Germany must enforce criminal prosecution of CIA agents and demand an apology and compensation for CIA victim El Masri

USA – Torture – El Masri

The German citizen Khaled El Masri was abducted by CIA officials at the Serbian-Macedonian border on 31 December 2003. The officials had mistakenly identified El Masri as a member of Al Qaida and a possible participant in a Neu-Ulm-based terrorist cell. Khaled El Masri spent nearly five months in a secret CIA detention center in Afghanistan. During this time he was regularly interrogated, subjected to physical abuse, and humiliated. Eventually, the CIA brought him to Albania where he was released on a roadside. He arrived back in Germany on 29 May 2004.


The case of El Masri is one of the best documented extraordinary renditions by the CIA. Several inquiry commissions took up this case and a number of lawsuits were filed before different national and regional courts. ECCHR filed a complaint in Germany to an administrative court seeking to enforce thirteen arrest warrants against former CIA officials, which were involved in El Masri’s abduction in Skopje and flight to Kabul. The German government, however, refused to officially ask the US for extradition of the indicted persons. The lawsuit was rejected on the merits by the Cologne administrative court.


In December 2014, ECCHR has sent a letter to the Minister of Justice, Heiko Maas (SPD), calling on the German government to request the extradition of thirteen former CIA employees wanted by arrest warrants as well as to enforce the rights of CIA victim and German citizen Khaled El Masri to a formal apology and reparation by the US. ECCHR claims in its letter that the German government must request a formal apology and compensation to El Masri by the USA, if the German Federal Office of Justice still refuses to ask the US for extradition.

The senate’s report on CIA torture shows that the rendition of El Masri was by no means an exception but part of a systematic rendition and torture program. Germany must stand up for the law as an effective answer to significant forms of violence and torture. Various parliamentary inquiry commissions also included the case of  El Masri. The European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the German parliament all investigated his case. The case and judicial actions has also been an issue for the US diplomacy. Several cables from US embassy leaked by Wikileaks show the pressure the US exercised on various European states in avoiding judicial actions and lawsuits’ enforcement.


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The law is clear: torture is prohibited under any circumstances. Whoever commits, orders or approves acts of torture should be prosecuted. This is set out in the UN Convention against Torture which has been ratified by 146 states.

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