The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Thursday ruled [judgment, PDF] that the government of Macedonia [official website] is responsible for the torture and degrading maltreatment of a man the ECHR found to be an innocent victim of CIA extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] in 2003. Lebanese German citizen Khaled el-Masri was arrested and mistreated for 23 days of interrogation in a hotel in the Macedonian capital Skopje, then transferred to CIA agents who took him to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months. After a hearing in May, the ECHR Grand Chamber of 17 judges unanimously held that el-Masri had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Macedonia was responsible for several violations of various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights [materials], including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3, the right to liberty and security under Article 5 and others. The ECHR ordered the government of Macedonia to pay el-Masri €60,000 in damages. El-Masri has been involved in several violent incidents in Germany in the last few years, receiving a suspended sentence for arson in 2007 and a two-year prison sentence for assaulting a town mayor in 2010, for which he is still serving time.
Although the el-Masri case focused on Macedonia, the issue of CIA extraordinary rendition has been a sensitive one across Europe. In September the Italian Court of Cassation [official website, in Italian] upheld the convictions [JURIST report] of 23 former CIA officers for the 2003 kidnapping and rendition of Egyptian terror suspect Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr. In April UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism Ben Emmerson [official profile] expressed regret over a US court decision denying Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) [National Security Archive] requests by a member of the UK parliament and the UK All-Party Parliamentary Group on Extraordinary Rendition [official website], made as part of an investigation into extrajudicial capture by the US [JURIST report] of foreign terrorism suspects for detention and interrogation. In March in a hearing before the European Parliament (EP) [official website], Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] asked EU member states to reconsider their involvement in the extraordinary rendition program [JURIST report], intending to create the foundation of an EP report that will divulge details of a five-year investigation into each nation's involvement in supporting CIA renditions.