CAIR-CAN: RESIGNATION DOES NOT MAKE UP FOR ARAR'S ORDEAL, CRITICS CHARGE
Giuliano Zaccardelli's tenure as commissioner of the RCMP was no longer tenable given his two "radically different" statements about the case of Maher Arar, a lawyer for Mr. Arar said yesterday.
"The contradiction was inexcusable," said Marlys Edwardh, co-counsel for Mr. Arar at Mr. Justice Dennis O'Connor's commission of inquiry into the circumstances of her client's deportation to Syria and subsequent torture there.
"It is incomprehensible to me how he could give such different explanations about what he knew and when he knew it. His resignation comes as no surprise."
In September, Mr. Zaccardelli told a parliamentary committee that he knew shortly after Mr. Arar's deportation in 2002 from the United States to Syria that it had been, in part, because of erroneous information passed on by the RCMP that the Canadian software engineer had links to al-Qaeda terrorists.
But this week, the RCMP commissioner changed his story, saying that he had not known that at all until Judge O'Connor's extensive report exonerating Mr. Arar came out a few days earlier in September.
But Ms. Edwardh said Mr. Zaccardelli's resignation does nothing to address the issue of accountability for the terrible ordeal suffered by Mr. Arar at the hands of his Syrian jailers.
She said the RCMP commissioner stepped down only because of the "political embarrassment" arising from his changed position on the Arar case, rather than any sense of accountability.
Mr. Arar, who moved with his family this summer to Kamloops, B.C., where his wife has a university teaching position, declined comment on Mr. Zaccardelli's resignation.
Ms. Edwardh said she expects him to give his views at a news conference tomorrow.
"I don't want to speak for him, but his position all along has been that the government should hold people accountable [for what happened]."
So far, she said, no one has been held accountable, nor has there been any suggestion of discipline for the RCMP officers who passed on the erroneous information to U.S. security officials.
Ms. Edwardh said she found it "staggering" that Mr. Zaccardelli professed not to know that anything was amiss in the case until the O'Connor report.
"I have no doubt that, for the RCMP, Mr. Arar was an afterthought. There was not a nano-bit of concern for his position, being held by military intelligence in a country with a long record of torture."
The Canadian Council on American-Islamic Relations struck a similar note to Ms. Edwardh, urging that Mr. Zaccardelli's leaving not be seen as a sufficient response to the Arar affair.
"Accountability goes beyond the resignation of Zaccardelli. It is critical that all departments, agencies and individuals involved in Mr. Arar's ordeal be held accountable," Karl Nickner, executive director of CAIR-CAN, said in a statement.