A German victim of CIA rendition and torture has won a landmark victory in European court. Khalid El-Masri was seized in Macedonia in 2003 as part of the CIA’s secret extraordinary rendition program. He was beaten, sodomized and held in a secret prison in Afghanistan for months before being abandoned by the CIA on a hillside in Albania. On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights condemned Macedonia’s transfer of Masri into CIA custody and ruled his treatment in U.S. custody “amounted to torture.” European court judge Nicolas Bratza unveiled the verdict.
Nicolas Bratza: “There has been a violation of Article 3 of the convention by the respondent state on account of the inhuman and degrading treatment to which the applicant was subjected while being held in the hotel in Skopje. Five holds that the respondent state is responsible for the ill treatment to which the applicant was subjected at Skopje airport and that this treatment must be classified as torture within the meaning of Article 3 of the convention. Six holds that the responsibility of the respondent state is engaged with regard to the applicant’s transfer into the custody of the United States authorities, despite the existence of a real risk that he would be subjected to further treatment contrary to the Article 3 of the convention.”
The ruling marked the first time a court of law has determined the CIA treatment of terror suspects constituted torture and the first time a European state has been held liable for being complicit. Masri attorney Darian Pavli welcomed the landmark decision.
Darian Pavli: “It has been nine years, and it has taken legal proceedings in three different countries, which provided no results for him. Today, this court has confirmed what we knew all along, that his story was true, that he was a victim of an offense of extraordinary rendition. And I think it’s a major victory for Europe and the cause of human rights in the world generally.”
A previous effort by El-Masri to sue Bush administration officials for his capture and torture was dismissed by the Supreme Court in 2007. He has since brought a case against the CIA before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. In a statement, the American Civil Liberties Union said: “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. [And] this remarkable decision will no doubt put greater pressure on European nations to fully account for their complicity.”