In association with the Bar of England and Wales Human Rights Committee, ECCHR filed an amici curiae brief on 5 March 2010 supporting the petition of the New York-based Center for Constitutional Rights in the compensation case of Maher Arar.
Maher Arar, a Canadian citizen, was arrested and abducted by US officials in 2002 and brought to Syria. During his one-year detention in Syria he suffered torture and was imprisoned under inhumane and degrading conditions. After his return to Canada a commission of inquiry, established by the Canadian government, brought the circumstances of his case to light.
Arar sought compensation for his rendition to Syria by US officials before US courts. The lower courts dismissed the claim on the basis that state secrecy issues were at stake, allegedly threatening foreign relations and national security. In June 2010, the US Supreme Court, the court of final instance, issued a decision refusing to review the case.
The amici curiae brief submitted along with the Supreme Court claim pointed to a number of investigations carried out by parliamentary inquiries, courts and other institutions in Europe into CIA flights and secret detention centers.
The brief highlights the fact that it is possible to open investigations and proceedings even despite objections that state secrecy would be affected. A range of decisions by domestic European courts show that while the scope of investigations might be affected by national security considerations, proceedings may still be instigated and indeed completed in such cases. State secrecy concerns might place legal limitations on certain aspects of a case, but such limitations would not apply to the case as a whole.
The amici curiae brief aimed to encourage the US Supreme Court to consider in its decision the broader international context of the CIA flights and detention centers. As the author and driving force of the extraordinary rendition program, the US must now finally provide victims of these grave crimes with legal remedies and adequate compensation.