For Immediate Release
International Tribunal Takes Up Case of Innocent Victim of CIA Extraordinary Rendition Program
Petition Filed by ACLU Seeking Justice for Kidnapping and Torture of Khaled El-Masri Moves Forward
NEW YORK - The
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has accepted a
petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of
Khaled El-Masri, an innocent victim of the CIA's extraordinary
rendition program. The U.S. government has two months to respond to
allegations of kidnapping and torture summarily rejected by U.S. courts
"The United States has an
opportunity to reverse one of the most shameful legacies of the Bush
administration and finally give an innocent victim of the extraordinary
rendition program his day in court," said Steven Watt, senior staff
attorney with the ACLU Human Rights Program. "The State Department
should fully engage in this process and comprehensively address the
gross violation of El-Masri's human rights, including his forcible
disappearance and torture. To date, the United States hasn't so much as
acknowledged its involvement in El-Masri's extraordinary rendition."
In 2003, El-Masri, a German citizen,
was kidnapped and flown to a CIA-run "black site" in Afghanistan, where
he was secretly detained and tortured for months. Although his
innocence was clear soon after his detention, the CIA continued to hold
El-Masri for four months before flying him to Albania and abandoning
him on a hillside in the dead of night. El-Masri has never been charged
with a crime.
In 2005, the ACLU sued former CIA
Director George Tenet and three U.S.-based aviation corporations that
owned or operated the aircraft used by the CIA to render El-Masri to
Afghanistan. The lawsuit charged Tenet and others with violating the
U.S. Constitution and universal human rights laws. In March 2007, a
federal appeals court dismissed the lawsuit because of the government's
assertion of the "state secrets" privilege. The U.S. Supreme Court let
that decision stand when it refused to hear the case in October 2007.
"The United States, which has
historically been a leader in ensuring access to justice for human
rights violations around the world, has effectively closed the
courtroom door to all victims of the Bush administration's torture
regime," said Ben Wizner, staff attorney with the ACLU National
Security Project. "To date, not a single victim of torture by the U.S.
has had his day in court. A review of Mr. El-Masri's case by the IACHR
will shed much-needed light on the abuses perpetrated against him and
will finally offer a victim of the U.S. torture and rendition program a
venue in which his claims can be meaningfully addressed."
The Obama administration recently
announced that it will continue to render individuals it suspects of
involvement in terrorism to detention in other countries, but that it
will monitor all cases to ensure that suspects are not mistreated.
"Any transfer of detainees in U.S.
custody to other countries must fully comply with domestic and
international human rights law," said Jennifer Turner, researcher with
the ACLU Human Rights Program. "Examining the Bush administration
rendition program and holding accountable those who broke the law will
help to ensure that the same mistakes aren't repeated by the Obama
The IACHR is an autonomous body
created by mandate of the Organization of American States to promote
and protect human rights in the Americas. The ACLU petition asks that
the IACHR declare that the extraordinary rendition program violates the
American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; to find the U.S.
responsible for violating El-Masri's rights under that declaration; and
to recommend that the U.S. publicly acknowledge and apologize for its
role in violating El-Masri's rights through forcible disappearance,
arbitrary detention and torture.
Attorneys filing the petition on
El-Masri's behalf are Watt, Turner and Jamil Dakwar of the ACLU Human
Rights Program and Wizner and Melissa Goodman of the ACLU National
The ACLU's petition is available online at: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/
More information about Khaled
El-Masri and the ACLU's work to end the CIA's extraordinary rendition
program is available online here: www.aclu.org/safefree/torture/
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) conserves America's original civic values working in courts, legislatures and communities to defend and preserve the individual rights and liberties guaranteed to every person in the United States by the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.