U.S. federal court rules it can't hear Arar's complaint
A U.S. court ruled Monday that a complaint by Maher Arar, a Canadian who accuses U.S. authorities of illegally deporting him to Syria, where he was tortured, cannot be heard in federal court.
Arar, a Canadian citizen born in Syria, was stopped at a New York airport on his way home from vacation in September 2002. U.S. officials accused him of links to al-Qaeda and deported him to Syria, where he was imprisoned and tortured for months.
He claims those who sent him to Syria recklessly and knowingly intended to subject him to torture. Before he was secretly whisked away to Syria, he was confined for 12 days in New York and alleges he had to endure cruel, inhumane and degrading conditions.
Arar had argued his constitutional rights were violated when he was confined without access to a lawyer or the court system and then forcibly returned to Syria, where U.S. authorities had reason to believe he would be tortured.
But the U.S. Second Circuit Court of Appeals in New York, affirming a lower court decision, ruled two to one Monday that Arar's claims that it was a violation of due process to send him to Syria could not be heard in federal court.
"Arar has not adequately established federal subject matter jurisdiction over his request for a judgment declaring that defendants acted illegally by removing him to Syria so that Syrian authorities could interrogate him under torture," Reuters reported the ruling as saying.
The court concluded that adjudicating the claims would interfere with sensitive matters of foreign policy and national security. It also said that Arar, as a foreigner who had not been formally admitted to the U.S., had no constitutional due process rights.
Arar's U.S. lawyer criticizes court decision
Maria LaHood, a senior attorney with the U.S.-based Center for Constitutional Rights and part of Arar's American civil litigation team, criticized the decision.
"It's a quite sweeping and reprehensible opinion," she said. "It's quite sweeping in how much deference it gives to the U.S. government."
She said she spoke with Arar and described him as equally taken aback by the decision.
"He was not only disappointed too, but outraged," she said.
She said the decision means that "the U.S. can do to anyone what they did to Maher."
"He's rightfully angered that he cannot get justice," LaHood said. "And that not only can he not get justice, but that his being sent to torture has now been in vain because he can't even stop the government from doing it to someone else."
Arar can now either ask the same three-judge panel to review its decision, ask the entire Second Circuit to review the decision, or petition the Supreme Court to review it, LaHood said.
"We haven't decided yet what we'll do, but we won't let it end here," she said.
Arar remains on a U.S. watch list and barred from entering the United States, despite being cleared of terrorist ties by a Canadian inquiry.
Justice Dennis O'Connor led a public inquiry, and said misleading information provided by the RCMP "very likely" paved the way for U.S. officials to send Arar to Syria.
Last year, Prime Minister Stephen Harper issued a formal apology to Arar while announcing he will receive $12.5 million in compensation.
U.S. lawmakers made a public apology last October during a U.S. House of Representatives hearing convened to discuss Arar's deportation.
With files from the Canadian Press