Wednesday, October 18, 2006
Oscar-Winning Actor Vanessa Redgrave to Present International Human Rights Award to Extraordinary Rendition Survivor Maher Arar
With Amy Goodman
"Tonight, the Institute for Policy Studies will award its International Human Rights Award to extraordinary rendition survivor Maher Arar. In 2002, Arar, a Canadian citizen, was falsely accused of terrorist links and handed over to Syrian authorities where he spent nearly a year enduring brutal torture. Just last month the Canadian government exonerated Arar and criticized both Canadian and US officials for his ordeal. Maher Arar’s Human Rights award will be presented by Oscar award-winning actor Vanessa Redgrave. [includes rush transcript]
Redgrave is one of the most famous of the Redgrave acting dynasty with a career that spans some 47 years. She has served as a UN Goodwill Ambassador and was a founding member of International Artists Against Racism. Most recently she has spoken out on behalf of Guantanamo detainees... and she also spoke out when the New York Theater workshop canceled ‘My Name is Rachel Corrie.’
AMY GOODMAN: We're joined right now by Vanessa Redgrave, the Oscar-winning actor. She is not in Britain. We last saw her at her home and interviewed her there in London. But today she’s in Washington, D.C. Before we talk about the reason for the visit, Vanessa, as you listened to the story about the production of My Name is Rachel Corrie now finally in New York -- you were a big part of it, being at the Royal Court Theatre -- what are your thoughts?
VANESSA REDGRAVE: I am very glad that all those who planned and wanted My Name is Rachel Corrie to be seen in America have been successful. It indicates to me a wonderful thing, that there are many, many Americans who prefer to know the truth and also want to protect human rights. And Rachel was killed defending the human lives, which is the first human right, of a Palestinian family.
And I’m here in Washington, not able to be in New York last night or the previous nights, because I am here at the request of the Institute [for] Policy Studies. I’m going to have the enormous honor of presenting their [Letelier-Moffitt] Award to Maher Arar and to the Center for Constitutional Rights, which is headed by Mike Ratner, the chief legal firm that worked so hard with Maher Arar to obtain his release and to obtain his exoneration, which the Canadian government has fully recognized, subsequent to the special government-sponsored commission of inquiry headed by Justice [O'Connor].
AMY GOODMAN: Let's talk about Maher Arar. 2002, he is coming home from a family vacation headed through Kennedy Airport, picked up by U.S. authorities, put in a New York jail for a few weeks, and then he is sent off to Syria. He’s a Canadian citizen, but he’s sent to Syria. He was born there, though he left when he was 17. The victim of what is known as “extraordinary rendition.” Can you talk, Vanessa Redgrave, about this term, this practice of extraordinary rendition? He says he wept all the way to Syria, telling the U.S. authorities, his captors at the time, that he would be tortured if he was sent to Syria, and ultimately he was.
VANESSA REDGRAVE: Yes, indeed, he was. Well, the chief concern about extraordinary rendition is what goes on before a man, in this case Maher Arar, is rendered to a country like Syria, where over the years before he was sent to Syria both Amnesty International and the United States State Department itself had issued a number of public reports which warned and emphasized that the Syrian government and the Syrian military intelligence practiced torture in the interrogation of prisoners who they held incommunicado for that purpose during the early days of their interrogation. So he was rendered to Syria in full knowledge of both Americans and of Canadians that he would be tortured there.
I think the other really important thing is, as I’ve got the opportunity, Amy and Democracy Now!, is to urge every single person who hears or sees this program to go onto the website and the summarized report of Justice [O'Connor] for the Canadian commission of inquiry which exonerated Maher Arar totally of all information that had been posted up and exchanged and shared between Canadian intelligence services and the American intelligence services and the Syrian intelligence services. That website is www.ararcommission.ca."
Read The Transcript of Today's Interview