Monday, July 23, 2007

Benamar Benatta

There is deafening silence on Benatta. Harper is not about to ruffle US feathers by conducting an inquiry into this case since it involves mistreatment by the US. Who knows what the deal was when the US agreed to return Benatta to Canada. It is typical of excuses for denying people documents that they are lost. Most convenient.

The Iacobucci Inquiry by the way is mostly not public. It is even called an Internal Inquiry. The lawyers and the three Muslim Canadians involved all have standing at the inquiry but since most of the hearings are private and they are excluded from those their main role is asking questions. The inquiry has not even released progress summaries that would at least give the public an idea what is going on. It is all secret between those being investigated and the legal beagles from Torys LLP.
Iacobucci denied Benatta standing and refused to consider his case because it was outside his terms of reference. The terms of reference were deliberately narrow. The inquiry was to be mainly secret, it does not deal with clearing the three in any way.
It is a wonder that the lawyers for the three even bother to particiate. Jackman has referred the terms of reference to the courts as being too narrow.
Please share with all of your networks in Canada and internationally! (This note comes from Toronto Action for Social Change, a founding member of the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review)

Imprisoned. Tortured. Abused. Forgotten. Why?
The Case of Benamar Benatta: Canada's First 9/11 Rendition to Torture

JULY 20, 2007, TORONTO -- Today Benamar Benatta marks a bittersweet anniversary. It was one year ago that he came to Canada for the second time, continuing his effort to be accepted here as a refugee. The first time he came to Canada, September 5, 2001, his life changed forever, and he wants to find out why.

Benatta born born in Algeria, but came to North America to flee political persecution and threats to his life while serving in the Algerian Armed Forces as an aeronautical engineer. In early September 2001 Mr. Benatta crossed the border into Canada and claimed political asylum. Mr. Benatta was detained pending further inquiries into his identity.

While in Canadian custody and unbeknownst to Mr. Benatta, terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre in New York City and other targets on September 11, 2001. Canadian officials alerted the Americans to the presence of Mr. Benatta and identified him as a person who allegedly had something to do with the attacks of September 11, 2001, seemingly because he was a Muslim man who knew something about airplanes. Without a hearing, without counsel and without conducting proceedings in his first language (French), Mr. Benatta was unceremoniously driven over the border in the back of a car and handed over to the Americans on September 12, 2001. This was an illegal transfer by the Canadian government. This was against the law.

While being held in the notorious Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention Centre, Benatta was assigned "high security status" and detained in solitary confinement; he was deprived of sleep; his cell was illuminated 24 hours a day; guardsregularly beat him, and kept him constantly awake by banging on his door every half hour, a door which had been spray-painted WTC (World Trade Centre).

Mr. Benatta was actually cleared of any terrorist suspicions by the FBI in November 2001; however, he was never told that he was cleared. In fact, Mr. Benatta was held incommunicado and without access to legal counsel. In all, Mr. Benatta spent nearly five years of his life in American prisons were he was abused and tortured (as documented by the United Nations and the U.S. department of justice). Indeed, according to U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge H. Kenneth Schroeder Jr.,"As a result of the horrific events of Sept. 11, 2001, the Canadian authorities alerted United States authorities of defendant's presence and profile ... and returned him to the United States....The defendant in this case undeniably was deprived of his liberty, and held in custody under harsh conditions which can be said to be 'oppressive'....To accept the [U.S.] government's arguments "would be to join in the charade that has been perpetrated."

In an opinion adopted in September, 2004, by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, it was concluded with respect to Benatta, "Finally, the [U.S.] Government has said nothing about the high-security prison regime (involving impositions that could be described as torture), which, for no reason whatsoever, was imposed on him . . ."

After all of this hardship, Benatta came across the border a year ago, and has resumed his claim for asylum. His application is currently pending, and like many refugees, he lives in a state of limbo, unable to get on with his life, and haunted by some serious questions that have yet to be answered.

How was Canada involved in all of this? Why did Canadian officials undertake this rendition to torture?

Benatta sought intervenor status at the Iacobucci Commission investigating the cases of torture against Canadians Ahmad El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin, but was unfortunately turned down. In his request for standing, Benatta had pointed out that El-Maati, Almalki, and Nureddin "were all detained and tortured on foregin soil allegedly because of information provided to foreign governments (Syria and Egypt) by Canadian officials linking these men to terrorist activities. Mr. Benatta was also detained and tortured on foreign soil because of information provided to a foreign government (America) by Canadian officials linking Mr. Benatta to terrorist activities, in particular, the events of September 11, 2001."

But Iacobucci did not see it that way, and what was supposed to be a public inquiry is in fact being held in secret, without the presence of those three men and their lawyers.

Since his return to Canada, Benatta sought records of his earlier refugee claim held by Canadian officials, but was informed his 2001 claim has been "misplaced." The Canadian government also erroneously alleges that Benatta withdrew his claim for asylum prior to the 9/12/2001 rendition, but has produced no documentation to support this outrageous claim.

Earlier this year, Benatta and his supporters began the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review, which could certainly use the support of everyone in this country who cares about the complicity of the Canadian government and its so-called "intelligence" agencies in acts of torture.


1. Get more information by going to Benamar's website,
Once there, sign the online petition calling for a public review. There are also media clips from a press conference Benamar and his supporters held in Ottawa earlier this year.

2. Write to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, demanding that he grant a public review of Benatta's case so that Benamar and all people in Canada can get the answers they need, and to prevent such human rights abuses from occurring.

Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 13th Floor
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P8

No comments: