The Salt Pit

“You are in a country with no laws,” rendition victim Khaled El-Masri was told by his U.S. captors in the Kabul prison known as the Salt Pit. He was kidnapped and abused by the CIA, and held in inhuman conditions for some five months. He was never allowed to contact his family, a lawyer, or representatives of his country of citizenship (Germany). He was never charged with a crime or brought before a judge. When the CIA finally recognized it had an innocent man, he was dumped on a roadside in rural Albania, without explanation or apology. The U.S. has yet to acknowledge its role in his ordeal.

Such treatment should shock the conscience of any nation governed by the rule of law. But U.S. courts, all the way to the Supreme Court, have refused to give Khaled El-Masri a chance to tell his story and receive justice. His case was thrown out under the “state secrets” doctrine—essentially telling El-Masri and other rendition victims that whatever U.S. government agents do in the name of the “war on terror” may be entirely outside the reach of the law. Even if that means handing someone over to foreign torturers for proxy interrogation, which was the fate of Binyam Mohamed, the other rendition victim featured in this video. (Mohamed was recently released from the Guantanamo prison, also without redress or apology.)

By taking Khaled El-Masri’s case to the European Court of Human Rights, the Open Society Justice Initiative is seeking to ensure that his rights, and his humanity, are finally vindicated. It is time that the Obama Administration act to remedy the terrible injustice done to him. It should start by owning up to the truth.

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Thank you, OSI, for shining light on the truth about government condoned/approved/even ordered violations of human rights by whomever they are perpetrated. I trust that President Obama is a concerned and righteous leader who will be in this, as in many other matters, a force for justice and roll back the tide of evil proffered by former President "W" Bush. I personally regret that the American symbol is the war eagle - I think the Statue of Liberty far better embraces what Americans really stand for. But you have focused on truth; and the truth will set us free.

The events in "Salt Pit" pales in comparison to what has been happening in the Philippine political scene since martial law was declared in 1972 by President Marcos. Human rights advocates find it difficult to pursue the rights of the accused where even the police, military and the media, victims of summary executions themselves, fell into the trap of putting the court right at the crime scene and in the realm of hype and publicity.

Any law enforcer, media personality or the responsible citizen with a gun faces the temptation to just settle the issue on the terms of who has the fastest firepower to avoid the mills of the gods that grinds very slowly while crime and criminals continue to run at an unabated pace. This is our dilemma: to stop crime, to promote law and order at the most expedient way possible while protecting the rights of the accused and the innocent in the same manner. It is a task any human rights advocates should be aware of. The path may be long and winding but in the end, let the light of justice, law and order prevail.

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