OTTAWA — An opposition lawmaker unveiled Thursday proposed legislation that would allow victims of torture to sue the perpetrators, including foreign states and officials, in Canadian courts.
“Our present legislation criminalizes torture, war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide — the most heinous acts known to humankind,” said opposition Liberal MP and former justice minister Irwin Cotler.
“But Canadian law does not allow a civil remedy for the victims of such horrific acts.
“This legislation will: address the evil of such international crimes; target the impunity of those states and officials that perpetrate these crimes; remove the state immunity that operates to shield the perpetrators of such crimes; and finally allow Canadian victims to secure justice.”
Canada’s right-wing government and three opposition parties have yet to state positions on the proposed law, but individual members of all four parties have vowed to support it.
Maher Arar, a dual Canadian-Syrian citizen, claimed he was tortured in Syria after US authorities arrested him in New York in 2002.
A 2007 judicial report found US authorities had likely relied on faulty intelligence provided by Canadian federal police to arrest and deport Arar, who was absolved of suspicion and awarded 10 million dollars by Ottawa for his ordeal.
Canadians Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, born in Kuwait, Syria and Iraq respectively, also claimed they were tortured abroad.
The three men were arrested by Syrian Military Intelligence during trips abroad from 2001 to 2004, suspected of Al-Qaeda links. El Maati said he was later transferred to Egyptian custody.
All three were released without charges between January and March 2004.
Each claimed upon return to Canada that he had been tortured, and that Canadian security officials had supplied their captors with intelligence and questions to pose the detainees.
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