The head of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police has apologised to a Canadian who claims he was tortured in Syria after the US sent him there based on false accusations by the RCMP.
Syrian-born Mahar Arar was exonerated of all suspicion of terrorist activity earlier this month by a commission of inquiry into his case, which urged the Canadian government to offer him financial compensation.
Arar is perhaps the world’s best-known case of extraordinary rendition – the US transfer of foreign terror suspects to third countries without court approval.
In the RCMP’s first public comments since the inquiry report was released, RCMP Commissioner Giuliano Zaccardelli told a House of Commons committee he was “truly sorry” for the RCMP role in Arar’s ordeal.
Zaccardelli also said he wouldn’t resign.
“Mr. Arar, I wish to take this opportunity to express publicly to you and to your wife and to your children how truly sorry I am for whatever part that the actions of the RCMP may have contributed to the terrible injustices that you experienced and the pain that you and your families endured,” Zaccardelli said.
“I know that an apology can never give back to Mr. Arar what was taken from him, but what we can do is move forward with changes and reforms.”
Justice Dennis O’Connor’s inquiry report found that the RCMP sent unfair and inaccurate intelligence reports about Arar to the US.
Arar was detained by US authorities in New York while travelling on a Canadian passport, and was then sent to Syria for interrogation as a suspected member of al-Qaida.
Arar spent nearly a year in prison in Syria and made detailed allegations after his release in 2003 about extensive interrogation, beatings and whippings with electrical cables.
Zaccardelli said he accepted the recommendations from O’Connor’s report and said the RCMP would learn from it and had already changed some management practices.
Arar has filed a multi-million-dollar lawsuit in the case.