SKOPJE, Macedonia—New information pointing to Macedonia's role in the wrongful kidnapping of a United States rendition victim provides added weight to legal challenges against the government, said the Open Society Justice Initiative today.
On Saturday Khaled El Masri, a German citizen, filed a damages lawsuit against the government of Macedonia for its role in his unlawful abduction and detention five years ago. This is the second legal challenge filed by El Masri in Macedonia. A local prosecutor has not yet acted on a criminal investigation request filed in October 2008. The statute of limitations in that case is set to expire in the coming months.
"This lawsuit is possibly the last opportunity for Khaled El Masri to receive justice," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "Macedonia has a chance to step up and show that it will not tolerate complicity in human rights violations by its security services."
Macedonian security forces in December 2003 seized El Masri at a border crossing with Serbia, and held him incommunicado for 23 days. El Masri was handed over to the CIA and flown to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and tortured. After several months, El Masri was finally released and dumped on a roadside in Albania. He was never charged with a crime.
Despite overwhelming evidence, Macedonia has denied that El Masri was held illegally on its territory. Filip Medarski, El Masri's lawyer in Macedonia, and the Justice Initiative recently uncovered, through freedom of information requests, a flight log that strongly suggests the involvement of Macedonian authorities in El Masri's rendition from Macedonia to Kabul. The log is the first document obtained from official Macedonian sources to confirm specific information about the CIA "ghost plane" involved in this case.
"The Macedonian government must publicly acknowledge the role it played in Mr. El Masri's terrible ordeal," said Goldston. "It is time for truth and accountability."
In addition to Macedonia, lawsuits on behalf of El Masri have been filed in the United States, Germany, and Albania. In 2007, the U.S. Supreme Court rejected El Masri's legal challenge without reaching the merits of his claim. That same year the German government stalled its own criminal investigation, declining to request the extradition of CIA agents from the United States who were suspected of rendering El Masri to Afghanistan. Efforts in Albania to uncover information on how El Masri was brought there are ongoing. In response to information requests filed by Justice Initiative partners, the Albanian Ministry of Interior has confirmed El Masri's departure from Albania in May 2004.