Top European Court Demands Answers on CIA Rendition
El-Masri Case against Macedonia Moves Forward at European Court of Human Rights
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.
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