Macedonia has issued a formal apology to Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin who was unlawfully handed over to United States authorities and tortured under the CIA‘s secret rendition programme 14 years ago.
Macedonian intelligence services detained el-Masri while he was on vacation in the country in December 2003, and interrogated him for more than three weeks. Accused of being an al-Qaeda member, he was handed over to CIA agents.
El-Masri was then shackled, beaten, stripped naked, sodomised and drugged before being secretly transferred to a CIA-run “black site” prison in Afghanistan.
For more than four months during his captivity there, he was routinely beaten, tortured and force-fed, after which he was flown back to Europe and dumped on a roadside in rural Albania in the middle of the night.
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) filed a lawsuit on behalf of el-Masri against former CIA director George Tenet, but the case was dismissed in 2006 under “state secrets” grounds.
In a 2012 ruling, the European Court of Human Rights found Macedonia in breach of the European Convention of Human Rights in el-Masri’s case and awarded compensation of 60,000 euros (currently $74,000), which the government subsequently paid.
Human rights lawyer James Goldston, who represented el-Masri in the European court case, said he welcomed Macedonia’s apology, but argued that it was not enough.
Macedonia “has yet to open a formal criminal inquiry into what happened or to hold anyone to account”, Goldston said in a statement to the ACLU.
“US government documents show that the CIA was aware of its mistake very shortly after it had wrongfully detained him, but he was still secretly held and abused for over four months,” Goldston said.
Jamil Dakwar, one of el-Masri’s lawyers and director of ACLU’s Human Rights Program, noted that the US Senate should insist on declassifying the Senate Torture Report to reveal “the whole truth about the CIA’s unlawful and barbaric torture programme which destroyed the lives of many people like el-Masri”.
“While we welcome Macedonia’s official apology, it is only the first step in revealing the whole truth about el-Masri’s illegal kidnapping and torture,” Dakwar said in a statement emailed to Al Jazeera.
“It’s also a stark reminder of America’s utter failure to hold its own officials accountable for serious violations of US and international law, which is important for preventing anything like it from happening again.
“El-Masri deserves justice and nothing less than full and transparent investigation into those responsible for overseeing and implementing the CIA torture and rendition programme. He also deserves an official apology and compensation to help him and his family to rebuild their lives.”