Participants at Kairos roundtable on human rights and global security included (left) Gerry Barr, CCIC; Monia Mazigh, wife of Maher Arar, recently released from a Syrian prison; Mary Corkery, executive director of Kairos; Joe Gunn, vice-chair of Kairos; Hilary Homes, Amnesty International; and Angelica Mendoza de Ascarza, a Peruvian human rights activist.
Kairos, the largest ecumenical justice organization in Canada, is urging the federal government to consider the organization’s proposed Agenda for Peace. The two-year action plan called Cultivating Just Peace was unveiled in Ottawa at a roundtable discussion in December titled Human Rights and Global Security: Challenging the War on Terror.
The discussion, organized by Kairos, a partnership of 11 churches and church related organizations including the Anglican Church of Canada, was attended by award-winning human rights activists, representatives from non-governmental organizations and members of Parliament. Calling for “faithful action to end injustice and promote peace,” Mary Corkery, executive director of Kairos, outlined the 15-point Agenda for Peace as an alternative to an American-led war on terror.
The plan calls for Canada to support a protocol that ensures respect of human rights and a review of the country’s anti-terrorism bill, with regard to provisions that compromise civil liberties. The plan also advocates the development of an international arms trade treaty and a ban on shipping arms to states that abuse human rights. Additionally, it encourages monitoring policies and partnerships in developing countries to reduce poverty and calls for the cancellation of the debts of all low-income countries.
The featured speaker at the event was Monia Mazigh, the wife of Maher Arar who was released last October from a Syrian jail where he was held and tortured for 10 months. Ms. Mazigh described the horrendous conditions of her husband’s captivity. He was held in a tiny underground cell, beaten and humiliated. “These practices are in fashion but quite hidden,” said Ms. Mazigh, ” they are termed ?renditions’ by the U.S. government.”
(?Extraordinary rendition’ is a term referring to a covert practice in which low-level terror suspects are handed over to foreign intelligence in countries that torture prisoners, such as Syria.)
Ms. Mazigh called for the federal government to hold a public inquiry.
“After the tragic events of Sept. 11, I do not accept injustice,” she said. “We must work hard to protect our children but not at the expense of another’s human rights.”
Ms. Mazigh’s words were echoed by Hilary Homes, a campaign co-ordinator for Amnesty International Canada who focused on how the “war on terror” has led to acceptance of torture. “The security of some cannot be sacrificed for the security of everyone,” said Ms. Homes.
Anita Euteneier is an Ottawa freelance writer.