Abdullah Almalki (L) and Ahmad Abou El-Maati participate in a news conference regarding the status of the Arar Inquiry's report on Parliament Hill in Ottawa September 12, 2006.
Credits: FILE PHOTO
The three were apprehended separately in Syria - 2001, 2002 and 2003 - and it's possible, even likely, that truck driver Ahmad Abou Elmaati, electronics engineer Abdullah Almalki and geologist Muayyed Nureddin did nothing that would get them arrested, much less convicted, in Canada.
But they weren't in Canada. They were in Syria. In his inquiry into the case, former Supreme Court Justice Frank Iacobucci cleared consular officials of any wrongdoing, but noted Canadian intelligence passed information to other intelligence agencies, which "indirectly" may have led to these guys being held - one for 34 days, another for 22 months. One claiming the soles of his feet were beaten.
Intelligence services of allied countries routinely share certain information. And in these days of international terrorism, it is essential that this practice not only continue, but be expanded. But cautiously and accurately.
If certain countries go too far, torturing or holding people in custody for long periods - then the "victims" have an issue with that country. These three guys should be suing Syria, not Canada. But Canada has already shown it'll pay big money if individuals are abused in countries like Syria - a case in point is the $10 million awarded to Maher Arar, who was an unwilling guest of the Syrian regime.
As for the UN committee, it has a dossier of complaints against virtually every country in the world, with a large file against Canada.
It is another useless, toothless, obnoxious UN body that concentrates on easy targets instead of rooting out real villains. And it has no power anyway. Imagine blaming Canada for abuses by Syria!
The UN group also bellyaches about alleged mistreatment of Omar Khadr at Guantanamo Bay. One wonders, what mistreatment would that be? In custody, yes, but how about the good food, sunshine, no obligations, no nonsense like water-boarding or deprived sleep, access to Red Cross and lawyers?
All Khadr has to complain about is being detained. But that's enough for the UN body to blame Canada for not wanting the guy back in our country as soon as possible.
As for the three guys who ran into trouble in Syria - tough bananas. If you become a Canadian citizen from a country that does the sort of things Syria and Iran do, beware about visiting for weddings or holidays. If you take a chance, knowing full well what can happen, then it's your responsibility, not Canada's.
Yes, our diplomatic mission should do what it can to help citizens in trouble. But an individual's treatment by Syrians should not be cause for the Canadian government (read, taxpayer) to reward the person with a fancy payoff.
It verges on the impudent for a UN agency to say Canadian "complicity" resulted in violation of the rights of these three guys who landed in Syrian jails. What "rights" does anyone have in Syria?
Worse, the agency seems to feel the $10 million Arar got should be a standard for what others get as compensation. Nonsense. By all means, Canada can, and perhaps should, publicly condemn Syria for possible abuse towards Canadian citizens. As for money - no way, and no apology. But a warning to be careful next time.