16 March 2006

Reversal of America: Rendition Edition

The Village Voice reports on a story that has been completely ignored by the usual massmedia suspects; this, of course, is nothing surprising. Freedom (read: independence) of the press only exists in a democratic state. The story has to do with Maher Arar, the Canadian citizen who was kidnapped by the CIA and sent to Syria to be tortured. Released after a year in brutal captivity, and never charged with anything by Syria, the U.S., or Canada (or anyone else, for that matter), Arar sought recourse by suing the U.S. government in U.S. Federal Court. The judge who heard the case, one David Trager, dismissed the lawsuit, saying, among other things, that the judiciary doesn't have jurisdictional oversight when it comes to such matters (like the executive branch breaking the law), and that ruling in favour of Arar's claim would compromise foreign governments that are cooperating with the U.S. in such illegal matters. Believe it or not.
Representing Arar for the New York–based Center for Constitutional Rights, David Cole predicts ... that if Judge Trager's ruling is upheld in an appeal to the Supreme Court, the CIA and other American officials will be told "they have a green light to do to others what they did to Arar"—no matter what international or U.S. laws are violated in the name of national security.

Following the dismissal of Arar's case by Trager (former dean of Brooklyn Law School), Barbara Olshansky (deputy legal director of the Center for Constitutional Rights) underscored the significance of what Trager has done to legitimize the Bush administration's doctrine that in the war on terrorism, the commander in chief sets the rules. Said Olshansky: "There can be little doubt that every official of the United States government [involved in the torture of Maher Arar] knew that sending him to Syria was a clear violation of the U.S. Constitution, federal statutes, and international law . . . This is a dark day indeed."

To fathom the darkness of Trager's decision that Maher Arar has no constitutional right to due process in an American court of law for what he suffered because of the CIA, it's necessary to be aware of a decision directly on point by New York's Second Circuit Court of Appeals in 1980. In this landmark decision, Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, David Cole points out, the appeals court decided that "the prohibition on torture was so universally accepted that a U.S. Court could hold responsible a Paraguayan official charged with torturing a dissident in Paraguay . . . The [U.S.] court declared that when officials violate such a fundamental norm as torture, they can be held accountable anywhere they are found. ... The torturer has become the pirate and slave trader before him . . . an enemy of all mankind." (Emphasis added.)

[Technorati tags: | | | | | ]

No comments: