Thursday, June 17, 2010

United States / Torture / Arbitrary Imprisonment

Nowhere to Hide: Ignoring Maher Arar Won't Make His Torture Claims Go Away
By Dahlia Lithwick, Posted June 16, 2010
"This week the Supreme Court denied, without comment, the appeal of Maher Arar, a dual citizen of Canada and Syria who was arrested in transit through JFK airport in 2002, then shipped off to Syria and tortured for 10 months. Arar's abuse allegedly included repeated beatings with electrical cables and confinement in a cell the size of a grave. When they realized they had the wrong guy -- the really, totally, and utterly innocent guy -- Arar was released without charges. He was then completely exonerated of any link to terror by the Canadian government, which impaneled a commission to investigate the incident, issued a 1,000-plus-page report on the matter, held its own intelligence forces responsible for their role in the screw-up, then apologized and paid Arar $9.8 million. Whereas the US government ... has never apologized, never acknowledged any wrongdoing, never held anyone responsible, and, on President Barack Obama's watch, has only redoubled its efforts to prevent Arar from having even a single day in court.
With the Supreme Court signing off on the 2nd Circuit Court of Appeals' decision to kick Arar to the curb, he has nowhere left to turn in the American courts. As Arar said in a statement issued by the Center for Constitutional Rights, the 'decision eliminates my last bit of hope in the judicial system of the United States.' Nor did it take any time at all for the Supreme Court's latest torture smoke signals to travel through the rest of the court system. The very same day the Supremes declined to hear Arar's case, a panel of judges on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals was hearing arguments about former Bush administration lawyer John Yoo and his alleged role in the state-sanctioned abuse of another accused terrorist, Jose Padilla. Already one of the appeals-court judges was likening the denial of certiorari in Arar's case to the problem in John Yoo's case, worrying aloud about the courts wading in and 'imposing liability on a non-policymaking lawyer.' The Yoo and Arar cases thus became mirror images of each other in just a few hours: A torture lawyer cannot be held responsible for authorizing torture, and an innocent victim of torture cannot get restitution. Torture slowly becomes a singular act for which nobody will ever be held to account and nobody will ever be made whole. Each time an American court declines to address this issue because it's novel, or complicated, or a matter best left to the elected branches, it reaffirms yet again that there is no precedent for doing justice in torture cases. By declining to find torture impermissible, they are helping to make it acceptable. [...]"
[n.b. Now that the last US option has been so cynically and derisively foreclosed, it's time for the International Criminal Court to take up the case.]

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