In 2003, Khaled El-Masri was abducted by the CIA, flown to Afghanistan and tortured as part of the US renditions program. On Dec 13th last the European Court of Human Rights finally awarded him compensation for his suffering. It also held that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia was responsible for the unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment of Mr. El-Masri.
The plane used by the CIA to transfer Khaled El-Masri, registration N313P, landed at Shannon Airport on 17 January 2004, on its way to pick him up in the Macedonian capital, Skopje. This is one of the clearest documented cases to date of Shannon’s involvement in torture.
El-Masri was detained as he entered Macedonia on 31 December 2003. He was held for 23 days in a hotel in Skopje where he was questioned about his alleged involvement with terrorist organizations. The CIA then flew him to Kabul on a plane that had been at Shannon the previous day. In Afghanistan he was locked in a secret prison known as the "Salt Pit", where he was slammed into walls, kicked, beaten, and subjected to other forms of abuse. He was held at the Salt Pit for four months but was never charged, brought before a judge, or given access to his family.
The CIA ultimately realised that it had mistaken Khaled El-Masri for an al-Qaida suspect with a similar name. But it held on to him for weeks after that. It was not until 24 May 2004, that he was flown, blindfolded, ear-muffed, and chained to his seat, to Albania, where he was dumped on the side of the road without explanation.
The European Court of Human Rights ruling was an important step towards accountability for European complicity in rendition and torture. But Macedonia is not the only European government that colluded with or facilitated the US to abduct, transfer and torture people in the course of its rendition operations. In Ireland’s case the Government knew that the CIA used Shannon Airport as part of their renditions operations. Yet it did nothing to challenge or stop what was going on.
Amnesty International has called for a full, independent investigation into the use of Shannon Airport to support CIA rendition operations. Shannonwatch wholeheartedly supports this call, and will continue to do everything in its power to make the investigation a reality.
See Guardian report ‘European court of human rights finds against CIA abuse of Khaled el-Masri’.
Amnesty International Ireland press release on European Court ruling.