Compensation and official apology for victim of CIA torture and secret “rendition”

El Masri v. North Macedonia |2012

Compensation and official apology for victim of CIA torture and secret “rendition”

The U.S. policy of “extraordinary rendition” has a human face, and it is mine.

Khaled El-Masri, quoted in Los Angeles Times, December 2005 


When Khaled El-Masri boarded a bus to go from his home in Germany on a short holiday to Skopje, he could not have imagined the nightmare that awaited him.

North Macedonian border officials suspected Khaled’s passport was a fake and took him in for questioning. Khaled was then driven to a hotel where he was held for over three weeks and interrogated about alleged ties with terrorist groups.

Khaled’s requests to contact the German embassy were refused. When he threatened to leave, a gun was pointed at his head.

The North Macedonian authorities later took Khaled to Skopje airport, where he was handed over to a US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) “rendition” team, who beat, stripped, shackled and sodomised him.

Khaled was then put on a plane and flown from Skopje to Afghanistan.

Upon arrival, Khaled was driven to a secret CIA-run prison used for high-level terror suspects. He was held in a squalid cell for over four months and periodically interrogated. In protest at his confinement, Khaled went on a 37-day hunger strike.

Eventually, Khaled was flown to Albania and left by a roadside. From there, he made it back to Germany. He came home traumatised and eighteen kilograms lighter than when he left almost five months earlier.

Germany investigated Khaled’s case, later issuing warrants for thirteen CIA agents who were allegedly involved in the “rendition” operation. North Macedonia refused to investigate his complaints.

Judgment of the European Court of Human Rights

The European court accepted Khaled’s allegations that he was a victim of “extraordinary rendition” by CIA agents assisted, to a large extent, by the North Macedonian authorities.

It ruled that North Macedonia was responsible for multiple violations of Khaled’s rights, including his torture at the hands of the CIA “rendition” team.

The court awarded Khaled €60,000 in compensation.

This judgment can be called historic: it is the first condemnation, by an international court, of the CIA practice of renditions and secret detentions . . .

Jean-Claude Mignon, President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (2012-2014)



We welcome the [North] Macedonian government’s apology to El-Masri, and its recognition that its security personnel violated the European Convention on Human Rights.

James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative


The Government of North Macedonia issued an official apology to Khaled in 2018. In addition to compensation awarded by the European court, the North Macedonian courts also awarded Khaled a symbolic sum in damages.

The North Macedonian authorities introduced various measures to prevent further violations, including tougher criminal sanctions against law enforcement officials involved in acts of torture and ill-treatment, and the creation of a new mechanism for investigating such allegations of abuse.