Canada's new focus on torture was ordered by the inquiry into Maher Arar's nightmare in Syria. U.S. authorities sent Arar -- a Canadian of Syrian ancestry -- to Syria after he made a brief stopover in New York in 2002. They wrongly accused him of having links to terrorism in large part because of information provided by the RCMP.
Arar was sent to a Syrian prison where he was tortured for nearly a year. An inquiry into the Arar affair ordered a new focus on torture, and CTV News has learned that, as part of a "torture awareness workshop," diplomats are now being told where to watch for abuse.
The goal of the workshop was to teach diplomats who visit Canadians in foreign jails how to tell if they've been tortured. It also listed countries and places with greater risks of torture. The list includes Syria, Iran, Afghanistan, and China. But surprisingly, it also included the United States, Guantanamo Bay, and Israel.
It notes specific "U.S. interrogation techniques," which include "forced nudity, isolation, and sleep deprivation." The U.S. has repeatedly denied allegations by international groups that it tortures prisoners captured in places like Afghanistan and Iraq. However, U.S. officials have refused to comment on the Canadian list.
But international observers say they are heartened by the specificity of the Canadian list. Alex Neve of Amnesty International says he is surprised that Canada would risk offending allies by naming countries that potentially torture prisoners.
"These are countries where, sadly, the record is clear -- torture and ill treatment happens," said Neve.
I don't actually see what's so surprising about it. Perhaps irony was intended?
Hat'tip to STOP George.