Canada's First 9/11 Rendition to Torture:
An Evening to mark International Human Rights Day, With Benamar Benatta
Special Guests: Marina Nemat and Nicole Chrolavicius
Benamar Benatta was the subject of Canada's first post-9/11 rendition
to torture when he was illegally handed over to U.S. authorities with
the false, dangerously inflammatory description that he was connected
with the events of the previous day. He spent the next five years
detained under conditions that the United Nations concluded constituted
Marina Nemat is a renowned author whose memoir, Prisoner of Tehran, is
a widely acclaimed account of her years spent, from the age of 16, as a
prisoner arrested on false charges by Iranian Revolutionary Guards and
tortured in Tehran's notorious Evin prison.
Nicole Chrolavicius is a human rights lawyer who represents Mr. Benatta.
Presented by Amnesty International, Christian Peacemaker Teams, Stop
Canadian Involvement in Torture, and Toronto Action for Social Change;
Endorsed by The Centre for Integrated Anti-Racism Studies (OISE)
Getting there: 25 Cecil Street is located one block south of College
Street, half way between Spadina and St George.
There is also free parking behind 25 Cecil Street.
For more information: firstname.lastname@example.org, (416) 651-5800,
Benamar Benatta is a 35-year-old Algerian refugee who trained as an
aeronautical engineer. He came to North America to flee political
persecution and threats to his life while serving in the Algerian Armed
Forces. On September 5, 2001 Mr. Benatta crossed the border into Canada
and claimed political asylum. His biggest fear was being returned to
Algeria where he was certain to be tortured or killed for deserting the
military. Canadian authorities put Mr. Benatta into immigration
detention while they tried to ascertain 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 U.S. officials to the
presence of Mr. Benatta, presumably because he is a Muslim man who
knows 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
by Canadian officials and handed over to U.S. officials on September
12, 2001. This was an illegal transfer. This action by Canadian
officials was the beginning of a long nightmare for Mr. Benatta.
Mr. Benatta was held in the Metropolitan Detention Centre in Brooklyn,
New York, where he was treated as a suspect in the September 11, 2001
terrorist attacks. He was beaten. He was abused. He was held in
conditions that the United Nations described as torture. He was
Mr. Benatta was actually cleared of any terrorist activity by the FBI
in November 2001; however, he was never told that he was cleared
because he was being held incommunicado and did not have access to a
In all, Mr. Benatta, an innocent man, spent nearly FIVE years of his
life in American prisons in conditions that were described as torture
by the UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention in an Opinion adopted in
2004. Mr. Benatta also suffered serious abuse at the hands of his
prison guards, documented by the U.S. Department of Justice. The
Canadian Government, various agencies and government officials all bear
some measure of responsibility for Mr. Benatta’s ordeal. Mr. Benatta
has been allowed to return to Canada where his claim for refugee status
was accepted. He is trying to get his life back. He is trying to find
out the truth about why this happened to him.
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