Canadian torture victim Abdullah Almalki calls apology a 'victory for human rights'

It's been over a decade but the case of Abdullah Almalki has finally been settled — including a Canadian government apology. Yet the intelligence officials who shared faulty information leading to the torture have not been held responsible.
Abdullah Almalki (C), with Muayyed Nureddin (L) and Ahmad Abou-Elmaati, say they were tortured in Syria because of information provided by Canadian authorities and have demanded a secret investigation into their case be opened up to the public. (Chris Wattie/Reuters)

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It was one of the darkest chapters in Canada's so-called war on terror. 

Soon after the 9/11 attacks, four Canadian citizens were detained and tortured in Syria and Egypt based on faulty intelligence originating in Canada.

It was over a decade ago that one of those men, Maher Arar, received an apology and settlement from the Canadian government for his ordeal.

But it wasn't until March 17, for the other three men, Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin, to finally receive apologies and settlements of their own.

"To see this apology after more than 12 years fighting for it, I was extremely happy — my family was extremely happy," Almalki tells The Current's Anna Maria Tremonti.

"This is a huge win for Canada — a victory for human rights, a victory for every Canadian."

Almalki, a Syrian-born Carleton University graduate, was jailed and tortured in Syria from 2002 and 2004. It's been 13 years since he was cleared by a security court in Syria — and nine years since he was cleared by a judicial inquiry in Canada. 
Justice Frank Iacobucci's federal inquiry concluded the actions of Canadian officials in relation to Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad Abou-Elmaati and Muayyed Nureddin indirectly contributed to the torture of the three Arab-Canadian men in Syria. (Adrian Wyld/Canadian Press)

He feels closure to his ordeal should have happened right after the inquiry and does not know why the government took so long.

Almalki tells Tremonti that almost anything can trigger flashbacks to the torture he endured and says the haunting memories will never go away.

"I accept this and accepting this has made me able to move forward — it has made me able to handle it rather than trying to avoid it, " he says.

Almalki was tortured by Syrian interrogators but says had it not been for Canadian officials, he would not have been tortured.

"The Syrians were the servants, were the people carrying out the act. Canadian officials from the beginning set up the detention by sending false information to the Syrians," he explains.

Once Almalki was detained, he says the RCMP with the help of the Canadian ambassador of Syria met with the head of military intelligence to gain interrogation access.

"The Syrians were clear at the end that they were asking me questions that they got from Canada."

Canadian officials involved in Almalki's case have never been held personally responsible but he tells Tremonti, "accountability is a must when it comes to the atrocious crime of torture."

"I do not have hate or feelings of revenge towards anyone, and I thank God that I got to this point. But in order to stop torture, every person who was complicit in my torture and the torture of others ... all of them need to be held accountable."

"That will be for the benefit of the society and the country."

Listen to the full conversation at the top of this web post.

This segment was produced by The Current's John Chipman.