Neighbours gone bad

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Canadian Maher Arar's attempt to find some vindication for his deportation by the United States to Syria and his subsequent torture has been stomped down by a U.S. court:

Washington — A U.S. federal judge has dismissed Maher Arar's lawsuit against American officials claiming he was deported to Syria as a terrorism suspect to be tortured.

In a ruling Thursday in New York, Judge David Trager said he can't interfere in the case because it involves crucial national security and foreign relations issues in the anti-terror fight.

“The need for much secrecy can hardly be doubted,” Judge Trager wrote in his 88-page ruling.

“One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar's removal to Syria.”

He also noted Congress has yet to take a position on court reviews of cases like Mr. Arar's, saying judges should be “hesitant” to hold officials liable for damages without “explicit direction” from legislators, “even if such conduct violates our treaty obligations or customary international law.”[Emphasis mine.]

In Ottawa, Mr. Arar called the decision “very disappointing, emotionally very hard to digest.”

“I was not expecting the judge to dismiss the entire case. I was hoping that he could let at least part of it proceed to discovery,” he said.

“It is giving the green light to the Bush administration and the CIA to continue with their practice of rendition.

“Basically they're telling people ... if you're ever wronged by our politicians or intelligence people, you are on your own, good luck.”

The decline of the rule of law in the United States has been precipitious under the Bush administration. National security has been used to excuse illegal wiretapping, a war of aggression, the torture of prisoners and illegal detention. Now a U.S court has given them tacit approval for the shipment of foreign nationals to other countries for the purposes of torture, and explicit approval to ignore treaties and international law. Mr. Arar is seeking justice in a Bizarro land where human rights are rendered null and void by the Bush administration's tendency to find enemies everywhere, and to dispose of them in morally and legally questionable ways.

Remember when we used to live next door to America? I miss that country.

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"He also noted Congress has yet to take a position on court reviews of cases like Mr. Arar's, saying judges should be 'hesitant' to hold officials liable for damages without 'explicit direction' from legislators, '[italics n' stuff]even if such conduct violates our treaty obligations or customary international law.'[/italics n' stuff][Emphasis pogge's.]

This is a legal ruling???

Judges get to explain their decisions and include mention of the fact that their rulings contradict the laws of the land?

What do they pay these guys for again?


“One need not have much imagination to contemplate the negative effect on our relations with Canada if discovery were to proceed in this case and were it to turn out that certain high Canadian officials had, despite public denials, acquiesced in Arar's removal to Syria.”

I think most Canadians want to know if our own played a role in Mr Arar's detention and torture. This would not strain relations between us, but if that is what the US is so concerned about there are a number of thing we can talk about... like softwood lumber...

I think most Canadians want to know if our own played a role in Mr Arar's detention and torture.

Well, yeah. It's not relations with Canada that would be harmed; it's the careers of the officials in question.

And anyway, isn't justice more important than possibly embarrassing the officials of some other country? I mean, I could see not wanting to embarrass your own country's officials (even though letting that direct your decisions in a court of law is contemptible), but why care about the officials of a foreign country?

(Actually, I don't think he does care; I'm sure he's more concerned about domestic American politics than relations with us. This is just thrown in as an extra justification, or rather, an attempt at one.)

...I suppose this guy is the antithesis of the much-decried "activist" judge - one who ignores both justice and the actual laws in favour of political expedience.

This is a legal ruling???

You;re right, Thwap, it was a political ruling.

I suspect Scruffy Dan and Amanda are right when they say Canadians would rather know if our government had a hand in railroading one of our citizens. It is interesting that the judge presumes this is not the case. I wonder if he is a Republican, or just a lousy judge?

Canadians might want to know, but does anyone really think that the so-called Canadian Security Apparatus wants Canadians to know?

Or put another way....does anybody really, really think that so-called American Security Apparati wants to have the Canadian Security Apparatus exposed as a collaborator, especially right now when the potential for increased 'harmonization' is so great?

____
btw: great post Tim - especially that last line. I am wrestling with the issue right now...do I take my family south to see all our good friends this coming summer, or do I take a pass because the time has come to take stand?

I did a bit of poking about. The judge, David G. Trager, is a Clinton appointee (1993) and former dean of the Brooklyn Law School. The biggest controversy in his career to date seems to be something called the "Crown Heights" affair when some people argued that he "jurymandered" the composition of a jury in a murder case.

There is material on it in the NYT website, but it is the premium access stuff.

This fits within the overall aegis of "US incomprehensibility" which has been so much in the news lately. The wiretapping, this... I just don't understand why deviation from the rule of law has become so acceptable, and why the powers of the executive are so unquestioned.

So then, lousy judge would seem to be the answer. Thanks for the digging, Jason.

Ross - Thanks.

To be honest, I just don't know. I wasn't able to pin down if he was of either party, or what his judicial stances have been; and people change.

Even if he's a Democrat, that doesn't mean he might not go along with crazy interpretations of 'the national interest.' I saw conservative Democrat Diane Feinstein today on the Lou Dobbs show (CNN's best 'we can be as xenophobic as Fox' effort) proposing legislation to deal with tunnels near San Diego underneath the US-Mexican border - 20 year sentences. When she started on the "who knows what you could smuggle through these tunnels?" I changed the channel in chagrin.

What do you suppose the powerful Senator Feinstein would say on this? Very little, I suspect, along with most of her colleagues. The United States hardly needs a high-profile rendition case at the same time they are attempting to solve their little "public relations problem" at Guantanamo Bay by foisting their detainees off in whatever undemocratic states they can.

Tim,

We who live here miss that country, too. That's why I'm moving to Canada.

perhaps a re-worked mexican saying is in order here:

Poor Canada, so close to the United States, so far from God.

US Judges can't rule on international law, or on treaty violations, they are stuck with US laws and their constitution only. If the president wants to break international laws and treaties, their is no way for the rest of the world (the un-americans) to hold him accountable. Still a sucky ruling, and bizarre explanation.

A little late on this post, but I think it should be noted that treaties are every bit as much the law of the land in the United States as a statute. So the judge's hands are not as "tied" as he suggests. A large part of the uproar over the torture allegations is due precisely to the fact that the Geneva Conventions are U.S. law, just like the Patriot Act.

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This page contains a single entry by Tim published on February 21, 2006 12:19 AM.

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