On Thursday Macedonia became the first European country to be found guilty for collaborating with the U.S. in the so-called secret CIA flights and for hosting secret CIA torture sites. The Strasbourg Court said the country was guilty for aiding the CIA to torture a German citizen of Lebanese descent who was mistaken as a terrorist.
The European Court of Human Rights has established that Khaled el Masri was tortured after his arrest on December 31, 2003 and before being delivered 23 days later to the CIA, which sent him to a prison camp in Afghanistan where he remained for 6 months.
Macedonia broke up four articles of the European Convention of Human Rights, according to the Court, which places special emphasis on the third article, which prohibits torture and therefore condemns the country to pay the complainant € 60,000 in damages.
The country also violated the right to liberty and security, respect for private and family life and the right to an effective remedy, according to the judgment. Macedonia not only practiced torture with El Masri but gave him to the CIA knowing that he risked further torture, said the ruling.
“This sentence deserves to be described as historic: it is the first conviction in an international court of the practice of illegal transportation of detainees and the CIA’s secret detention,” said the president of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, Jean-Claude Mignon.
This pan-European body, which brings together 47 States of the Old Continent, whipped these shady practices that emerged after the attacks of September 11, 2001, in a report by Swiss senator Dick Marty in 2006, in which he detailed that 14 European countries collaborated in these illegal practices.
Amnesty International, meanwhile, saw the ruling as “a milestone in the fight against impunity” and a first step to convict other countries who also collaborated with the CIA.
The Human Rights Court validated the testimony of El Masri, born in 1963 and living in the German city of Ulm, who said he was mistaken for a terrorist when he arrived in Skopje on December 31, 2003 for sightseeing.
There he was arrested by the Macedonian authorities, who took him to a hotel room, There, he was held for 23 days without any legal help, interrogated in English — a language he did not speak properly — and isolated from all external contact. This, he says put him in a permanent a state of distress.
But his ordeal had just begun, because 23 days later he was handcuffed, hooded and taken to the airport, where he waited a group of CIA agents who subjected him to harsh torture while in custody of Macedonian authorities. “The Macedonian government’s responsibility is accepted in regard to acts committed on its territory by agents of a foreign state,” said the statement issued by the Court.
El-Masri was beaten, stripped and sodomized with an object, reads the statement. These forms of torture “were used with premeditation in order to provoke El-Masri severe pain and suffering to obtain information from him. The Court considers that torture,” say the judges.
While the Court issued this statement, in the United States, the Senate intelligence committee has officially concluded that CIA interrogations were ineffective. “The report is the most detailed independent examination to date of the agency’s efforts to “break” dozens of detainees through physical and psychological duress, a period of CIA history that has become a source of renewed controversy,” reports the Washington Post.
In the case of El-Masri, he was sedated and placed in an aircraft. After a stopover in Baghdad, the plane landed in Afghanistan, where El-Masri was detained in a detention center and kept in a small concrete cell. They suffered further torture and made two hunger strikes before May 28, 2004, five months after his arrest, when he was transferred to Germany.
Visibly affected by torture, and weighing 18 kilos less than before, El Masri filed a complaint that year and since then has struggled to make European and U.S. authorities recognize the mistake made by the CIA.
One of the most important elements in the trial of Macedonia as an accomplice of the CIA was the testimony of the country’s Interior Minister at the time of the facts, who confirmed the arrest of El-Masri and his surrender to the CIA.
In a similar case, the British government settled a case with Sami al Saadi, a Libyan dissident by paying him 2.2 million pounds (2.7 million euros) after he was secretly handed over to the regime of Muammar Gaddafi in 2004. The Libyan was captured with the help of the British intelligence service MI6. Saadi claimed he was tricked by MI6 and the CIA, taken to Libya and tortured while he was there.
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Contributed by Luis Miranda of The Real Agenda.
Luis R. Miranda is the Founder and Editor of The Real Agenda. His 16 years of experience in Journalism include television, radio, print and Internet news. Luis obtained his Journalism degree from Universidad Latina de Costa Rica, where he graduated in Mass Media Communication in 1998. He also holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Broadcasting from Montclair State University in New Jersey. Among his most distinguished interviews are: Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres and James Hansen from NASA Space Goddard Institute.