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for torture when he was unlawfully seized while changing planes at JFK on his way home to Canada. On Monday, our own courts threw out his case and told him and the world that our legal system was no place to bring his grievances.
"Our global reputation as a country of laws continues to suffer under the Obama administration as they maintain their predecessors’ positions on one case after another. They have promised they will no longer render people to countries that torture but have refused to abandon the practice of rendition altogether. The Bush administration claimed it received assurances from the Syrian government that Maher Arar would not be tortured, either. Promises are no way to ensure rights. The United States had an innocent man tortured, and he continues to suffer the trauma to this day. Our government owes him an apology and must take responsibility like the Canadians and dispense justice like the Italians."
For more on Mr. Arar’s case, including a timeline, court papers and other documents,visit our Arar v. Ashcroft Case Page. Additional information may be found by entering the search term “Arar” at www.ccrjustice.org.
Mr. Arar is represented by CCR Senior Attorney Maria LaHood, Georgetown Law Professor and CCR Cooperating Attorney David Cole, Joshua Sohn of DLA Piper US LLP, Katherine Gallagher of CCR, and University of Pittsburgh Law Professor and CCR cooperating attorney Jules Lobel.
Maria LaHood on DemocracyNow, November 3, 2009
The Center for Constitutional Rights represents other victims of the United States government’s so-called war on terror, from Iraqis tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib prison to Muslim and Arab men rounded up and abused in immigration sweeps in the in the aftermath of 9/11 to the victims of torture and abuse at Guantánamo and other detention centers in multiple Supreme Court cases.
The Center for Constitutional Rights works with communities under threat to fight for justice and liberation through litigation, advocacy, and strategic communications. Since 1966, the Center for Constitutional Rights has taken on oppressive systems of power, including structural racism, gender oppression, economic inequity, and governmental overreach. Learn more at ccrjustice.org.