Arar v. Ashcroft, 585 F.3d 559 (2d. Cir. 2009), was a lawsuit brought by Maher Arar against the United States and various U.S. officials pursuant to the Torture Victim Protection Act (TVPA), and the Fifth Amendment to the United States Constitution. The United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York dismissed Arar’s complaint due to lack of personal jurisdiction and national security and foreign policy considerations. This ruling was ultimately upheld by a divided en banc panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
Maher Arar was a Canadian citizen who was deported to Syria by the U.S. government. In Syria, he was tortured, forced to falsely confess, and released after one year without being charged.
Arar sought a declaratory judgment that defendants’ conduct violated his “constitutional, civil, and international human rights,” as well as compensatory and punitive damages for the statutory and constitutional violations.
The Center for Constitutional Rights brought the suit Arar v. Ashcroft against former Attorney General John Ashcroft, then-FBI DirectorRobert Mueller, and then-Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge, as well as numerous U.S. immigration officials including Immigration and Naturalization Service Commissioner James W. Ziglar. It charged the defendants violated Arar’s constitutional right to due process; his right to choose a country of removal other than one in which he would be tortured, as guaranteed under the Torture Victims Protection Act; and his rights under international law.
The suit charged that Arar’s Fifth Amendment due process rights were violated when he was confined without access to an attorney or the court system, both domestically before being rendered, and while detained by the Syrian government, whose actions were complicit with the U.S. Additionally, the Attorney General and INS officials who carried out his deportation also likely violated his right to due process by recklessly subjecting him to torture at the hands of a foreign government that they had every reason to believe would carry out abusive interrogation.
Further, Arar filed a claim under the Torture Victims Protection Act, adopted by the U.S. Congress in 1992, which allows a victim of torture by an individual of a foreign government to bring suit against that actor in U.S. Court. Arar’s claim under the Act against Ashcroft and the INS directors was based upon their complicity in bringing about the torture he suffered. The case was filed in the United States District Court for the Eastern District of New York.
In its denial of Arar’s petition for certiorari, the Supreme Court upheld the 2nd Circuit’s en banc dismissal the case against the named defendants.