No Damages for Victim of Extraordinary Rendition


Yesterday the Supreme Court declined to hear an appeal by Maher Arar, the Canadian engineer who was imprisoned and tortured in Syria after he was sent there by American officials who mistakenly thought he was connected to Al Qaeda. Last November the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 2nd Circuit ruled that Arar, who was detained during a 2002 layover in New York based on misinformation from the Canadian government, could not sue the U.S. government for damages under the Torture Victim Protection Act because he had not adequately alleged that American officials were acting "under color of foreign law." The court also rejected his Fifth Amendment claims, declining to apply the Bivens doctrine, which allows lawsuits based directly on constitutional guarantees, to "extraordinary renditions" such as Arar's removal to Syria. "If a civil remedy in damages is to be created for harms suffered in the context of extraordinary rendition," the court said, "it must be created by Congress, which alone has the institutional competence to set parameters, delineate safe harbors, and specify relief."

Arar, who was cleared of suspicion by a Canadian commission of inquiry, has received an apology and compensation from the Canadian government. He has received neither from the United States, although Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice conceded in 2007 that the case was not "handled as it should have been."

Previous Reason coverage of the case here.