The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) on Dec. 13 ruled (PDF) that the government of Macedonia is responsible for the torture and degrading maltreatment of a man the ECHR found to be an innocent victim of CIA "extraordinary rendition" in 2003. Lebanese German citizen Khaled el-Masri was arrested and mistreated for 23 days of interrogation in a hotel in the Macedonian capital Skopje, then transferred to CIA agents who took him to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months. After a hearing in May, the ECHR Grand Chamber of 17 judges unanimously held that el-Masri had established beyond a reasonable doubt that Macedonia was responsible for several violations of various provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights, including the prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment under Article 3, the right to liberty and security under Article 5 and others. The ECHR ordered the government of Macedonia to pay el-Masri €60,000 in damages. El-Masri has been implicated in several violent incidents in Germany in the last few years, receiving a suspended sentence for arson in 2007 and a two-year prison sentence for assaulting a town mayor in 2010, for which he is still serving time.
Protesters clashed with police in Slovenia's second city Maribor Dec. 3 in a march against austerity measures. Police said more than 20 were arrested and at least one officer was injured after some from a crowd of around 6,000 protesters threw rocks and fireworks. Protests began in the city last week to demand the resignation of Mayor Franc Kangler, who is accused of corruption. But over the weekend, deomstrations spread to the capital, Ljubljana, taking up general anti-austerity demands. Protests in Ljubljana and five other cities of small post-Yugoslav state were peaceful but large, bringing thousands to the streets.
The Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) on Nov. 39 acquitted former Kosova Liberation Army (KLA) commanders Ramush Haradinaj, Idriz Balaj and Laji Brahimaj of all charges. Haradinaj (Kosova's former prime minister) was a commander of the KLA in the Dukagjin area of western Kosova; Balaj, a commander of a special operations unit known as the Black Eagles; and Brahimaj was deputy commander of the Dukagjin Operative Zone. In April 2008, the Trial Chamber originally acquitted Haradinaj of all charges, as was Balaj, but Brahimaj was convicted of mistreating a detainee and ordering the mistreatment of another, and was sentenced to six years. However, in July 2010, the ICTY Appeals Chamber reversed the judgments, finding that the Trial Chamber had failed to take sufficient steps to counter witness intimidation. The ICTY began the retrial in August 2011, with the prosecutor seeking a 20-year sentence for Haradinaj. However, the Trial Chamber rendered judgment in favor of the defendants, ordering for their immediate release.