International Tribunal Takes up Rendition, Torture Case

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.

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1 Response to “International Tribunal Takes up Rendition, Torture Case”


  1. 1 Jean Athey September 12, 2009 at 2:50 am

    What the US did to Khaled el-Masri is shameful and outrageous. He was disappeared–something we used to find horrible when others did it–and his life destroyed by the torture he endured at our hands. When he tried to sue in civil court in the US, his case was not allowed to go forward because of the State Secrets Act, again something we used to think was only found in authoritarian dictatorships. And what secrets was the US trying to protect? That the US regularly disappears people off the streets of Europe? That the US tortures? It’s scandalous that the US will not initiate a Truth Commission to investigate all the abuses related to torture.


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