Bill would allow torture victims to sue states

A Liberal MP wants to change the rules to allow Canadian victims of torture abroad to sue foreign states in local courts.

MONTREAL — A Liberal MP wants to change the rules to allow Canadian victims of torture abroad to sue foreign states in local courts.

Irwin Cotler says his private member’s bill to amend the State Immunity Act is sorely needed to help future victims of human-rights abuses sue their torturers.

Previous attempts by torture victims such as Maher Arar and Houshang Bouzari have stalled because Canadian courts have ruled they didn’t have the right to sue.

As it stands, the State Immunity Act prohibits taking sovereign states or individuals from abroad before Canadian justice unless it’s over a commercial dispute such as a broken contract.

The bill is being applauded by human-rights activists and international law observers as long overdue.

While private member’s bills rarely pass, the Montreal MP says his bill will be seconded by a member of each party in the House of Commons.

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