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Khaled El-Masri: Macedonian government responsible for torture, ill-treatment and secret rendition

Judges have ruled that the Macedonian government breached the human rights of Khaled El-Masri, a CIA victim of secret rendition in Skopje.

As just satisfaction, the Court held that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” was to pay Khaled El-Masri 60,000 euros (EUR) in respect of non-pecuniary damage.

Timeline: Council of Europe’s investigation into secret detentions
Information: Dick Marty’s first report – June 2006 & second report – June 2007

In today’s Grand Chamber judgment in the case of El-Masri v. “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” (application no. 39630/09), which is final, the European Court of Human Rights held, unanimously, that there had been:

a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights on account of the inhuman and degrading treatment to which El-Masri was subjected while being held in a hotel in Skopje, on account of his treatment at Skopje Airport, which amounted to torture, and on account of his transfer into the custody of the United States authorities, thus exposing him to the risk of further treatment contrary to Article 3;

a violation of Article 3 on account of the failure of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” to carry out an effective investigation into El-Masri’s allegations of ill-treatment;

violations of Article 5 (right to liberty and security) on account of his detention in the hotel in Skopje for 23 days and of his subsequent captivity in Afghanistan, as well as on account of the failure to carry out an effective investigation into his allegations of arbitrary detention;

a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life);

and,

a violation of Article 13 (right to an effective remedy).

The case concerned the complaints of a German national of Lebanese origin that he had been a victim of a secret “rendition” operation during which he was arrested, held in isolation, questioned and ill-treated in a Skopje hotel for 23 days, then transferred to CIA agents who brought him to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan, where he was further ill-treated for over four months.

The Court found El-Masri’s account to be established beyond reasonable doubt and held that “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” had been responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the US authorities in the context of an extra-judicial “rendition.”

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Parliamentary Assembly President Jean-Claude Mignon, has welcomed today’s judgment, describing it as “historic.”

He added: “It is the first condemnation, by an international court, of the CIA practice of renditions and secret detentions, which the Court has likened to enforced disappearance and cruel and inhuman treatment.

“The Court made it very clear that such practices are serious violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. On behalf of the Assembly, I can only welcome this judgment, which also vindicates the findings of the Assembly’s reports on this subject-matter prepared by our esteemed former colleague Dick Marty from Switzerland.”

In 2006 and 2007, the assembly adopted two high-profile investigative reports on illegal transfers of detainees and secret detentions in Council of Europe member states, which highlighted the case of Khaled el-Masri as a particularly well-documented example of illicit practices by the CIA. These reports gave rise to parliamentary and judicial investigations in several member states of the Council of Europe.

The Essential

Timeline: Council of Europe’s investigation into secret detentions
Information: Dick Marty’s first report – June 2006 & second report – June 2007

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