8 May 2007
The Hon. Stockwell Day, P.C., M.P.
Minister of Public Safety and Emergency Preparedness Canada
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P8
We welcome your April 19, 2007, announcement in House that Benamar Benatta will be given an “appeal” in his case. We are writing to you today for clarification of this announcement and to reinforce the urgent need to commission a review of the actions of Canadian officials in illegally transferring Benamar Benatta to U.S. officials on September 12, 2001. Such a review needs to be comprehensive, credible, independent and impartial and must inspire public confidence in the result.
As you know, following his transfer to the U.S., Mr. Benatta was treated as a suspect in the September 11 attacks. Despite being cleared by the FBI of any suspicions in November 2001, he remained in detention in the U.S. for nearly five years, until he was transferred back to Canada.
We believe that it is necessary to determine how Mr. Benatta came to be handed over to the U.S. for a number of reasons. Firstly, and most importantly, Mr. Benatta deserves an explanation for what happened to him. In addition, Canadians need to know what went wrong in this case, whether there are any other similar cases and how future such injustices can be prevented.
On September 12, 2001, Mr Benatta was seeking refugee protection in Canada and had been in detention since his arrival at the border on September 5, 2001. He was without legal representation or any contacts with people who could advocate on his behalf. The treatment he received highlights the extreme vulnerability of refugee claimants, who depend for their lives on Canadian officials following domestic and international law.
We also underline that Mr. Benatta is a Muslim and an Arab: he joins countless other Muslims and Arabs in Canada who have been unfairly suspected of links with terrorism based on racial and religious profiling. This only adds to the urgency of investigating this case, since discrimination must not be tolerated.
We appreciate that it is not desirable or efficient to be setting up case-by-case review for each instance of potential abuse. We therefore urge you to implement the recommendations outlined by the Arar Commission, in particular, integrated review of security agencies, without delay. If such review bodies were in place, Mr. Benatta could have turned to them for a holistic review of his case. However, until the recommendations are implemented – and some agencies remain without complaint or oversight procedures – we must call on you to provide an adequate review process.
Amnesty International Canada
Canadian Council for Refugees
International Civil Liberties Monitoring Group
Canadian Arab Federation
Ligue des droits et libertés