Friday, December 14, 2012

Compensation for rendition

Two big pieces of news around extraordinary rendition today. Firstly, the European Court of Human Rights has ordered Macedonia to pay 60,000 euro in compensation to Khaled el-Masri for their role in his kidnap and rendition. El-Masri was a German tourist whose name was similar to that of a suspected terrorist. On that basis alone he was kidnapped and unlawfully detained by Macedonian security forces, before being bundled onto a US jet and flown to a black site in Afghanistan, where he was tortured. When the US realised its mistake, they dumped him by a roadside in Albania, with no way of getting home. Its the first time the ECHR has held a European country legally responsible for its role in a rendition, and it sets a precedent for them to do the same for countries like Sweden, Italy and the UK, who rendered people, and Poland, which hosted a CIA torture centre.

Secondly, the UK has settled with Sami al-Saadi, the Libyan dissident they rendered back into the clutches of the Gaddafi regime. Al-Saadi and his family were abducted from Hong Kong and flown back to Libya. His family were released after two months, but al-Saadi was tortured for six years. The UK has paid out £2.2 million for this, probably to avoid the threat of discovery, which could result in the release of classified information (such as, oh, the name of the government Minister who authorised the operation, and the names of those who planned it, allowing them to be held politically and criminally liable). While there's still a criminal investigation, I have no faith in the British police's ability to properly investigate those in power. The establishment protects its own, even if they have to spend millions of pounds of public money to do so.

While compensation is owned to the victims, real justice will only come from criminal prosecutions of those responsible. Sadly, that's unlikely to happen - power is hardly going to hold itself to account. Which means that we'll see a repeat of this crime. Only when Ministers and officials know in no uncertain terms that it is criminal, that they will be identified and punished, that they will go to jail and their friends and families will know that they are the sorts of vicious sociopaths who actively collude in torture, will this stop.