Dec. 10 is Human Rights Day, but any gestures the United States makes in commemoration will come across as hollow to me.

A few weeks ago, seven federal judges told me I had no way to seek justice in American courts for being sent by U.S. officials to be tortured in Syria, where I spent nearly a year in a grave-like underground cell.

I was a victim of an “extraordinary rendition”: I was seized by U.S. officials while changing planes in September 2002 at the Kennedy International Airport on my way home to Canada, prevented from going to court and sent, over my protests, to a country where I knew I would be tortured.

Despite both the Syrian and Canadian governments finding I had no connection to terrorism whatsoever, I have still received no justice from the United States and have seen no change since President Obama took office.

Since I launched my lawsuit with the help of the Center for Constitutional Rights in 2004, many facts regarding my case have surfaced.

A public Canadian commission of inquiry exonerated me and found that Canadian officials gave the United States false information about me, for which the Canadian government apologized.

The U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s inspector general found that immigration officials concluded I would likely be tortured if sent to Syria. But that decision was overridden — in fact, the inspector general could not rule out that I was sent to Syria in order to be interrogated by unlawful means. Documents obtained under the Freedom of Information Act have confirmed the involvement of high-level U.S. officials. This information has left no doubt that my case was not a simple immigration matter, as the U.S. government has always proclaimed.

The significance of the dismissal of my case goes much beyond my inability to obtain justice. At the core of this dismissal is the credibility of the administration of justice in the United States.

Courts are supposed to ensure that no one is above the law and that the weak and vulnerable are protected. Yet U.S. courts have sided with the most powerful — the executive branch that modified the definition of torture to suit its purpose and used “national security” to justify sending people to be tortured.

The climate of fear and suspicion that the executive branch promoted has allowed it to obtain from the courts exactly what it wanted: to turn a blind eye to its above-the-law practices, all in the name of safeguarding the security of the nation.

The role of judges becomes a lot more important in times of crisis and calamities. They should ask themselves an important question: What would they have done if their son had been forced to go through the same injustice?

Finally, I want Americans to know that the actions taken by some of your government officials have destroyed the lives of many innocent human beings.

I was a successful engineer before all this happened. I had enjoyed life and had dreams of building a successful career. Now I am still suffering from the scars of torture and the disgrace of being labeled a terrorist.

I was at least expecting an apology from your government. With this latest decision, my hope of getting that apology is fading away.

Until the U.S. government rectifies my case, and the cases of all those who were tortured by the previous administration, the celebration of Human Rights Day by the United States will be a sham.

Maher Arar is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen. He can be reached at

Add new comment

By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.


It's finally setting in: Trump is Trump and he’s not going to change because of winning the nomination.

The new head of the Environmental Protection has a history of suing the agency for trying to do its job.

By Wendell Berry

Manifesto: The Mad Farmer Liberation Front

Love the quick profit, the annual raise,
vacation with pay. Want more 
of everything ready made. Be afraid 
to know your neighbors and to die.
And you will have a window in your head.
Not even your future will be a mystery 
any more. Your mind will be punched in a card 
and shut away in a little drawer.
When they want you to buy something 
they will call you. When they want you
to die for profit they will let you know. 
So, friends, every day do something
that won’t compute. Love the Lord. 
Love the world. Work for nothing. 
Take all that you have and be poor.
Love someone who does not deserve it. 
Denounce the government and embrace 
the flag. Hope to live in that free 
republic for which it stands. 
Give your approval to all you cannot
understand. Praise ignorance, for what man 
has not encountered he has not destroyed.
Ask the questions that have no answers. 
Invest in the millennium. Plant sequoias.
Say that your main crop is the forest
that you did not plant,
that you will not live to harvest.

Say that the leaves are harvested 
when they have rotted into the mold.
Call that profit. Prophesy such returns.
Put your faith in the two inches of humus 
that will build under the trees
every thousand years.
Listen to carrion—put your ear
close, and hear the faint chattering
of the songs that are to come. 
Expect the end of the world. Laugh. 
Laughter is immeasurable. Be joyful
though you have considered all the facts. 
So long as women do not go cheap 
for power, please women more than men.
Ask yourself: Will this satisfy 
a woman satisfied to bear a child?
Will this disturb the sleep 
of a woman near to giving birth? 
Go with your love to the fields.
Lie easy in the shade. Rest your head 
in her lap. Swear allegiance 
to what is nighest your thoughts.
As soon as the generals and the politicos 
can predict the motions of your mind, 
lose it. Leave it as a sign 
to mark the false trail, the way 
you didn’t go. Be like the fox 
who makes more tracks than necessary, 
some in the wrong direction.
Practice resurrection.

Wendell Berry is a poet, farmer, and environmentalist in Kentucky. This poem, first published in 1973, is reprinted by permission of the author and appears in his “New Collected Poems” (Counterpoint).

Public School Shakedown

Progressive Media Project