Strasbourg, France–The European Court of Human Rights has ruled in favor of a German citizen against Macedonia, saying the European nation owes the man $78,000 for handing him over to the CIA. The court labeled the man “an innocent victim of extraordinary rendition by the CIA.”
The man, Khaled el-Masri, was arrested by Macedonian agents and handed over to the CIA in December of 2003 after spending twenty-three days in Macedonian custody. The CIA then held el-Masri in a secret CIA jail in Afghanistan.
US and and Macedonian intelligence services believed el-Masri was linked to armed Islamic groups, but the CIA later released him in Albania without any charges.
The European Human Rights Court’s press service stated that el-Masri’s account of events was “established beyond any reasonable doubt.” They further ruled that Macedonia was “responsible for his torture” while in Macedonia and in CIA custody.
The court identified Macedonia’s handing el-Masri over to the CIA as participation in “extra-judicial rendition,” due to his arrest and interrogation without court sanction.
The US practice of extraordinary rendition began to receive overt US government approval in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 terror attacks that left nearly 3,000 Americans dead. Concerns over a lack of cooperation from foreign governments in stopping and arresting terrorists intent on murdering US civilians led to the government’s endorsement of the acts.
Many in the US and Europe remain sharply divided over the practice, with proponents rightly claiming such urgent and swift action can save innocent lives, while critics rightly claim a lack of checks and balances through a judiciary or process can result in arresting the wrong people and innocent suspects being wrongly detained for long periods.