Italian "Extraordinary Rendition" Victim Still Held In Morocco Based On Tortured Confession

June 25, 2009

Rights Groups Ask U.N. Special Rapporteurs To Investigate And Take Action

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
CONTACT: (212) 549-2666; media@aclu.org

NEW YORK – Human rights groups today asked two U.N. Special Rapporteurs to investigate the case of Abou Elkassim Britel, an Italian citizen and victim of the CIA's unlawful "extraordinary rendition" program who is currently held in a Moroccan prison based on a confession coerced from him through torture. The American Civil Liberties Union and Alkarama for Human Rights requested that the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture and the U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights while Countering Terrorism investigate the circumstances of Britel's forced disappearance, rendition, detention and torture, and raise his case with the governments of the United States, Morocco, Pakistan and Italy.

"Victims of the 'extraordinary rendition' program detained at Guantánamo and other prisons around the world are being ignored by the U.S. government, whose unlawful program landed them there in the first place," said Steven Watt, staff attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The U.S. has failed to take responsibility for its most egregious actions, leaving Mr. Britel and countless other victims of the 'extraordinary rendition' program with no choice but to turn to the international community for justice."

Britel, also a plaintiff in the ACLU's lawsuit against Boeing subsidiary Jeppesen DataPlan for its role in the rendition program, is one of the few victims of the program whose identity is known, and who is still detained outside of Guantánamo Bay.

Britel was initially apprehended and detained in Pakistan by Pakistani authorities on alleged immigration violations in February 2002. After a period of detention and interrogation there, he was handed over to U.S. officials.

In May 2002, U.S. officials stripped and beat Britel before dressing him in a diaper and overalls, shackling and blindfolding him and flying him to Morocco for detention and interrogation. Once in Morocco, U.S. officials handed him over to Moroccan intelligence officials who detained him incommunicado at the Temara detention center, where he was interrogated, beaten, deprived of sleep and food and threatened with sexual torture.

"Given Mr. Britel's own account of his treatment and the long documented history of torture and abuse in detention facilities run by the Moroccan government, we have a firm foundation for believing that Mr. Britel has been, and is currently being, subjected to torture," said Rachid Mesli, Director of Alkarama's Legal Department. "Mr. Britel and all other victims of "extraordinary rendition" deserve their day in court and fair trials not tainted by evidence obtained through torture. We hope the Special Rapporteurs will immediately act on our request to bring swift and much-needed attention to Mr. Britel's case, before the conditions under which he is held do further damage to his physical and psychological health."

According to the request, after being released from custody by Moroccan authorities in February 2003, Britel was again arrested and detained in May 2003 as he attempted to leave Morocco for his home in Italy. While detained incommunicado in the same detention facility where he had been brutally tortured only months earlier, Britel falsely confessed under torture to his involvement in terrorism. Britel was later tried and convicted by a Moroccan court on terrorism-related charges and is currently serving a nine-year sentence in a Moroccan prison. 

In 2006, an Italian investigating judge dismissed a six-year long investigation into Britel's alleged involvement in terrorism after the judge found a complete lack of evidence linking him with any terrorist-related or criminal activity.

Today's filings with the Special Rapporteurs are available online:

  • Letter to Manfred Nowak www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/nationalsecurity/40026res20090625.html;
  • Letter to Martin Scheinin www.aclu.org/intlhumanrights/nationalsecurity/40027res20090625.html

    More information about the ACLU's lawsuit against Jeppesen DataPlan is online at: www.aclu.org/jeppesen

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