OTTAWA (AFP) - Canada needs better oversight of its anti-terror force to avoid the errors that led to the wrongful detention and torture of a Canadian man in Syria in 2002, an official report said.

"The existing accountability and review mechanism for the Royal Canadian National Police's national security activities are not adequate," said Justice Dennis O'Connor, as the second part of an official inquiry into a botched terrorism case was released.

"In the post-911 world, the RCMP had to assume an increased role in Canada's national security activities," he told reporters.

But its mistakes since in the case of Maher Arar, who was wrongly labeled a terror suspect by the RCMP, show a watchdog with subpoena powers is needed to safeguard the civil rights of Canadians without compromising the secrecy of terrorism investigations, he said.

"The case for giving an independent review body the mandate to conduct self-initiated reviews of the RCMP's national security activities is now overwhelming," he said.

His conclusions were outlined in the second part of an inquiry into the botched terrorism case that gripped the nation and led to the resignation last week of Canada's top cop, RCMP Commissioner Guiliano Zaccardelli.

The first report, released in mid-September, blasted the RCMP for providing faulty intelligence to US authorities that likely led to Arar's detention and deportation to Syria.

The 36-year-old software engineer was stopped in New York, on his way to Canada from a trip to Tunisia in September 2002, and was deported to Syria where he was jailed and tortured for more than a year.

"We are committed to taking the actions needed to prevent similar events ever from happening again," said Public Safety Minister Stockwell Day.

He also announced a probe into allegations that three other Canadians were wrongly detained and tortured in Syria and Egypt.

"We believe that this new inquiry is the most effective way of reviewing the cases of these three individuals," he said.

Ahmad El Maati, Abdullah Almalki and Muayyed Nureddin, born in Kuwait, Syria and Iraq, respectively, and suspected of Al-Qaeda links were arrested by Syrian Military Intelligence during trips abroad from 2001 to 2004.

Each claimed upon return to Canada that he had been tortured by the Syrians or Egyptians and that Canadian security officials were complicit, having allegedly supplied Syria with intelligence and questions to pose the detainees.

"The Canadian government degraded and dehumanized me," Almalki told reporters in October.

Amnesty International Canada joined a local civil liberties association and others backing their request, saying an independent review was "vital" to clear their names and restore confidence in Canada's security agencies.

El Maati, who holds dual Canadian-Egyptian citizenship, said he was on his way to celebrate his wedding in Syria when he was stopped at the Damascus airport in November 2001.

He said he was interrogated about information that could only have originated from Canada. In January 2002, he was transferred to Egyptian custody.

Nureddin said he was going to visit family in northern Iraq when he was stopped at the Iraqi-Syrian border in December 2003.
Almalki was detained in Damascus while en route to visit family in Syria in May 2002. He claimed he was forced to sign a false confession that he planned to bomb the Canadian parliament.
All three men were released without charges between January and March 2004.
Stockwell Day said former Supreme Court justice Frank Iacobucci would lead the second inquiry.
He may hold public hearings, summon witnesses and gather evidence to determine if "any mistreatment of these three individuals in Syria or Egypt resulted from the inappropriate actions of any Canadian officials."
Specifically, he will examine whether Canadian officials shared intelligence with these countries or whether Canadian consular officials failed them.
Iacobucci is expected to report his findings by January 31, 2008.
O'Connor, meanwhile, called for greater scrutiny of Canada's citizenship and immigration department, foreign affairs department, Transport Canada, the Financial Transactions and Reports Analysis Centre (FINTRAC) and Canada Border Services Agency.
The RCMP watchdog should also be linked to other review bodies that oversee these government departments, as well as the Canada Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) and the Communications Security Establishment, he said.

Copyright 2006 Agence France Presse