20 Dec 2012

European Court Rules Against CIA Torture

By James O'Neill
The European Court of Human Rights has found unanimously for Khaled el-Masri, the German citizen kidnapped by the CIA. The ruling is the first to find that standard CIA techniques constitute torture, writes James O'Neill
The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has delivered an historic judgment on 13 December 2012 in the case of Lebanese born German citizen Khaled el-Masri.

El-Masri was on a holiday trip to Macedonia in December 2003 when he was seized by Macedonian authorities acting at the behest of the United States. He was held incommunicado in Skopje for 23 days during which time he was sodomised, beaten, tortured and threatened with being shot if he tried to leave.

He was then handed over to the CIA and "rendered" to the CIA's notorious "Salt Pit" prison outside of Kabul in Afghanistan. There he was furthered tortured.

The Americans eventually realised that they had abducted an innocent man. The then Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice ordered his release. This order was ignored for a further six weeks. At the end of May 2004, instead of being returned to Germany, el-Masri was flown — blindfolded, earmuffed and chained to his seat — to Albania. There he was dumped by the roadside in that country's lawless mountain regions.

Rather than being killed, as might have been expected, el-Masri managed to return to Germany where he made a complaint to the German police. Their criminal investigation established that el-Masri was telling the truth, in part from the residue of drugs found in his system. Before charges could be brought however, the German authorities aborted their investigation following pressure from the US government.

El-Masri's attempts at legal redress in the US were unsuccessful. The US government succeeded in having his lawsuit dismissed on "state secrets" grounds. This defence has been used on numerous occasions in the US to block proceedings brought by other litigants who have suffered rendition, detention without trial, torture and deprivation of their habeas corpus rights. The US government never responded to el-Masri's allegations in a substantive way. In 2007 the US Supreme Court upheld the dismissal of his claim without a trial or evidence being tested.

The ECHR unanimously found in el-Masri's favour, holding that the techniques applied to him by both the Macedonians and the Americans amounted to torture. This is the first time that a senior court of competent jurisdiction has publicly held that the standard techniques used by the CIA on its prisoners amounted to torture.

The court found that el-Masri's evidence was corroborated from a number of sources. These included the German criminal investigation (before it was aborted under political pressure), investigations by the European Parliament (2006) and the Council of Europe (2006 and 2007), as well as leaked US diplomatic cables. The latter source confirmed that the US government was actively complicit in attempts to block any criminal investigation of the el-Masri case.

The US government has yet to apologise to el-Masri even though it has publicly admitted that a mistake was made. Neither has el-Masri been offered compensation nor access to rehabilitation for the ongoing traumas he suffers from as a consequence of his experiences. Both steps are obligatory under the Convention Against Torture.

The court did order Macedonia to pay el-Masri €60,000 damages, but this is modest in relation to what was inflicted upon him, which the court unanimously found was in breach of the Macedonian Criminal Code, the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, and the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance.

With this important precedent now established there are likely to be further complaints and evidence of official wrongdoing. A Council of Europe investigation in 2007 found that at least 14 European countries, including Poland and the United Kingdom, were part of a "spider web" of rendition operations.

While the US is highly unlikely to ever hold its officials criminally accountable for this and other breaches of international law, this may not hold true for other European countries. Italy's highest court has recently upheld the convictions of Italian and American officials involved in a different rendition case.

The ECHR judgment makes clear that it expects proper investigations and prosecutions should now follow. The court rightly upheld the rights of an individual to be free from well-documented human rights abuses over the claims by a state for "states secrets privilege", "national security" or the "need for secrecy".

This rejection of a state's claims to impunity from scrutiny and accountability may well be the most important result of this landmark case.

Log in or register to post comments

Discuss this article

To control your subscriptions to discussions you participate in go to your Account Settings preferences and click the Subscriptions tab.

Enter your comments here

Posted Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 16:01

About time now all they got to do is back track and prosecute some of the Morrons who gave us WW2 and i'll be happy.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Tim Macknay
Posted Thursday, December 20, 2012 - 17:52

<blockquote><em>About time now all they got to do is back track and prosecute some of the Morrons </em>[sic]<em> who gave us WW2 and i’ll be happy.</em></blockquote>

Ever heard of the Nuremburg trials?

Posted Saturday, December 22, 2012 - 06:47

Tim Macknay
Ever heard of the Nuremburg trials?

It was a Kangaroo Court so that the Yanks could hide their own crime against humanity. It was used to ramp up the list of Crimes by Germans so that their own would look insegnificant.

In other words, its purpose was to white wash America's part in the war.

Read about Samuel Untermeyer a Yank Lawyer and what he had to do with it and "The Students Guide to World History"

Just because you can't be bothered reading modern version of history and choose to hide the fact that we have gone to war 15 in 143 years for economic gain, to rape pillage and plunder, behind some silly Hero Parade does not make the Nuremburg trials a shinning example of Justice. The Justice System is not and was never Uncoroptuble any where in the world.

We here in Australia are the worst killers on the planet, nobody beats our record other then Mother England a Nation Controlled by European Rat Bags, Blue Bloods, Aristocrats, Industrialists. So if you want carry on being a brain dead Lacky, go for it, just don't expect me to treat you like a Hero. Epecialy when we took to Marching with Terrorists and no apparently fight a war against the same mentality, shooting real Soldiers who have to wear Uniforms and stand out in the back.

Take of your Blinkers you Milking Cow.

Posted Saturday, December 29, 2012 - 12:17

OK, so Jackal 01 got a bit of spelling wrong. He was not wrong about the mental state of the persons involved.
But it would really be nice if there was some Judicial come-back against ALL THOSE who have led us (and I generally mean the Western World following blindly behind the USA, often at the behest of israel) into war after war. You know, Kissinger, GWBush, Rice, all the Bush neo-cons, Blair, Howard etc. etc. etc. The list is almost endless.
I had better not forget Gillard in here, because I can see her leading us (with cheers from Abbott) into War against China in the quite near future, if her loving, cuddly mate Barack Obama (made me squirm to see how they could not keep hands off each other) calls for same. He does seem determined to attempt to retain American Hegemony, even after the USA has been relegated to the has-beens financially. Come with being an American, I suppose. Brainless, Mindless.
And as for the Nuremberg Trials, they were against Germans ONLY. They did not address the MORONS in Britain, France and the USA who played stupid mind and financial games for so many years and led us into the Wars with Germany.
However, one now wonders just who were the victors out of Germany, Britain, France and the USA. Every one of those countries, OTHER than Germany, are now practically bankrupt, and their societies totally destroyed by Economic Fundamentalism, Crony Capitalism, Open Slather Banking Deregulation, and the World Bank, the IMF and WTO. and the other American Institutions which control the world for the Massive Corporates, who are really in control of all world activities, since buying up all the Politicians. And hey, THEY really DID come cheap.

Posted Saturday, January 12, 2013 - 23:03

The greatest democracy on earth is not a democracy at all. Finally, emperor has no clothes.

This user is a New Matilda supporter. Tim Macknay
Posted Wednesday, January 16, 2013 - 19:53

You seem to be getting a bit excited there, jackal01. Calm down, old son.

Undergrad trot talking points aside, I'm well aware of the drawbacks of the Nuremberg trials, thanks. By 'America', I assume you mean 'The Allies', of course, since the Tribunal was constituted by judges from France, the UK, the USA and the Soviet Union. But of course I don't need to tell you that, with your obvious expertise on history, and your clear grasp of subtlety and detail. ;)

Here's a tip: when someone mentions the Nuremberg trials, particularly in response to someone else saying they want prosecution for those who "gave us" WWII, it doesn't actually follow (logically, semantically, or in any other way) that they must be <em>"choos[ing] to hide the fact that we have gone to war 15 </em>[sic: times]<em> in 143 years for economic gain, to rape pillage [etc]"</em>. In fact, they're probably not hiding anything at all.

I'm not entirely sure what you're getting at by the Samuel Untermyer reference - he's usually mentioned in connection with WWII as part of white supremacist, antisemitic conspiracy theories. You're not saying you think it was actually <em>teh jooz</em> who really started WWII, are you? Surely not. No, you must have simply typed before thinking. Or typed without thinking. Oh well, we all make mistakes. No harm done, eh? ;)

Posted Thursday, January 17, 2013 - 21:47

Tim Macknay
Your obviously new here.

My point is and was, "all humans are alike".

The Americans are like the rest of us as individuals, but as a Nation, drop kicks.

Do you know the part the Catholic Pope Played in the period of human debauchery, back then, its just humans doing what humans have done for 12000 years or atleast since Kane killed his brother Able.

I'll forgive you your smart mouthed comments, your obviously a recent blow in.

Your Tripe:
"You’re not saying you think it was actually teh jooz who really started WWII, are you?"

Dazza is so much better at English then me, its an advantage. do i give a S&^%^%$##t about what anybody thinks about my spelling, NO.

Wikileaks has proven we know nothing other then the fact that somebody somewhere lied about something. Known, knowns and unknown knowns or unknown unknowns.

Posted Monday, May 27, 2013 - 12:05

Torture is unacceptable, and it should not be tolerated. Justice should be served equally. - YOR Health