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Top European Court Demands Answers on CIA Rendition
El-Masri Case against Macedonia Moves Forward at European Court of Human Rights
Press Release
October 14, 2010
Luis Montero
NEW YORK—Macedonia has become the first government called to account for its collaboration with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program before an international tribunal. The case, brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative on behalf of German citizen Khaled El-Masri, was communicated to the Macedonian government by the European Court of Human Rights on October 8.
“With this case, the European Court has gone beyond the U.S. judiciary in responding to the torture and abuse associated with unlawful rendition,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. “Khaled El-Masri has endured a terrible ordeal, and he has a right to justice and public acknowledgement of his mistreatment.” 
The communication is a major step forward, as only about ten percent of all cases brought before the European Court make it to this phase. Next, Macedonia will need to answer specific questions posed by the court about its alleged role in the rendition program. The court has also invited Germany to submit comments.
Macedonian security forces seized Khaled El-Masri at the request of the United States in December 2003 and held him—incommunicado—for 23 days. El-Masri was then handed over to the CIA and flown to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was confined in appalling conditions, interrogated, and abused. After several months, El-Masri was finally released and dumped on a roadside in Albania.
Despite overwhelming evidence of its collaboration, to date Macedonia has denied that El-Masri was detained illegally on its territory or handed over to the CIA.
The U.S. has never publicly acknowledged rendering El-Masri. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to revisit an appellate court’s ruling that the state secrets privilege required dismissal of his case.
National investigations related to El-Masri’s rendition are ongoing in Germany and Spain. Poland, Lithuania, and the UK are also engaged in investigations about extraordinary rendition more broadly.
The Open Society Justice Initiative uses law to protect and empower people around the world. Through litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance, the Justice Initiative promotes human rights and builds legal capacity for open societies.
Related Information
The Log in America's Eye
James A. Goldston
December 21, 2010
Many observers wonder at the apparent disconnect between American support for justice abroad and President Obama's determination to "look forward not backward" at home.
Human Rights: How Far Have We Come?
Christian De Vos
December 10, 2010
On the 60th anniversary of World Human Rights Day, the date when the Universal Declaration of Human Rights was adopted by the UN, how far have we come in realizing that document's promise?
What Does the Bemba Trial Mean to Victims?
Sisonke Msimang
December 3, 2010
The trial of accused war criminal Jean-Pierre Bemba provides hope to survivors of rape and other abuse—hope that their voices will be heard and that one day, the violence will stop.
International Criminal Court Takes on Gender Crimes
Kelly Askin
November 23, 2010
As the war-crimes trial of former Congolese vice president Bemba opens in The Hague, the court has a chance to demonstrate its ability to hold a high-profile, fair, and speedy trial and to prove that it takes sex crimes very seriously.
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