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CIA rendition case: European court holds Macedonia partly responsible

The decision is important because it suggests that US allies that helped the CIA undertake its secret detention and interrogation program may face liability for their role supporting such operations.

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In this 2006 file photo, German Khalid el-Masri attends a meeting of the European Parliament committee investigating claims of US secret prisons and flights in Europe at the European Parliament, in Strasbourg, eastern France. The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday, Dec. 13, in favor of el-Masri who says the CIA illegally kidnapped him and took him to a secret prison in Afghanistan in 2003.

Christian Hartmann/AP

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The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the government of Macedonia was partly responsible for the illegal detention and torture of a German national who was turned over to the CIA’s counterterrorism rendition program and sent to an Afghan prison for interrogation.

The court declared that Macedonia was responsible for alleged abuses suffered in that country by Khaled el-Masri, a German citizen, who was apparently mistaken for a terror suspect with a similar name.

The 17-member court unanimously found that Macedonia violated five articles of the Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms – including prohibitions against the use of torture and enforced disappearance.

The court ordered the government to pay Mr. Masri 60,000 euros in compensation.

The decision is important because it suggests that US allies that helped the Central Intelligence Agency undertake its secret detention and interrogation program may face liability for their role supporting such operations.

Macedonia denied any involvement in the Masri rendition. The court rejected the government’s claims, in part citing an affidavit by the Macedonia Interior minister at the time of the detention.  

Masri’s ordeal began Dec. 31, 2003, when he was detained after arriving on a bus at the Serbia-Macedonia border. Border officials verified his German passport, but the CIA asked that he be detained.

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