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Today's episode of Boing Boing video is the second in a series of excerpts we're featuring from OUTLAWED, a film produced by WITNESS, in partnership with more than a dozen other human rights groups around the world. Here was our previous installment.
In this episode, we meet a German citizen named Khaled El-Masri, who survived kidnapping, extraordinary rendition, and torture at the hands of the U.S. government and foreign governments acting on its behalf. His case has been the subject of New York Times editorials and involved a widely-reported lawsuit seeking justice in the US, which was thrown out and is now on appeal.
Here is a snip from his description of what happened when he was abducted and transferred to a CIA "black site" prison:
Here is my story. On December 31, 2003, I boarded a bus in Ulm, Germany for a holiday in Skopje, Macedonia. When the bus crossed the border into Macedonia, Macedonian officials confiscated my passport and detained me for several hours. Eventually, I was transferred to a hotel where I was held for 23 days. I was guarded at all times, the curtains were always drawn, I was never permitted to leave the room, I was threatened with guns, and I was not allowed to contact anyone. At the hotel, I was repeatedly questioned about my activities in Ulm, my associates, my mosque, meetings with people that had never occurred, or associations with people I had never met. I answered all of their questions truthfully, emphatically denying their accusations. After 13 days I went on a hunger strike to protest my confinement.
On January 23, 2004, seven or eight men entered the hotel room and forced me to record a video saying I had been treated well and would soon be flown back to Germany. I was handcuffed, blindfolded, and placed in a car. The car eventually stopped and I heard airplanes. I was taken from the car, and led to a building where I was severely beaten by people's fists and what felt like a thick stick. Someone sliced the clothes off my body, and when I would not remove my underwear, I was beaten again until someone forcibly removed them from me. I was thrown on the floor, my hands were pulled behind me, and someone's boot was placed on my back. Then I felt something firm being forced inside my anus.
I was dragged across the floor and my blindfold was removed. I saw seven or eight men dressed in black and wearing black ski masks. One of the men placed me in a diaper and a track suit. I was put in a belt with chains that attached to my wrists and ankles, earmuffs were placed over my ears, eye pads over my eyes, and then I was blindfolded and hooded. After being marched to a plane, I was thrown to the floor face down and my legs and arms were spread-eagled and secured to the sides of the plane. I felt two injections, and I was rendered nearly unconscious. At some point, I felt the plane land and take off again. When it landed again, I was unchained and taken off the plane. It felt very warm outside, and so I knew I had not been returned to Germany. I learned later that I was in Afghanistan.
Just this Saturday, Mr. El Masri filed a damages lawsuit against the government of Macedonia for their role in his unlawful abduction and detention five years ago.
"This lawsuit is possibly the last opportunity for Khaled El Masri to receive justice," said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative. "Macedonia has a chance to step up and show that it will not tolerate complicity in human rights violations by its security services."
Macedonian security forces in December 2003 seized El Masri at a border crossing with Serbia, and held him — incommunicado — for 23 days. El Masri was handed over to the CIA and flown to a detention center in Kabul, Afghanistan, where he was interrogated and tortured. After several months, El Masri was finally released and dumped on a roadside in Albania. He was never charged with a crime.
OUTLAWED was produced around the time when the Council of Europe issued a report on the topic of rendition and torture involving America's "War on Terror." To document why those issues matter, WITNESS created a coalition with a number of US human rights and social justice 'project partners' such as Amnesty and the ACLU to distribute the video.
(Special appreciation to Boing Boing Video producer Derek Bledsoe. Sincere thanks to Bryan Nunez, Grace Lile, and Yvette J. Alberdingk Thijm from WITNESS. Music in this episode graciously provided by Amon Tobin / Cinematic Orchestra. Inset photo: AP)
Previously on Boing Boing Video:
"OUTLAWED" excerpts, pt. 1 — Guantánamo Detainee Who Survived Torture.
Link to Boing Boing Video Archives.