PARIS — A European court issued a landmark ruling Thursday that condemned the CIA's "extraordinary renditions" programs and bolstered those who say they were illegally kidnapped and tortured as part of an overzealous war on terrorism.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled that a German car salesman was an innocent victim of torture and abuse, in a long-awaited victory for a man who had failed for years to get courts in the United States and Europe to acknowledge what happened to him.
Khaled El-Masri says he was kidnapped from Macedonia in 2003, mistaken for a terrorism suspect, then held for four months and brutally interrogated at an Afghan prison known as the "Salt Pit" run by the CIA. He says that once U.S. authorities realized he was not a threat, they illegally left him on an Albanian mountainside.
The European court, based in Strasbourg, France, ruled that El-Masri's account was "established beyond reasonable doubt" and that Macedonia "had been responsible for his torture and ill-treatment both in the country itself and after his transfer to the U.S. authorities." It said the government of Macedonia violated El-Masri's rights repeatedly and ordered it to pay the equivalent of $78,500 in damages.
U.S. officials closed internal investigations into the El-Masri case two years ago. But several other legal cases are pending.