Azara Blog: Lawsuit over CIA torture

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Date published: 2005/12/06

The BBC says:

A man who says he was a victim of the CIA's alleged secret prisons is suing its former chief over torture claims.

Khaled al-Masri says he was kidnapped in 2003 while on holiday in Macedonia, flown to Afghanistan and mistreated.

A US rights group has filed a lawsuit against ex-CIA head George Tenet and other officials on behalf of Mr Masri, a Lebanese-born German citizen.

It is the first legal challenge to the US policy of "extraordinary rendition" - flying suspects to third countries.

The US maintains that all such operations are conducted within the law.

The landmark lawsuit was filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) in a district court in Alexandria, Virginia.

It claims that Mr Tenet and other CIA officials violated US and universal human rights laws when they authorised agents to kidnap Mr Masri.

The lawsuit says Mr Masri suffered "prolonged arbitrary detention, torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment".

Mr Masri, 42, spoke at an ACLU news conference in Washington via a satellite video link from Stuttgart, Germany.

He claims he was beaten and injected with drugs before being taken to Afghanistan and held for five months.

Mr Masri says that once there, he was subjected to "coercive" interrogation under inhumane conditions.

Mr Masri is now seeking damages of at least $75,000 (£43,000) and an apology.

The civil rights group says the government has to be held to account over "extraordinary rendition".

"Kidnapping a foreign national for the purpose of detaining and interrogating him outside the law is contrary to American values," said Anthony D. Romero, executive director of the ACLU.

"Our government has acted as if it is above the law. We go to court today to reaffirm that the rule of law is central to our identity as a nation."

Good luck to him, but the odds are stacked against him. As in all countries, the American courts don't give a toss about foreigners and rulings are heavily weighted against them. But at least the torture allegations might get a hearing in court. They are almost certainly true, just look how Cheney and Bush want to exempt the CIA from torture laws. And there is plenty of evidence from elsewhere.

Channel 4 News ran a story tonight in which a former law lord, Lord Steyn, suggested that British ministers could be considered guilty of war crimes if they knew that US flights through Britain were used to transport prisoners to the "secret" American torture prisons. (And it's hard to believe Blair and Straw did not know this was happening.)

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