Germany court rejects El-Masri CIA rendition suit

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[JURIST] A German administrative court dismissed [press release, in German] a lawsuit filed by Khaled El-Masri [JURIST news archive] seeking the arrest and extradition of 13 Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] agents whom El-Masri claims kidnapped and illegally detained him in 2003 as part of the Bush administration’s extraordinary rendition [JURIST news archive] program, according to a ruling made public Friday. The Cologne Administrative Court [official website, in German] ruled Tuesday that the German Justice Ministry’s decision not to pursue prosecution against the CIA agents, despite a previously issued [JURIST reports] arrest warrant, was legal. On orders from the US, in 2003, Macedonian authorities seized [Guardian report] El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, while he was traveling in Macedonia, and held him incommunicado for 23 days. He was then handed over to the CIA and transported to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months in allegedly inhumane conditions, interrogated and abused. The German government decided against pursuing El-Masri’s claims in 2007 after officials in Washington, DC, stated they would reject any attempts at extradition due to national security issues. El-Masri is currently serving a two-year prison sentence for an unrelated crime he committed in 2009, and has one month to decide whether to file an appeal [AP report].

In October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it will review the involvement [press release] of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM) in the extraordinary rendition and torture of El-Masri by the CIA. The case against the FYROM is the first in which a government has been called before an international tribunal to explain its involvement in the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program. In May, a lawyer from the Spanish National Court Office of the Prosecutor petitioned [JURIST report] judge Ismael Moreno to issue arrest warrants for the 13 CIA agents who allegedly kidnapped El-Masri. The Office of the Prosecutor alleged that the court had jurisdiction to issue the warrants because the agents made a stop in Spanish territory using hidden identities without official Spanish government authorization to do so. In 2008, El-Masri petitioned [ACLU materials; JURIST report] the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) [official website] to open an investigation of human rights violations by the US, alleging that he was tortured by the CIA. In 2007, the US Supreme Court rejected [JURIST report] without comment El-Masri’s petition for certiorari, ostensibly supporting the Bush administration’s contention that allowing El-Masri’s federal lawsuit to proceed would require the revelation of state secrets.

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