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Media release


Read it in pdf here

For immediate release
September 2004

A heavily censored RCMP internal report paints a picture of a police force that made serious errors in its investigation of Maher Arar and caused his deportation to a Syrian jail.

"This gives us just a partial picture of why an innocent man was made to suffer," says Arar lawyer Marlys Edwardh, "but we have to keep in mind that this report is coming from the RCMP's internal investigator. Whenever police forces investigate themselves, there are always serious questions. We look forward to a much deeper understanding of what happened when the independent work of the Arar Inquiry is completed."

Arar's lawyers are astonished by the difference in this version of the Garvie Report, and an RCMP prepared summary of the same report, tabled by the Government in July.

"The public was mislead", says Arar lawyer, Lorne Waldman. "That summary made it seem as if almost everything was done by the book. Once again you have the Government of Canada trying to protect itself by concealing what happened, rather than trying to get to the truth in the interest of one of its citizens."

In the report, released today by the Arar Inquiry, RCMP Chief Superintendent Brian S. Garvie raises serious concerns about the quality of information gathered and shared with American authorities. Garvie says "the reliability assessment of that information was inaccurate". But that same information helped form the basis for the US decision to arrest Arar in New York in September 2002. Two weeks later Arar was deported to a Syrian prison where he was tortured and interrogated.

Garvie says that in a post 9/11 world, the RCMP "did not have sufficient investigative expertise, nor did they have the capacity to efficiently and effectively deal with national security investigations overall".

He criticizes the force for providing information to the Americans in a manner "that was not in accordance with RCMP policy as the required caveats/conditions for the dissemination of national security information were not included. This allowed US agencies to use, or disseminate, that information as they deemed appropriate, without the express permission of the RCMP."

In spite of the many blacked-out sections the report points to evidence that the RCMP knew about the US intention to deport Arar to Syria. Reference is made to concerns by RCMP officers in Canada about how they will be perceived if Arar is sent to Syria. No mention is made of their concern for Arar's possible fate in Syria.

The Garvie report refers to discussions back and forth across the border about what to do with Arar. Americans were told that Canada could not refuse entry to Arar because he is a Canadian citizen. They also said that while the RCMP was "interested in Arar from a criminal perspective"" but "the RCMP has no information concerning any threat associated with/by Arar."

The report shows that the RCMP provided the US with what it knew about Arar, but seemed unaware or unable to find out from them what other information the Americans had gathered on Arar At one point, RCMP officers debate going to New York to question Arar themselves, but decide against it because of the cost of commercial airline tickets and it seems, because it was not clear they would get permission to interrogate Arar.

Mr. Arar is not satisfied with this explanation. He wants to know the identity of one of his interrogators in New York who spoke with a noticeable French-Canadian accent and who refused to identify himself. He is not satisfied that the internal investigation gives anything like a complete picture of what happened to him and why.

"We still have a long way to go before I really know why this was done to me and who was involved."

Arar himself is especially disturbed to learn in the report that eight months into his jail term, the RCMP vetoed an initiative that could have ended his plight. An officer at the Department of Foreign Affairs advised Arar's lawyer at the time to request a letter from the RCMP saying he was not a terrorist suspect. The RCMP advised against this saying "it was not in a position" to state this.

"I could have been out of that miserable place four months earlier. When I was arrested they told the Americans they had nothing to arrest me with. But then they say I'm a terror suspect. To me, that means they were relying on false information obtained under torture to condemn me."

Arar is also surprised to learn that his apartment lease - which allegedly links him to a person on the terror watch list - was obtained from his landlord without a warrant. Garvie again chastises the RCMP, saying proper procedure in a criminal investigation was not followed and the lease "should have been obtained with a search warrant, issued pursuant to the provisions of the Criminal Code."

contact: Kelly Crichton
613-832-9349 or 858-8180 (cell)