Officials' actions contributed to men's torture
CTV.ca News Staff
Published Tuesday, October 21, 2008 6:22PM EDT
The actions of Canadian officials made an indirect contribution to the torture of Arab-Canadian men in Syria, a federal inquiry says.
Former Supreme Court judge Frank Iacobucci made the finding in a 548-page report released Tuesday into the cases of Arab-Canadians Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin.
"I do not conclude that any mistreatment resulted directly from any actions of Canadian officials," Iacobucci told a news conference. "I find, however, that mistreatment resulted indirectly from several actions of CSIS and the RCMP, and that these actions were deficient in the circumstances."
Robert Fife, CTV's Ottawa bureau chief, told Newsnet that the report "says the Canadian government shared intelligence with a state known as a torture state. And these men were arrested by Syrian authorities on the basis of intelligence supplied by Canadian intelligence."
The three men say they were wrongly labelled as terrorists by the RCMP and Canadian Security Intelligence Service. As a result, they were detained and tortured during visits to Syria.
However, they were all released without charge.
They have denied any terrorist links and blame Ottawa for tipping Syria about their travel plans and providing questions to their captors.
Iacobucci said there's no evidence any government official acted maliciously.
"It is neither necessary nor appropriate that I make findings concerning the actions of any individual Canadian official, and I have not done so," Iacobucci said.
The men's claims are very similar to the story of Maher Arar, an Ottawa computer engineer arrested in the U.S. in 2002 and deported to Syria.
Here are the timelines of the three men's detention:
- Almaki, an Ottawa communications engineer, was detained in Syria in 2002 and held for 22 months.
- El Maati, a Toronto truck driver, was arrested in Syria, then transferred to Egypt. He spent 26 months in prison.
- Nureddin, a Toronto geologist, was arrested in Syria in December 2003 after crossing from Iraq. He was held for 34 days.
The RCMP had been investigating Almaki and El Maati as part of the same anti-terrorist operation that ensnared Arar. CSIS had questioned all three men.
Almalki said after the report's release that "the RCMP made my life hell."
He said the report shows how the Canadian government and security officials threw around labels about the men that were completely inaccurate. Their lawyers added the report confirmed that the men were inaccurately described as "Islamic terrorists." They also said officials used descriptors such as "imminent threat" with insufficient information.
"My life has been ruined, my reputation has been ruined ... based on (inaccurate) information," Almalki said at a press conference with El Maati, Nureddin and their lawyers.
He said "enough is enough" and the government should issue an apology immediately. He said he still has physical and mental injuries from his detainment, adding that he will "never be the same."
All three men said the report clearly shows they were tortured during their detainment. Now, they want to know if anyone is going to be held accountable.
"Canada knows I was tortured. Canada knows that the information was wrong. This is good news for me. Now, we wait to see what the government has to say," El Maati said.
Lawyer Barb Jackman said the RCMP did not take sufficient steps to make sure the men's information -- and the labels used to describe them -- was accurate before passing it on to foreign governments.
In December 2006, the federal government appointed Iacobucci to investigate the claims. Iacobucci said his mandate wasn't to examine whether the men were fairly or unfairly targeted, but to examine the conduct of government officials.
Unlike the inquiry by Justice Dennis O'Connor into the Arar case, the vast majority of the Iacobucci inquiry was carried out behind closed doors, purportedly to safeguard national security.
O'Connor exonerated Arar in a report released in the fall of 2006. Arar would eventually be given $10 million in compensation.
At a press conference after the Iacobucci report's release on Tuesday, Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said many of the "deficiencies" that led to the men's detainment have been addressed.
"The recommendations of Mr. O'Connor have been followed," he said.
"Had those recommendations been in place at the time, the outcome with these three people may not have occurred."
Day said deficiencies have been addressed with:
- Extra training
- Better communication between departments
- Better communication between government ministers
"I think (this is) more a case of good people acting with deficient procedures and deficient policies," Day said, noting that "this isn't a matter of pointing fingers."
Day wouldn't comment on whether or not the men would receive compensation.
With files from The Canadian Press