Dick Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian and rapporteur on secret detention centers for the Council of Europe, has written an interesting piece
for the Globe and Mail on the lessons that can be learned from observing the Canadian Arar
Commission. The piece is important because these types of Commission will be needed because it is only by understanding fully the flaws of current U.S. foreign policy will we be able to shift the ideology towards a NEASFram type framework.
Marty notes that "only Canada has made a real effort to put right the wrong done to the victim — and in a way that does not endanger its legitimate national-security interests." He has come to recognize that European governments and bodies have been too afraid of being accused of harming security to really challenge the executive on rendition policy. Marty believes, with some justification, that Europeans (and I believe Americans) can learn a lot from the Canadian process.
That process, and its benefits, is described in this way by Marty:
"In simplified terms, Judge O'Connor, an experienced jurist, was given access to all the information required. Certain documents, which the government considered secret in the interest of national security, national defence or international relations, were examined in a procedure in which both parties were heard but the material was not reproduced in the public version of the report (although attention was drawn to its absence).
With such carefully weighed transparency, Judge O'Connor was able unequivocally to clear Mr. Arar's name, ensuring justice and clearing the way for the compensation due to him, yet exclude the publication of anything that might, in his judgment, threaten the security of Canadians. The important thing — and here we get to the heart of the question — is that the government is not the sole arbiter of what should be regarded as a state secret: Its claims must be evaluated by an independent body. In the Arar case, that principle remains in place, regardless of this week's readjustment; it was, after all, again a judge who ordered that the new material be made public."
Here is a link to the full piece