European Court Will Review Macedonia's Role In Extraordinary Rendition

October 14, 2010

U.S. Must Hold Government Officials Accountable For Bush-Era Torture, Says ACLU

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NEW YORK – The European Court of Human Rights announced it will review Macedonia's role in the CIA's extraordinary rendition and torture of innocent German citizen Khaled El-Masri. As part of a case brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative, the Macedonian government will be called on to answer questions about its involvement in the abuse of El-Masri, who was kidnapped from Macedonia and transported to a secret prison in Afghanistan where he was held for several months and tortured before being dumped on a hillside in Albania.

The American Civil Liberties Union brought a case in the U.S. on El-Masri's behalf in 2005, charging that former CIA director George Tenet violated U.S. and universal human rights laws when he authorized agents to abduct and abuse El-Masri. Lower courts dismissed the lawsuit on state secrecy grounds, and in 2007 the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the case. In 2008, the ACLU filed a petition on El-Masri's behalf against the United States with the Inter-American Commission, but the government has failed to respond. To date, no top U.S. officials have been held accountable for their role in the Bush administration torture program.

The following can be attributed to Steven Watt, a staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program:

"While we welcome this investigation by the European court, the announcement serves as a stark reminder of how little the U.S. has done to hold its own officials accountable. In litigation in U.S. courts, the Obama administration has repeatedly invoked the 'state secrets' privilege to shield Bush administration officials who knew about and authorized torture. And while there is an ongoing criminal investigation, the scope of the investigation is unclear. Thus far none of the architects of the torture program have been charged with any crime.

"Evidence of U.S. torture is widely known throughout the world. Yet, to date, no survivors of the United States' rendition and torture program have had their day in a U.S. court. The U.S. should follow Europe's lead, broaden the investigation here at home and stop shielding torturers from the law."

More information about the ACLU's work on behalf of El-Masri is available online at: www.aclu.org/national-security/el-masri-v-tenet

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