The El-Masri Case

Robyn Blumner’s 2012 award for civil liberties:

Typically at year’s end I give out the “Freeby” award to the person or institution that did the most to advance civil liberties. This year I look beyond our borders to a courageous stand against the CIA’s mistreatment of prisoners. The European Court of Human Rights gets the “Freeby” for finally giving Khaled El-Masri a measure of justice.

Earlier this month the court handed El-Masri, a German national, a victory against Macedonia for its complicity in his torture within the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program nine years ago. America was not directly on trial, but our guilt was clear.

On Dec. 31, 2003, El-Masri was detained after his name was found similar to that of an al-Qaida suspect. Macedonian security officials held him incommunicado for 23 days at America’s request. After that he was turned over to the CIA at Skopje Airport, where, the court found, he was severely beaten, stripped and forcibly sodomized with a suppository and flown to Afghanistan. For months El-Masri was held in a cold, unheated cell at the “Salt Pit,” a secret CIA-run prison. Even after it became evident his detention was a mistake, El-Masri wasn’t immediately released. Finally at the end of May 2004, he was taken and dumped at a roadside in Albania, left to find his way home to Germany.

Since then, El-Masri’s efforts to get justice in U.S. courts failed. The “state secrets” defense defeated any consideration of his claim. Astoundingly the United States has never apologized for what happened to him or even publicly acknowledged it.

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