CIA Rendition Case Reaches Top European Court – Macedonia Challenged for Complicity in Wrongful Abduction

The European Court of Human Rights will consider the case of a German citizen who was kidnapped and beaten in connection with the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program, the Open Society Justice Initiative revealed today. This is the first time an extraordinary rendition case related to the “war on terror” has reached Europe’s top court.

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, Macedonia has denied that El-Masri was detained illegally on its territory or handed over to the CIA.

“European governments must be held accountable for participating in torture, abuse, and kidnappings in association with the CIA’s rendition program,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is litigating the case. “United States courts may have closed their doors on this matter, but we hope that El-Masri will find justice before the European Court.”

As with rendition survivor Maher Arar, the U.S. Supreme Court has refused to hear El-Masri’s case. The U.S. government asserted the “state secrets privilege” when challenged in the United States, which resulted in the case’s dismissal. The United States has yet to publicly acknowledge El-Masri’s rendition. He has never been charged with a crime or given any explanation for his treatment.

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