March 8, 2010, New York – Friday, six (6) amicus curiae briefs were filed with the Supreme Court in support of the petition for certiorari filed by the Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) on behalf of Canadian citizen Maher Arar, asking the Supreme Court to hear his case against U.S. officials for their role in sending him to Syria to be tortured.
Lower courts concluded that Mr. Arar’s suit raised too many sensitive foreign policy and secrecy issues to allow them to hear his case. If the lower court rulings are allowed to stand, say rights groups, the federal officials involved will remain free of any legal accountability for what they did to an innocent man.
Said CCR Senior Attorney Maria LaHood, “The various amicus briefs filed with the Supreme Court in support of Maher Arar are a testament to the critical and profound impact the resolution of his case will have on human rights and the rule of law in New York City, in the United States, in Canada, in Europe, and globally. We hope the Supreme Court hears that call.”
Seven retired federal judges submitted an amicus brief asserting that the Court must hear Mr. Arar’s case in order to reaffirm the federal courts’ role as a check on unconstitutional Executive conduct. An amicus brief submitted by the Association of the Bar of the City of New York also argues that allowing the Second Circuit’s decision to stand would undermine essential constitutional protections and the courts’ role as the guardian against unconstitutional Executive conduct.
The amicus brief submitted by the retired federal judges asserts, “There is a long tradition, stretching from our Republic’s earliest days to the Supreme Court’s recent terms, of federal courts reviewing the constitutionality or legality of executive and legislative conduct in emergencies and in the domain of national security and foreign affairs. The Second Circuit’s decision sharply breaks from this tradition.”
Manfred Nowak, the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture, and Theo van Boven, the former Special Rapporteur on Torture during the time Maher was tortured, submitted a brief on the absolute international law prohibition against torture – and sending someone to torture – under any and all circumstances. The REDRESS Trust, an international human rights organization that helps torture survivors obtain justice and reparation, submitted a brief on the United States’ international obligations not to transfer individuals to torture, and to provide an effective remedy for such violations, as here.
Amnesty International and Canadian human rights organizations and scholars submitted a brief detailing how the Canadian government has taken responsibility for its role in Maher Arar’s ordeal by conducting a public inquiry, investigating the facts, determining the responsibility of Canadian officials, apologizing, and paying compensation, yet Mr. Arar has received no remedy for the violation of his rights by U.S. officials. The brief submitted by the Bar Human Rights Committee of England and Wales and the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights highlights the various European investigations that have arisen from extraordinary renditions by the United States, and how the U.S. practice has undermined human rights globally.
CCR attorneys say the Supreme Court should hear the case because the Court of Appeals’ decision not only contradicts other Supreme Court decisions but also raises issues of national importance by blocking the ability of Mr. Arar to obtain a remedy for a constitutional violation where federal defendants obstructed his access to the specific remedy provided by Congress.
For more on Mr. Arar’s case, including a timeline, links to videos, court papers and other documents, go to http://ccrjustice.org/ourcases/current-cases/arar-v.-ashcroft. Additional information may be found by entering the search term “Arar” at the Center for Constitutional Rights website, www.ccrjustice.org.
Georgetown law professor and CCR cooperating attorney David Cole, University of Pittsburgh Law School professor and CCR cooperating attorney Jules Lobel, and CCR Staff Attorney Katherine Gallagher are co-counsel in Mr. Arar’s case.
The Center for Constitutional Rights represents other victims of the Bush administration’s programs, from Iraqis tortured and abused at Abu Ghraib prison to Muslim and Arab men rounded up and abused in immigration sweeps in the U.S. in the aftermath of 9/11, to Guantanamo detainees.
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.