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Friday, December 14, 2012

NYTimes: C.I.A and FYRMacedonia tortured and sodomised the wrong man

BERLIN — A German man who was mistaken for a terrorist and abducted nine years ago won a measure of redress on Thursday when the European Court of Human Rights ruled that his rights had been violated and confirmed his account that he had been seized by FYRMacedonia, handed over to the C.I.A., brutalized and detained for months in Afghanistan.

In a unanimous ruling, the 17-judge panel, based in Strasbourg, France, found that FYRMacedonia had violated the European Convention on Human Rights’ prohibition on torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, and ordered it to pay the man about $78,000 in damages. It was the first time a court had ruled in favor of the man, Khaled el-Masri, 49, in a case that focused attention on the C.I.A.’s clandestine rendition program, in which terrorism suspects were transported to third countries for interrogation.
The decision, which Amnesty International hailed as “a historic moment and a milestone in the fight against impunity,” is final and cannot be appealed. The C.I.A. declined to comment. A lawsuit against the United States filed on Mr. Masri’s behalf by the American Civil Liberties Union was dismissed in 2006 on the grounds that it would expose state secrets. The group filed a petition in 2008 at the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights in 2008; the United States government has yet to respond.
Mr. Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, was pulled off a bus at the Macedonian border on New Year’s Eve in 2003 after guards confused him with an operative of Al Qaeda who had a similar name. He was taken to a hotel in the capital, Skopje, and locked in a room there for 23 days. His detention, along with the threat that he would be shot if he left the hotel room, “amounted on various counts to inhuman and degrading treatment,” the ruling said.
When he was handed over to the C.I.A. rendition team at the Skopje airport, he was “severely beaten, sodomized, shackled and hooded” in the presence of Macedonian officials, the ruling said, a treatment that “amounted to torture.” He was then flown to Afghanistan, where he spent more than four months in captivity before being flown to Albania and dropped on the side of a road.
His German lawyer, Manfred Gnjidic, said his mental state had suffered not only from the abuse but also from the “nine years of constantly fighting, being called a liar, a terrorist, an Islamist, a hard-liner.” Mr. Masri has broken off contact with his lawyers while serving a prison sentence on unrelated charges involving a 2009 assault on the mayor of Neu-Ulm in Bavaria.
Mr. Gnjidic said he had written to Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany asking the government to appeal to Washington on Mr. Masri’s behalf. “Macedonia was only the henchman of the great powers,” Mr. Gnjidic said. “The question is: What is with the big fish, with Germany, with the U.S.A.? All he ever wanted was to know why this was done to him and an apology.”
Jamil Dakwar, the head of the A.C.L.U.’s human rights program, said that it had been “an uphill battle” to persuade the Obama administration to hold officials accountable under international law for Mr. Masri’s mistreatment, but that the case before the commission “gives the Obama administration the opportunity to acknowledge the egregious violations against Khaled, offer an official apology and reparation.” He called the European court’s ruling “historic” and said it “sends the message to European nations that they have a heightened obligation to investigate their complicity and cooperation with the illegal C.I.A.extraordinary rendition program.”
Kostadin Bogdanov, a lawyer who represents Macedonia before the court, said Macedonia would pay the damages and perhaps take other actions in light of the ruling. They include reopening the Masri investigation and amending laws regarding criminal procedures or their implementation, he said. James A. Goldston, executive director at the Open Society Justice Initiative, who argued the case before the court, called the ruling “a comprehensive condemnation of the worst aspects of the post-9/11 war-on-terror tactics that were employed by the C.I.A. and governments who cooperated with them.”
In another rendition case on Thursday, lawyers for a former Libyan dissident said he and his family had accepted a $3.5 million settlement from the British government, according to The Associated Press. The dissident, Sami al-Saadi, had sued the British government and its spy agency, MI6, saying that he had been abducted in Hong Kong in 2004 and sent to Libya, where he spent years in prison and was tortured. The rest of his family — his wife and four children — were also sent to Libya against their will.



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