Canada officials complicit in Syrian torture: inquiry report

A Canadian government inquiry has found that officials of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) and the Canada Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) “indirectly contributed” to the torture of three citizens while in Syria between 2001 and 2004. The men, Ahmed Al Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, claimed they were detained and tortured by Syrian military intelligence during trips abroad with the cooperation of Canadian officials. In the report released Oct. 21, former Canadian Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci found that officials contributed to the mistreatment of the men by supplying classified, and in some cases misleading, information to Syria linking the men to terrorist activities.

In his findings on government actions relating to one of the men, Iacobucci wrote that the combination of the information released by the agencies was likely among several factors that led to his detention and subsequent mistreatment:

The sharing by the RCMP of Mr. Elmaati’s itinerary with the FBI and CIA is more proximate to Mr. Elmaati’s detention than the sharing of descriptions of him with foreign law enforcement and intelligence agencies. However, it is reasonable to infer that the risk that Mr. Elmaati might be detained as a result of Canadian officials sharing his travel itinerary was increased by the fact that Canadian officials had previously used labels such as “imminent threat” in describing Mr. Elmaati to their foreign partners. Accordingly, I conclude on the evidence available to me that these actions of Canadian officials resulted indirectly in Mr. Elmaati being detained by Syrian authorities.

In response to the report, Canadian Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day said the government would review carefully review Iacobucci’s findings and was already evaluating government procedures for sharing information with other countries.

The three men were investigated by Canadian officials for links to terrorism but were never arrested or had any restrictions placed on their movements while in Canada, and all were eventually freed and allowed to return to Canada. The men and Amnesty International Canada sought the probe into their detention, arguing that it should follow the model of the Arar Commission, the official judicial inquiry into the circumstances under which Canadian Maher Arar was detained in the US in 2002 and removed to Syria, where Arar says he was tortured. The Arar Commission found that the US decision to arrest and deport Arar was “very likely” based on faulty, unfair and overstated information passed on by the RCMP. (Jurist, Oct. 23)

See our last posts on Canada, Syria, the Arar case and the torture scandal.