NEW YORK – In a historic ruling, the European Court of Human Rights today condemned Macedonia’s illegal transfer of Khaled El-Masri into CIA custody and found that his abusive treatment at Macedonia’s airport by the U.S. rendition team “amounted to torture.” The court also found that his abduction and detention – including the time he was in U.S. custody – constituted “enforced disappearance” under international law.
“Today’s landmark decision is a stark reminder of America’s utter failure to hold its own officials accountable for serious violations of both U.S. and international law. Continued lack of accountability is turning the United States into an outlier among its European allies, which is an appalling outcome for a nation that prides itself as a global leader on the rule of law and human rights,” said Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s Human Rights Program. “Today’s ruling makes it harder for the United States to continue burying its head in the sand and ignoring domestic and global calls for full accountability for torture. This remarkable decision will no doubt put greater pressure on European nations to fully account for their complicity in cooperating with the illegal CIA ‘extraordinary rendition’ program, and to hold responsible those who violated the human rights of El-Masri and those like him.”
El-Masri is a German citizen who in 2003 was mistaken for another person and abducted by Macedonian authorities at a border crossing and held incommunicado for 23 days. He was then handed over to CIA operatives who put him on a secret flight to a “black site” in Afghanistan where he was secretly held, tortured and abused for about four months.
The ACLU currently represents El-Masri in a case against the U.S. now being considered by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, and also represented him in a lawsuit in U.S. federal court, which was dismissed. His case before the ECHR was brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative.
In a unanimous decision awarding El-Masri 60,000 Euros, the European court said that the court “underlines the great importance of the present case not only for the applicant and his family, but also for other victims of similar crimes and the general public, who had the right to know what had happened… The concept of ‘State secrets’ has often been invoked to obstruct the search for the truth. State secret privilege was also asserted by the US government in the applicant’s case before the US courts.”
The court’s ruling is available at:
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- CIA ‘tortured and sodomised’ terror suspect, European court rules (guardian.co.uk)
Thousands of veterans of Britain’s atomic and hydrogen bomb tests are to take the Ministry of Defence (MoD) to the European Court of Human Rights, accusing it of exposing them to radiation.
Over 1,000 victims of UK’s nuclear tests, which were carried out in the South Pacific in the 1950s, will ask Europe to intervene, as the British premier David Cameron ignores the terms of the Military Covenant and courts ban hearings into their cases.
Servicemen, who were ordered to witness nuclear bomb tests in the South Pacific, have since suffered cancers and rare medical conditions, with their children suffering from leukemia and birth defects.
Describing the news as “brilliant,” widow Shirley Denson, whose RAF ace husband was ordered to fly through mushroom clouds at Christmas Island in 1958, said, “This is one of our final chances to appeal for the right to present our case.”
“We have tried for 30 years to be heard, and every time the MoD has denied there is anything wrong with us. Now we have vital scientific evidence, and they say we have left it too late,” she added.
Earlier on May, Britain’s former Prime Minister Gordon Brown also criticized the MoD for trying to evade its responsibility for cleaning up the radioactive waste contamination from old military bases and factories.
According to a survey conducted by the Department of Energy and Climate Change (Decc), the number of contaminated sites across England and Wales was far higher than previously estimated.
A German citizen, who says was abducted in Macedonia by the CIA and taken to a prison in Afghanistan and tortured, has demanded justice from Europe’s human rights court.
Khaled El-Masri of Lebanese descent says he was brutally tortured and interrogated at a secret CIA-run prison in Afghanistan for more than four months after being kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, the Associated Press reported.
On Wednesday, Masri took his case to the European Court of Human Rights.
“Mr. El-Masri has spent the last eight years seeking legal redress for the crimes that were committed against him,” said James Goldston, who is the executive director of the Open Justice Initiative, a rights group that campaigns against the US extraordinary rendition practice.
Extraordinary rendition is a practice enabling the US apprehension and extrajudicial transfer of a person from one state to another.
He noted, “There is abundant evidence, including data on CIA flights to and from [Macedonia's capital] Skopje.”
Masri was eventually released after the CIA realized it had mistaken him for another suspect.
He is also suing the Macedonian government for its role in the kidnapping, an accusation that the authorities in Skopje deny.
The court will consider whether Macedonian agents actually kidnapped Masri, and, if they did, whether they knew what would happen to him after they handed him over to US authorities.
The family of Babar Ahmad, a British citizen who has been held without charge or trial for eight years, have said they will appeal the ruling on his extradition to the US over terrorism charges.
The family members of Ahmad promised to fight his extradition, after the European Court of Human Rights has ruled that he and four others can be transferred to the US.
The family of the 36-year-old computer expert said in a statement that they were “very disappointed” by the court’s ruling and asked the British authorities to try Ahmad in the UK.
“Babar is a British citizen accused of a crime said to have been committed in the UK and all the evidence against him was gathered in this country,” the statement read.
“Nevertheless, British justice appears to have been subcontracted to the US. This should be immediately rectified by putting Babar on trial in the UK and ordering a full public inquiry into the matter.”
The US officials have accused Ahmad of fundraising for terrorists. He has been held pending extradition since 2004, reportedly the longest time a British national has been detained without trial in modern times.
He was first arrested at his home in 2003 by London’s Metropolitan Police. He said he was the victim of a sustained and brutal assault by officers who intended to humiliate him and make him fear for his life.
Amna Ahmad, Babar’s sister, voiced her concerns over what would happen to his brother’s mental health if he was extradited to the US.
“I’m worried that if he’s sent across to the United States firstly they’ll hold him in solitary confinement pre-trial like they did to Chris Tappin, they’ll probably be worse on Babar than they are to Chris Tappin,” she said.