Imprisoned. Tortured. Abused. Forgotten. Why?
The Case of Benamar Benatta: Canada's First 9/11 Rendition to Torture
JULY 20, 2007, TORONTO -- Today Benamar Benatta marks a
bittersweet anniversary. It was one year ago that he came to
Canada for the second time, continuing his effort to be accepted
here as a refugee. The first time he came to Canada, September
5, 2001, his life changed forever, and he wants to find out why.
Benatta born born in Algeria, but came to North America to flee
political persecution and threats to his life while serving in the
Algerian Armed Forces as an aeronautical engineer. In early
September 2001 Mr.Benatta crossed the border into Canada and
claimed political asylum. Mr. Benatta was detained pending further
inquiries into his identity.
While in Canadian custody and unbeknownst to Mr. Benatta,
terrorists attacked the World Trade Centre in New York City
and other targets on September 11, 2001. Canadian officials alerted
the Americans to the presence of Mr. Benatta and identified him as
a person who allegedly had something to do with the attacks of
September 11, 2001, seemingly because he was a Muslim man who
knew something about airplanes. Without a hearing, without counsel
and without conducting proceedings in his first language (French),
Mr. Benatta was unceremoniously driven over the border in the
back of a car and handed over to the Americans on September 12,
2001. This was an illegal transfer by the Canadian government.
This was against the law.
While being held in the notorious Brooklyn Metropolitan Detention
Centre, Benatta was assigned "high security status" and detained in
solitary confinement; he was deprived of sleep; his cell was
illuminated 24 hours a day; guardsregularly beat him, and kept him
constantly awake by banging on his door every half hour, a door
which had been spray-painted WTC (World Trade Centre).
Mr. Benatta was actually cleared of any terrorist suspicions by the
FBI in November 2001; however, he was never told that he was
cleared. In fact, Mr. Benatta was held incommunicado and without
access to legal counsel. In all, Mr. Benatta spent nearly five years of
his life in American prisons were he was abused and tortured
(as documented by the United Nations and the U.S. department
of justice). Indeed, according to U.S. Federal Magistrate Judge H.
Kenneth Schroeder Jr.,"As a result of the horrific events of Sept.
11, 2001, the Canadian authorities alerted United States authorities
of defendant's presence and profile ... and returned him to the
United States....The defendant in this case undeniably was
deprived of his liberty, and held in custody under harsh conditions
which can be said to be 'oppressive'....To accept the [U.S.]
government's arguments "would be to join in the charade that
has been perpetrated."
In an opinion adopted in September, 2004, by the United Nations
Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, it was concluded with
respect to Benatta, "Finally, the [U.S.] Government has said
nothing about the high-security prison regime (involving
impositions that could be described as torture), which, for no
reason whatsoever, was imposed on him . . ." After all of this
hardship, Benatta came across the border a year ago, and has
resumed his claim for asylum. His application is currently pending,
and like many refugees, he lives in a state of limbo, unable to get on
with his life, and haunted by some serious questions that have yet
to be answered.
How was Canada involved in all of this? Why did Canadian officials
undertake this rendition to torture?
Benatta sought intervenor status at the Iacobucci Commission
investigating the cases of torture against Canadians Ahmad
El-Maati, Abdullah Almalki, and Muayyed Nureddin, but was
unfortunately turned down. In his request for standing, Benatta
had pointed out that El-Maati, Almalki, and Nureddin "were all
detained and tortured on foregin soil allegedly because of
information provided to foreign governments (Syria and
Egypt) by Canadian officials linking these men to terrorist
activities. Mr. Benatta was also detained and tortured on foreign
soil because of information provided to a foreign government
(America) by Canadian officials linking Mr. Benatta to terrorist
activities, in particular, the events of September 11, 2001."
But Iacobucci did not see it that way, and what was supposed to be
a public inquiry is in fact being held in secret, without the presence
of those three men and their lawyers.
Since his return to Canada, Benatta sought records of his earlier
refugee claim held by Canadian officials, but was informed his 2001
claim has been "misplaced." The Canadian government also
erroneously alleges that Benatta withdrew his claim for asylum
prior to the 9/12/2001 rendition, but has produced no
documentation to support this outrageous claim.
Earlier this year, Benatta and his supporters began the Benatta
Coalition for a Public Review, which could certainly use the
support of everyone in this country who cares about the
complicity of the Canadian government and its so-called
"intelligence" agencies in acts of torture.
WHAT YOU CAN DO
1. Get more information by going to Benamar's website,
Once there, sign the online petition calling for a public review.
There are also media clips from a press conference Benamar
and his supporters held in Ottawa earlier this year.
2. Write to Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day, demanding
that he grant a public review of Benatta's case so that Benamar
and all people in Canada can get the answers they need, and to
prevent such human rights abuses from occurring.
Stockwell Day, Minister of Public Safety
Sir Wilfrid Laurier Building, 13th Floor
340 Laurier Avenue West
Ottawa, Ontario, K1A 0P8
3. Invite Benamar to speak to your organization. He is fluent
in English and French, and can be contacted at email@example.com
4. If you are with the media, Benamar is happy to speak with you.
Again, contact him through firstname.lastname@example.org or via his lawyer,
Nicole Chrolavicius, email@example.com
5. Donate to the costs of the Benatta Coalition for a Public Review;
to find out how, email Nicole at firstname.lastname@example.org