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Accountability for U.S. renditions to torture?

Startling (and encouraging?) news from Maher Arar and his lawyers yesterday.  Fresh off of the U.S. Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari in Mr. Arar’s appeal from the dismissal of his civil suit against U.S. officials for their role in his rendition and torture in Syria, Mr. Arar and his lawyer Paul Champ revealed that the RCMP has been conducting a four-year investigation called “Project Prism” into possible violations of the Criminal Code by American and Syrian officials participating in Mr. Arar’s rendition.

Maher Arar / Globe and Mail

The Criminal Code prohibits torture of a Canadian citizen inside or outside of Canada, and Canada can exercise personal jurisdiction over foreign officials if their home governments agree to their extradition, or if these officials find themselves physically located in a place where Canada or Interpol can exercise jurisdiction.

According to Mr. Arar, he has co-operated with the RCMP’s investigation and believes that given the U.S. Supreme Court’s refusal to hear his appeal, Canadian prosecution of foreign officials complicit and participating in his torture “is more important than ever.”

Mr. Champ, as per usual, puts it neatly:

The United States has taken the approach of let bygones be bygones but there are hundreds, if not thousands of people around the world who have been tortured as a result of U.S. government policies that have been carried out by individuals.  The last time I checked, that was not only a crime but an international crime.

Center for Constitutional Rights Senior Attorney Maria LaHood, the lead lawyer on Mr. Arar’s civil case in the United States, seemed impressed by the RCMP’s initiative.  “It takes some amount of courage to stand up to the U.S. government and I give the RCMP Full credit for that,” she said.

We here at the BCCLA National Security Blog are pretty impressed too.  Perhaps the Americans and the Syrians will be held to account after all.

UPDATE  David Cole, one of Mr. Arar’s US lawyers, has a post up on the NY Review of Books on his thoughts about the Supreme Court’s denial of certiorari.