European court backs CIA rendition victim

European Court of Human Rights rules that German citizen was an innocent victim of extraordinary rendition by US agents.

    The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favour of a German citizen, after finding he was an innocent victim of extraordinary rendition by the CIA.

    Macedonia was ordered to pay Khaled el-Masri $78,000 on Thursday for arresting him and handing him over to the US in December 2003.

    El-Masri spent five months in secret CIA jails for suspected links to armed Islamist groups.

    The decision is a victory for El-Masri who has been trying in the US and Europe to get authorities to recognise him as a victim.

    El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese origin, was arrested, held in isolation, questioned and ill-treated in a hotel in the Macedonian capital Skopje for 23 days, the court's press service said.

    He was then transferred to CIA agents who brought him to a detention facility in Afghanistan, where he was further badly treated for over four months.

    The European court, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled that El-Masri's account was "established beyond reasonable doubt" and that Macedonia "had been responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the US authorities in the context of an extra-judicial rendition".

    Macedonian authorities said they would not comment until they are formally notified of the ruling. The Macedonian government has denied involvement in kidnapping.

    'Milestone'

    El-Masri claimed during the flight to Afghanistan, he was stripped, beaten and drugged.

    His ordeal ended when he was eventually dumped on a road in Albania after the US realised they had got the wrong man.

    Though the case focused on Macedonia, it drew broader attention because of how sensitive the CIA extraordinary renditions were for Europe.

    The operations involved abducting and interrogating "terrorist" suspects without court sanction in the years following the September 11, 2001, attacks on the US, under former President George W Bush.

    A 2007 Council of Europe investigation accused 14 European governments of permitting the CIA to run detention centres, or carry out rendition flights, between 2002 and 2005.

    Amnesty International said the verdict was historic because "for the first time it holds a European state accountable for its involvement in the secret US-led programmes and is a milestone in the fight against impunity".

    "Macedonia is not alone," it said, in a joint statement with the International Committee of Jurists.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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