Arar v. Ashcroft et al Historic Case

At a Glance

Current Status 

On June 14, 2010, the Supreme Court denied Mr. Arar's petition for certiorari to review the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' en banc decision dismissing his case, ending his case in U.S. courts.

Date Filed: 

January 22, 2004

Client 

Maher Arar

Case Description 

Arar v. Ashcroft is a federal lawsuit challenging the rendition to torture of Canadian citizen Maher Arar by U.S. government officials.  Mr. Arar was detained at JFK airport in September 2002 while on his way home to Canada from abroad. He was interrogated, detained for two weeks, denied access to court and meaningful access to counsel, and secretly rendered to Syria where he was tortured and detained in a grave-like underground cell for over ten months.  He was never charged with a crime.   

Mr. Arar’s lawsuit was brought in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York against then-Attorney General John Ashcroft, then-Deputy Attorney General Larry Thompson, then-FBI Director Robert Mueller, and several U.S. immigration officials for violating his constitutional right to due process and the Torture Victim Protection Act.   Mr. Arar alleges that the officials violated his Fifth Amendment rights by conspiring to subject him to arbitrary detention and torture in Syria, and by blocking his access to court to ensure that he could not stop them.

The U.S. government official defendants challenged the suit, claiming that even if Mr. Arar’s allegations were true, he had no judicial remedy.  The U.S. government also asked that the court dismiss the case, arguing it would expose “state secrets” and harm national security.  In 2006, Judge Trager dismissed Mr. Arar’s claims, finding that “national security” and “foreign policy” considerations prevented him from holding U.S. officials liable.  Mr. Arar appealed this decision to a three judge panel of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals, which affirmed the dismissal 2-1 in June 2008, agreeing with the lower court that Mr. Arar’s claims would interfere with national security.  

In an extremely rare move, the Second Circuit Court of Appeals decided that Mr. Arar’s appeal would be reheard by the full active court in December 2008.  On November 2, 2009, the full Court of Appeals dismissed the case 7-4, concluding that in cases of extraordinary rendition, it is not the court’s role to decide whether U.S. officials can be held accountable because of foreign policy, national security, and secrecy concerns.  In a strongly worded dissent, Judge Guido Calabresi wrote, “I believe that when the history of this distinguished court is written, today’s majority decision will be viewed with dismay.”

Case Timeline

May 24, 2010

Mr. Arar files his reply brief, and lodges a letter from Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs with the court

May 12, 2010

Defendants file their briefs in opposition to Maher Arar's petition for certiorari

February 1, 2010

Maher Arar petitions the Supreme Court for review of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' en banc decision dismissing his case

February 1, 2010

Maher Arar petitions the Supreme Court for review of the Second Circuit Court of Appeals' en banc decision dismissing his case

November 2, 2009

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals en banc affirms the district court’s decision dismissing the case

November 2, 2009

The Second Circuit Court of Appeals en banc affirms the district court’s decision dismissing the case

December 9, 2008

Oral argument takes place heard on December 9, 2008

December 9, 2008

Oral argument takes place heard on December 9, 2008

November 12, 2008

Mr. Arar files a reply brief, as well as notice of lodging a FOIA document pertaining to Mr. Arar’s case

November 12, 2008

Mr. Arar files a reply brief, as well as notice of lodging a FOIA document pertaining to Mr. Arar’s case

October 2008
Multiple groups and individuals file amicus briefs in support of Mr. Arar’s brief for rehearing en banc
September 23, 2008
Mr. Arar files an opening appellate brief for rehearing en banc
August 12, 2008

The Second Circuit sua sponte issues an order that the case will be reheard en banc

August 12, 2008

The Second Circuit sua sponte issues an order that the case will be reheard en banc

June 14, 2010

Attorney General Mukasey testifies before Congress that DOJ would not be appointing special counsel “at this time”

June 14, 2010

Attorney General Mukasey testifies before Congress that DOJ would not be appointing special counsel “at this time”

July 23, 2008
Attorney General Mukasey testifies before Congress that DOJ would not be appointing special counsel “at this time”
July 23, 2008
Attorney General Mukasey testifies before Congress that DOJ would not be appointing special counsel “at this time”
July 10, 2008
Members of Congress write to Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting that he appoint an outside special counsel to investigate and prosecute any crimes committed by United States officials in sending Maher to Syria.
July 10, 2008
Members of Congress write to Attorney General Michael Mukasey requesting that he appoint an outside special counsel to investigate and prosecute any crimes committed by United States officials in sending Maher to Syria.
June 30, 2008

The Second Circuit dismisses Mr. Arar’s Torture Victim Protection Act claims by finding that the federal officials would have had to have acted under the control of the Syrian officials to be held liable

June 30, 2008

The Second Circuit dismisses Mr. Arar’s Torture Victim Protection Act claims by finding that the federal officials would have had to have acted under the control of the Syrian officials to be held liable

June 5, 2008

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security issues its Report on the actions of U.S. immigration officials surrounding the decision to send Maher Arar to Syria. Inspector General (IG) Richard Skinner testifies before Subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees to answer questions about the Report

June 5, 2008

The Office of the Inspector General (OIG) of the Department of Homeland Security issues its Report on the actions of U.S. immigration officials surrounding the decision to send Maher Arar to Syria. Inspector General (IG) Richard Skinner testifies before Subcommittees of the House Foreign Affairs and Judiciary Committees to answer questions about the Report

November 9, 2007

The appeal is argued before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

November 9, 2007

The appeal is argued before the Second Circuit Court of Appeals

October 24, 2007

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admits during a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing that the U.S. government mishandled the case of Maher Arar

October 24, 2007

Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice admits during a House Foreign Affairs Committee Hearing that the U.S. government mishandled the case of Maher Arar

October 18, 2007

Mr. Arar testifies via video-link before a House Joint Committee Hearing convened to discuss his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for interrogation under torture

October 18, 2007

Mr. Arar testifies via video-link before a House Joint Committee Hearing convened to discuss his rendition by the U.S. to Syria for interrogation under torture

April 19, 2007
Mr. Arar's attorneys submit a reply brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
April 19, 2007
Mr. Arar's attorneys submit a reply brief to the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
February 22, 2007
The Defendants file six briefs asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals not to allow Mr. Arar’s case to proceed
February 22, 2007
The Defendants file six briefs asking the Second Circuit Court of Appeals not to allow Mr. Arar’s case to proceed
February 22, 2007

CCR files a response, arguing that Mr. Arar could prove his case without privileged information, and even if such information were necessary to establish a defense, procedural safeguards could protect such information

February 22, 2007

CCR files a response, arguing that Mr. Arar could prove his case without privileged information, and even if such information were necessary to establish a defense, procedural safeguards could protect such information

January 16, 2007
Mr. Arar's attorneys submit a reply brief in support of their Motion for Judicial Notice with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
January 16, 2007
Mr. Arar's attorneys submit a reply brief in support of their Motion for Judicial Notice with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
January 4, 2007
The Defendants file their response to the Motion for Judicial Notice with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
January 4, 2007
The Defendants file their response to the Motion for Judicial Notice with the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
December 21, 2006
Four Amicus Briefs are filed in support of Petitioner’s appeal
December 21, 2006
Four Amicus Briefs are filed in support of Petitioner’s appeal
December 12, 2006

CCR attorneys file an appeal in the Second Circuit on behalf of Mr. Arar

December 12, 2006

CCR attorneys file an appeal in the Second Circuit on behalf of Mr. Arar

September 18, 2006
The Canadian Commission of Inquiry established by the Canadian Government to Investigate the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Mr. Arar issues its report
September 18, 2006
The Canadian Commission of Inquiry established by the Canadian Government to Investigate the Actions of Canadian Officials in Relation to Mr. Arar issues its report
The Commissioner concluded "categorically that there is no evidence to indicate that Mr. Arar has committed any offence or that his activities constitute a threat to the security of Canada." Canadian investigators, with U.S. cooperation, exhaustively investigated Mr. Arar, and found no information that could implicate Mr. Arar in terrorist activities. The Commission also found no evidence that Canadian officials acquiesced in the U.S. decision to detain and remove Mr. Arar to Syria, but that it is very likely that the U.S. relied on inaccurate and unfair information about Mr. Arar that was provided by Canadian officials.
September 12, 2006
Mr. Arar's Notice of Appeal is filed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
September 12, 2006
Mr. Arar's Notice of Appeal is filed in the Second Circuit Court of Appeals
August 17, 2006
Final judgment is accordingly entered
August 17, 2006
Final judgment is accordingly entered
July 14, 2006
Mr. Arar files a notice of intent not to replead, but to instead stand on the allegations of his complaint, and therefore appeal the entire February 16th order
July 14, 2006
Mr. Arar files a notice of intent not to replead, but to instead stand on the allegations of his complaint, and therefore appeal the entire February 16th order
July 5, 2006
Judge Trager denies Rule 54(b) motion for permission to immediately appeal
July 5, 2006
Judge Trager denies Rule 54(b) motion for permission to immediately appeal
April 3, 2006
CCR and co-counsel DLA Piper US LLP file a motion requesting that they be permitted to immediately appeal his "rendition" claims to the Second Circuit without waiting for resolution of his U.S. detention claim
April 3, 2006
CCR and co-counsel DLA Piper US LLP file a motion requesting that they be permitted to immediately appeal his "rendition" claims to the Second Circuit without waiting for resolution of his U.S. detention claim
April 3, 2006

CCR and co-counsel DLA Piper US LLP file a motion requesting that they be permitted to immediately appeal Mr. Arar's "rendition" claims to the Second Circuit without waiting for resolution of his U.S. detention claim

April 3, 2006

CCR and co-counsel DLA Piper US LLP file a motion requesting that they be permitted to immediately appeal Mr. Arar's "rendition" claims to the Second Circuit without waiting for resolution of his U.S. detention claim

On July 5, 2006, Judge Trager denies Rule 54(b) motion for permission to immediately appeal. Mr. Arar files a notice of intent not to replead, but to instead stand on the allegations of his complaint, and therefore appeal the entire February 16th order. In August, final judgment is accordingly entered.

February 16, 2006
Judge David Trager of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismisses Mr. Arar's claims against U.S. government officials for "rendering" him to Syria to be tortured and arbitrarily detained
February 16, 2006
Judge David Trager of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismisses Mr. Arar's claims against U.S. government officials for "rendering" him to Syria to be tortured and arbitrarily detained
April 4, 2005
Defendants file a reply in support of their invocation of the state secrets privilege
April 4, 2005
Defendants file a reply in support of their invocation of the state secrets privilege
March 15, 2005
CCR files a response, arguing that Mr. Arar could prove his case without privileged information, and even if such information were necessary to establish a defense, procedural safeguards could protect such information
March 15, 2005
CCR files a response, arguing that Mr. Arar could prove his case without privileged information, and even if such information were necessary to establish a defense, procedural safeguards could protect such information
March 14, 2005
Defendants file their reply in support of their motion to dismiss the U.S. government
March 14, 2005
Defendants file their reply in support of their motion to dismiss the U.S. government
January 18, 2005
The U.S. government moves to dismiss the case by asserting the “state secrets” privilege, claiming that the reason Mr. Arar was deemed a member of Al Qaeda and sent to Syria, instead of Canada, are “state secrets”
January 18, 2005
The U.S. government moves to dismiss the case by asserting the “state secrets” privilege, claiming that the reason Mr. Arar was deemed a member of Al Qaeda and sent to Syria, instead of Canada, are “state secrets”
January 14, 2005

CCR files an opposition to the motion to dismiss

January 14, 2005

CCR files an opposition to the motion to dismiss

September 17, 2004
Defendants file a motion to dismiss
September 17, 2004
Defendants file a motion to dismiss
January 22, 2004
CCR files a lawsuit, on behalf of Mr. Arar, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York
January 22, 2004
CCR files a lawsuit, on behalf of Mr. Arar, in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of New York

Defendants include Attorney General John Ashcroft, FBI Director Robert Mueller, and Homeland Security Tom Ridge, as well as several U.S. immigration officials.