The US Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit ruled Nov. 2 that Canadian citizen Maher Arar cannot sue the US government for damages based on his detention in the United States and subsequent detention, interrogation, and torture in Syria after he was mistakenly identified as a terrorist. Arar attempted to challenge the US government’s policy of extraordinary rendition under the Torture Victim Protection Act and the Fifth Amendment of the US Constitution.
The appeals court dismissed Arar’s suit, finding:
if a civil remedy in damages is to be created for harms suffered in the context of extraordinary rendition, it must be created by Congress, which alone has the institutional competence to set parameters, delineate safe harbors, and specify relief. If Congress chooses to legislate on this subject, then judicial review of such legislation would be available.
The 7-4 decision affirms a 2006 ruling by the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, which dismissed Arar’s claims. The Second Circuit agreed to rehear Arar’s case en banc after a three-judge panel initially dismissed his appeal in July 2008. The court heard arguments last December. Arar was detained by the US in September 2002 after flying to New York from Tunisia on his way home to Canada. The US government deported him to Syria in 2002, where he was tortured despite Syrian assurances that he would not be. US lawmakers apologized in 2007 for his arrest, deportation and, torture at the hands of Syrian officials. (Jurist, Nov. 3)
See our last post on the torture scandal.