In December 2003, Khaled El-Masri was detained in by local authorities in Macedonia on suspicion of being an Al Queda sympathizer. He was held for 23 days and then turned over to the CIA.
Operatives of the CIA beat El-Masri, stripped and drugged him, then loaded him onto a plane bound for Afghanistan. After several interrogation sessions, the CIA realized they had captured the wrong person. In May 2004, the CIA blindfolded El-Masri, put him on a plane and abandoned him on a hillside in Albania. He was never charged with a crime.
In April, The American Civil Liberties Union filed a petition with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights on behalf of Khaled El-Masri. Now, just weeks after the Department of Justice released documents detailing the CIA’s rendition program, the Commission has decided to take up the case.
Steven Watt, senior staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program, commented that:
The United States has an opportunity to reverse one of the most shameful legacies of the Bush administration and finally give an innocent victim of the extraordinary rendition program his day in court. The State Department should fully engage in this process and comprehensively address the gross violation of El-Masri’s human rights, including his forcible disappearance and torture. To date, the United States hasn’t so much as acknowledged its involvement in El-Masri’s extraordinary rendition.
A report from the Council of Europe has alreadsy substantially confirmed all of El-Masri’s claims. The German government, after a three year investigation, has filed indictments against 13 CIA agents.
The case represents and important challenge to the culture of impunity that has dominated US intelligence efforts. A judgement in the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights would be a significant victory against impunity and for the rule of law.