Franco Pillarella

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Franco D. Pillarella is a Canadian career diplomat and the current Canadian ambassador to Romania, Bulgaria, and Moldova. He is most known for his testimony into the deportation and imprisonment of Maher Arar, which occurred during his tenure as Canadian ambassador to Syria.

Early life and career[edit]

Pillarella earned a B.A. from the University of Ottawa, in 1963; he went on to obtain an LL.B from the same institution in 1966 and was called to the Quebec Bar in 1967. He joined the Foreign Service later that year.

He has served abroad in Bonn, Milan, Rome, Algiers, The Hague and, from 1988 to 1992, as Consul-General in Berlin.

In Ottawa, he held a number of positions, including Director, Human Rights and Social Affairs Division, and Director, Foreign Intelligence Division. Since 1997, he has served as ambassador to Algeria.

On July 27, 2000 Pillarella was appointed ambassador to the Syrian Arab Republic with concurrent accreditation as High Commissioner to the Republic of Cyprus.

As of June 2005, he is testifying in Ottawa at the inquiry looking into the arrest and deportation of Maher Arar to Syria in the fall of 2002.

Testimony at Arar Inquiry[edit]

During his June 15, 2005 testimony at the inquiry into Maher Arar's deportation and imprisonment, Pillarella claimed he had no conclusive reason to believe Arar was being tortured, and admitted to accepting the word of Syrian officials that he was not.

He further claimed that he had no reason to think that human rights abuses were occurring in Syria during his term as ambassador, claiming that "I did not have any indication that there were serious human rights abuses committed, that I could verify."

These statements prompted widespread shock and incredulity in Canadian media. Paul Heinbecker, former Canadian ambassador to the United Nations, stated that Syria's human rights abuses were well known and well documented by many sources.

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