Germany drops extradition request of CIA agents

From Amnesty International, Sept. 25:

The authorities in Germany have decided not to seek the extradition of 13 US citizens suspected of being involved in the abduction and rendition of German citizen Khaled el-Masri. The 13 includes at least 10 operatives of the CIA.

Khaled el-Masri, a 44-year-old German of Lebanese origin, was arrested and unlawfully detained while on a trip to Macedonia in December 2003. He was handed over to US agents and secretly flown to Afghanistan as part of the US programme of secret detentions and renditions — the illegal transfer of people between states outside of any judicial process.

A case of mistaken identity

After five months of alleged ill-treatment, Khaled el-Masri was flown to an airport in Albania and released after the US authorities apparently realized they had the wrong man. On 25 June 2007, public prosecutors in Munich asked for the extradition of 13 US citizens, of whom at least 10 are thought to be CIA operatives.

However, the German Ministry of Justice, following informal discussions with US officials, has decided not to forward the extradition requests to the US authorities. German courts will be unable to hold accountable individuals against whom there is evidence of involvement in Khaled el-Masri’s abduction, unlawful detention and alleged torture and ill-treatment.

Threatening to facilitate impunity

The failure of the German government to seek this extradition threatens to facilitate impunity for alleged perpetrators of human rights violations, including torture, in the context of the “war on terror”. Amnesty International has repeatedly called on all European governments to collaborate with judicial investigations into renditions that have taken place in Europe.

Amnesty International urges the German government to reverse its decision and forward these extradition requests, as an important step to bringing those responsible for human rights violations to justice. Governments should collaborate in ending human rights violations, not in perpetrating them or in facilitating impunity.

See our last posts on the torture scandal and the Khaled el-Masri case.

  1. Supreme Court won’t hear al-Masri case
    In a victory for the Bush administration and its use of the “state secrets” defense, the Supreme Court Oct. 9 refused without comment to hear Khaled al-Masri’s lawsuit.

    “In a nation committed to the rule of law, the government’s unlawful activity should be exposed, not hidden behind a state secrets designation,” said Steven R. Shapiro, legal director for the American Civil Liberties Union, which had urged the high court to hear the case.

    El-Masri filed suit in 2005 against then-CIA director George J. Tenet and the private contractors who flew him to Afghanistan. He sought damages for his “unlawful abduction, arbitrary detention and torture by agents of the United States.”

    Administration lawyers said the suit must be dismissed without a hearing “to protect classified intelligence sources.” A federal judge in Alexandria, VA, agreed and threw out the suit. This decision was upheld by the 4th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Richmond, VA.

    In their appeal, ACLU lawyers said it made little sense to use secrecy as a reason to throw out a case whose facts had been broadcast and discussed throughout the world.

    “This is a sad day,” said Ben Wizner, an ACLU lawyer for al-Masri. “By denying justice to an innocent victim of this country’s anti-terror policies, the court has provided the government with complete immunity for its shameful human rights and due process violations.”

    The state secrets rule dates to a 1953 case involving the crash of a B-29 bomber. When the widows of three crewmen sued and sought the official accident report, the Air Force refused, saying the plane was on a mission to test secret electronics equipment. The court ruled in US vs. Reynolds that the need to protect the nation’s security outweighed the widows’ claim. (LAT, Oct. 10)