Saturday, December 10, 2005

Falling star

This article by Mitch Potter made my face go 'all hot': "Accomplice to torture abroad? Syrians shocked by Canada's role in Maher Arar affair `They did the wrong thing ... And sent him to hell'" {emphasis mine}:
For an entire generation of Syrians, the word Canada evoked images so positive they often were expressed in a single impulse: I want to live there. Rich like America, but better, Syrians would gush. A bit cold, maybe, but what is cold when the world's most peaceful nation beckons with life-altering economic hope, absolute human rights and excellent winter coats. Can you get me a visa?
In the better-read quarters of Damascus, however, Canada's star is falling today, thanks to the growing suspicion of Canadian complicity in the tragic saga of tortured Syrian-Canadian Maher Arar. The suspicions are only sharpened by other questions of Canadian involvement in the cases of four other Syrian expats believed to have endured similar treatment in Damascene detention cells. Though conclusions of a Canadian inquiry into the Arar affair remain months away, Syrian human rights activists have seen enough testimony on the Internet to make up their own minds.
"We look at the situation and we don't recognize the Canada we are seeing. It is not a pleasant picture," said Ahmad Fayez Fawaz, president of the Human Rights Association of Syria.

[click "Read on, MacDuff!" to continue reading]
"If Arar is a citizen of Canada, is he not entitled to protection? We know now he is innocent. But even if had done something, Canada had the sovereignty to do the right thing and bring him to Canada for proper investigation. They did the wrong thing ... And sent him to hell."
[...] HRAS, the human rights association, raised early alarms upon learning of Arar's detention. Several months later, in early 2003, Maleh said he was contacted by the Canadian Embassy in Damascus and asked to represent Arar. During several meetings with Canadian officials, Maleh said he spelled out the torturous reality of the Palestine Branch facility. He said it was evident the Canadians in Damascus were aware of that reality.
"The Canadians in Damascus knew a lot. They knew everything. From the conversations I had, it was clear they knew about the Palestine Branch and what was happening there," said Maleh.
He has kept no paper trail of those encounters. He cannot recite specific dates, or name the Canadians he met. When asked repeatedly, he insists, "I had several conversations with the Canadians. I talked to them about torture in Syria. "The Canadians knew."
[...] Human rights activists confirm that Syrian interrogators have become more selective in the application of torture. Opposition figures and other political dissidents, though frequently detained, are now rarely subject to the same degree of harsh treatment they once endured, they say. But prisoners with Islamic backgrounds, which now comprise the vast majority of Syria's estimated 2,500 political prisoners, are handled without mercy.
"To this day they use torture, doing whatever they want without limits. But the Islamic prisoners pay the biggest price," said Maleh. "After Sept. 11, this regime believes that if you go to pray at the mosque, automatically you must belong to the Muslim Brotherhood. They are trying to send a message to America, `we are with you.' But a lot of innocent Muslims are paying the price."
So while people like Louise Arbour make us proud, we still have our moments of shame.


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