The European Court of Human Rights condemned Macedonia on Thursday for violating the rights of a German citizen by handing him to US secret services, in the first such ruling against a country involved in a CIA “rendition” program.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Macedonia’s government had violated provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights including “facilitating torture” for having arrested Khaled el-Masri in 2003 and sent him to a secret US detention facility.
El-Masri, of Lebanese origin, said he had been beaten and sodomized with an object after being detained.
The Macedonian government was ordered to pay him 60,000 euros (US$78,000) in damages.
Rights groups called the ruling “historic.”
“It recognizes that the CIA rendition and secret detention system involved torture and enforced disappearances,” International Committee of Jurists Secretary-General Wilder Tayler said.
The CIA declined to comment.
The practice of “extraordinary rendition” is used to describe a practice in which the CIA would pick up and detain militants without any legal formalities and then deliver them to third countries where they were sometimes ill-treated by local authorities.
German courts have issued 13 arrest warrants for suspected CIA agents involved in similar rendition cases.
El-Masri was sent back to Germany, after being flown to Albania, in May, 2004, court documents show.
In its ruling, the European rights court said Macedonian police had arrested el-Masri before putting him on a plane under sedatives to be flown to Afghanistan, where he was jailed and treated harshly for nearly four months.
At the time the case became public, US and European officials said that the reason el-Masri had been picked up but then released was that he had been mistaken by the CIA for someone else with the same or a similar name.
Meanwhile, a former Libyan dissident and his family have accepted ￡2.2 million (US$3.5 million) from the British government to settle a claim that the UK approved their rendition to face imprisonment by Muammar Qaddafi’s regime, the family’s lawyers said on Thursday.
It is the latest in a series of costly payouts resulting from Britain’s involvement in the US-led “war on terror” in the years after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Sami al-Saadi had been suing the British government and spy agency MI6 over their alleged role in his 2004 abduction in Hong Kong and transfer to Libya, where he says he was detained and tortured for years.
His wife and four children, aged 12 and under, were also unwillingly sent to Libya.
British ministers have always denied any complicity in rendition or torture.
Britain’s Foreign Office confirmed the settlement, but not the amount — and did not admit responsibility.
“There has been no admission of liability and no finding by any court of liability,” it said.
In a statement issued by law firm Leigh Day and Co, al-Saadi said he was accepting the settlement because “my family has suffered enough.”
“They will now have the chance to complete their education in the new, free Libya,” he said. “I will be able to afford the medical care I need because of the injuries I suffered in prison.”
Although the British government had never admitted guilt, “I think the payment speaks for itself,” al-Saadi said.
Another Libyan, Islamist leader Abdel-Hakim Belhaj, is suing former British Foreign Secretary Jack Straw over his detention in Bangkok in 2004 and subsequent rendition.