The family of a Canadian-Libyan businessman who is imprisoned without charge in the United Arab Emirates says it has obtained evidence that he has been tortured while in custody, and Canadian authorities have known about the abuse for almost a year.
The evidence, which was shared with Amnesty International Canada's secretary-general, Alex Neve, and viewed by The Globe and Mail, indicates Canadian diplomats observed and documented torture marks on Salim Alaradi's body during a consular visit in January, 2015.
"We've now seen evidence that makes it very clear that Salim has indeed been subjected to torture," said Mr. Neve, who has been working on the case since May. "It gives rise to a very strong indication that Canadian officials have been aware of the torture and ill treatment he's been through since [last] January."
The family wants to bring this development to the public's attention without disclosing details at this stage, due to concerns for the safety of Mr. Alaradi, who is in his mid-40s. Family members say that while consular officials informed them of his general health concerns, they made no mention of torture in communications that followed the January meeting.
A representative of the Department of Foreign Affairs acknowledged Mr. Alaradi's case but declined to confirm if the torture allegations are considered to be credible.
UAE Security Services arrested Mr. Alaradi and his brother Mohamed without explanation in August, 2014, in Dubai, where they were running a home-appliances business together. They were among 10 Libyan nationals, including Canadian Refat Hadagha, who were detained and interrogated about different Libyan political groups. The family says neither brother has ever had any political affiliation.
As Libyan-Emirati relations have continued to deteriorate, UAE authorities have detained scores of people for prolonged periods. Many human rights groups are treating these cases as enforced disappearances under international law. Last month, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on Torture and Forced Disappearance asked to visit the Libyan detainees and investigate accusations of torture.
It was not until Mohamed Alaradi, Mr. Hadagha and two others were arbitrarily released from the Abu Dhabi prison and started speaking out that allegations of serious mistreatment arose in Canada.
"I could hear my brother's screams," recalled Mohamed, who endured four torture-filled months in solitary confinement. "UAE Security would say, 'Do you hear these sounds? We're beating your brother while he's hanging from the ceiling.'"
Mohamed and three others were released and deported to Turkey for reasons unknown in December, 2014. No charges were ever laid. In an interview, Mohamed said he suspects they were released because their torture marks had healed and disappeared by that point, leaving no evidence of the abuse.
Mohamed has since been working with Salim Alaradi's wife and five children, who live in Windsor, Ont., to secure his freedom.
The apparent lack of political intervention on Mr. Alaradi's behalf is "deeply troubling," Mr. Neve said.
"Given the amount of time that has passed and the direct information Canadian officials had, this case should have been lodged at the highest levels of the Canadian government and become a preoccupying concern for the Minister of Foreign Affairs and the Prime Minister," he said.
By last August, after a full year of unlawful detention, consular officials had visited Mr. Alaradi three times. His family retained human rights lawyer Paul Champ in September, immediately after acquiring the evidence of torture.
"We believe this should have gone to the political level a long time ago," said Mr. Champ, who has consulted with Canada's deputy minister for foreign affairs and director-general of consular affairs. By mid-October, consular visits were happening on a weekly basis.
Mr. Champ filed an access-to-information request in September to obtain the diplomatic notes from the January consular visit. The family initially requested the notes in June but was unsuccessful.
"Unfortunately, we still don't have the documents," Mr. Champ said. "They keep promising us that they're going to release them soon, but they're not coming."
The Ottawa-based lawyer expressed disappointment, but noted he is optimistic that the federal Liberal government will realize the urgent nature of Mr. Alaradi's plight.
Amnesty International Middle East researcher Drewery Dyke, who was also made privy to the evidence, described the situation as "jaw-dropping."
"All Western states who are friends and allies of the UAE need to understand they're doing business with a state which is allowing torture to take place and actively carrying it out," said Dyke, who believes Canada's political inaction thus far could be rooted in fear of damaging the countries' democratic and economic relationships.
According to the website of Canada's embassy in the UAE, Canada "enjoys excellent relations" with the Middle Eastern nation, "founded upon substantial commercial ties and mutual goals of peace and prosperity."