The El Masri case
December 2012 - The German citizen Khaled El Masri was abducted by CIA officials at the Serbian-Macedonian border on 31 December 2003. The officials had mistakenly identified El Masri as a member of Al Qaida and a possible participant in a Neu-Ulm-based terrorist cell. Khaled El Masri spent nearly five months in a secret CIA detention center in Afghanistan. During this time he was regularly interrogated, subjected to physical abuse, and humiliated. Eventually, the CIA brought him to Albania where he was released. He arrived back in Germany on 29 May 2004.
The case of El Masri is one of the best documented extraordinary renditions by the CIA. Several inquiry commissions took up this case and a number of lawsuits were filed before different national and regional courts. However, El Masri has not been granted any form of reparation or official apology for his kidnapping and mistreatment up to date by any of the involved states.
ECCHR filed a complaint in Germany to an administrative court seeking to enforce thirteen arrest warrants against former CIA officials, which were involved in El Masri’s abduction in Skopje and flight to Kabul. The German government, however, refused to officially ask the US for extradition of the indicted persons. The lawsuit was rejected on the merits by the Cologne administrative court. Arrest warrants for the CIA employees were previously issued by Munich District Court on 31 January 2007 due to strong suspicions of grievous bodily harm and deprivation of liberty. Another criminal investigation is still on-going in Spain.
ECCHR also supported a case brought against Macedonia before the European Court of Human Rights by the Open Society Justice Initiative. On 13 December 2012, the ECtHR ruled in favor of Khaled El Masri, finding that his treatment by CIA-agents amounted to torture and that Macedonia illegally detained him and failed in investigating and prosecuting the case. The Court found El Masri’s witness statements credible and convicted Macedonia to pay 60,000 Euros as reparation.
Other cases were brought in the US and Macedonia on reparations, the former dismissed on grounds of state secrecy, the latter still pending before Macedonian courts. A complaint was also filed to the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights and is still pending there.
Various parliamentary inquiry commissions also included the case of Khaled El Masri. The European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the German Parliament all investigated his case.
The case and judicial actions has also been an issue for the US diplomacy. Several cables from US embassy leaked by Wikileaks show the pressure the US exercised on various European states in avoiding judicial actions and lawsuits’ enforcement.
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