Sotomayor takes on torture

Sonia Sotomayor, the soon-to-be-confirmed, Obama-nominated US Supreme Court judge, has been the subject of much debate in the American (and indeed local) blogosphere.

Is she liberal, conservative, pro-choice, anti-death penalty?  

Amnesty takes no view on Obama's appointee, but I was heartened to come across this C-SPAN video, showing Sotomayor take on a US government lawyer attempting to defend the rendition and torture of Maher Arar.  

Ayar is a Syrian-born Canadian citizen who detained during a layover at J.F.K. Airport in 2002. Rendered by the US to Syria, he was tortured there and imprisoned for nearly a year in an "underground cell the size of a grave" until the Syrians finally let him go. Predictably, he was finally released without charge.  

When Mr. Arar sued the United States for denying him his civil rights, the Bush administration argued that for reasons of national security the case should never be allowed to come to trial. This was the case where Sotomayor presided alongside other Second Circuit judges. 

A recent New York Times editorial noted, "President Obama can demonstrate his commitment to human rights and the rule of law by addressing Mr. Arar’s case. He should pledge to review the case, including any questions raised by security officials. His administration should also issue a full report on Mr. Arar’s mistreatment, along with an apology, and an offer to compensate him for his injuries. All are long overdue."

Sotomayor's cross-examination of the mealy-mouthed government attorney, pursued the idea, inadvertently presented by the lawyer, that torture might somehow be licensed if there were questions of national security in play.

Let's hope she shows a similar commitment to human rights when serving as a US Supreme Court judge. 

Meanwhile, if you want to know more, here’s a BBC Radio 4 Profile programme on Sonia Sotomayor.

About Amnesty UK Blogs
Our blogs are written by Amnesty International staff, volunteers and other interested individuals, to encourage debate around human rights issues. They do not necessarily represent the views of Amnesty International.
View latest posts
0 comments