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Canada Must Correct Its Wrongs And Apologize To Three Torture Victims

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ABDULLAH ALMALKI
Chris Wattie / Reuters
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While Prime Minister Justin Trudeau was at the United Nations delivering a speech to the UN delegates on how "[t]here is an appetite for Canada's approach and Canada's solutions, promoting diversity as a strength. ... Canada has a narrative the world needs -- we're happy to share," it seems that he has forgotten that at home there is another narrative that won't be easily erased from the history records: Canada's role in torture.

Indeed the case of the three Canadian citizens: Abdullah Almalki, Ahmad El Maati and Muayyed Nureddin, resurfaced this week in the media bringing back again the dark side of Canadian complicity with regimes that routinely use torture and forced disappearance in their so-called "war on terror."

It was already public information that these men were tortured in Syria and in Egypt. Former Supreme Court of Canada, justice Frank Iacobucci, concluded in 2012 that the three men were tortured abroad and that Canadian officials contributed indirectly to their torture.

But what the CBC News revelations brought into light are new facts that are definitely even more disturbing. Instead of asking for the release of the Canadian men, Canada's ambassador to Damascus, Franco Pillarella, used his extensive connection with Syrian intelligence to provide questions about Almalki to his Syrian tormentors. Pillarella, who was never held accountable for his actions, lived in a world of denial: "He said he was aware of widespread allegations of torture in Syria, but unless a person witnessed it 'one cannot say for a certainty that this is what would happen.'"

This is like saying you're aware of the gravity force on Earth but unless one can see the force, we are not sure it really exits!

Canada can't be an example to the world as long as these victims of torture haven't been compensated and provided with a public apology.

In 2012, Human Right Watch released a report documenting the torture centres in Syria based on former detainees and prisoners' accounts. Even if this report was published after the events that led to the torture of the three Canadian citizens, it seems appalling how a Canadian diplomat, who was supposed to represent Canada's interests, either feigned ignorance or gave the benefit of the doubt to a regime, whose actions the U.S. State Department described as follows: "The security forces committed arbitrary or unlawful killings, caused politically motivated disappearances, and tortured and physically abused prisoners and detainees with impunity."

Last December, Canada's Public Safety Minister Ralph Goodale quietly declared that controversial directives, commonly known as the "torture memo" -- which was enacted by one of his predecessors, Vic Toews, under the previous government and gave Canadian officials the green light to use information that might be extracted through torture -- will be reviewed.

At that time, we considered this initiative to be promising, a first step in the right direction. Unfortunately, almost ten months later, this news remains dormant and nothing has been done by this government to distance itself from torture.

Last but not least, we shouldn't forget the other troubling case of Omar Khadr, who turned 30 years old on Monday.

He spent half of his life detained in Guantanamo Bay and both the Liberal and the Conservative government didn't lift a finger to bring him back, even though, it became public knowledge that he was physically and mentally abused.

Canada can't be an example to the world as long as these victims of torture haven't been compensated and provided with a public apology. They deserve nothing less.

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