Italy Criticised by European Court Over CIA “Abduction” Case

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The European Court of Human Rights has criticised Italy for the role it played in the 2003 rendition of an Egyptian Imam from Milan by the CIA. The court found that Italy had failed to protect the individual in question from his “abduction” to face inhumane punishment, and had hidden behind state secrecy “in order to ensure that those responsible did not have to answer for their actions.”

In 2003, Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, who is also known under the name Abu Omar, was taken from a street in Milan by individuals of American security agency the CIA. Omar was under investigation for suspected involvement with terrorist groups, but had successfully applied for and been granted political Asylum in Italy due to the danger of inhumane punishments and lack of access to proper justice if tried in his native Egypt.

The seizure of Abu Omar was made under a CIA programme of “extraordinary rendition.” Human rights groups have criticised the process of extraordinary rendition as one that lacks transparency and enables the “out-sourcing” of torture by sending individuals to other territories for questioning where there is a possibility that inhumane methods may be used.

After being taken by the CIA, Abu Omar was transported to Egypt for his interrogation, via US air bases located in Italy and Germany. He claims that while being interrogated there, he was subjected to torture. He was also held without trial for a total period of roughly four years before his release in 2007.

A trial has previously been held in Italy relating to the case. Two Italians and a total of 23 American nationals were all tried for their roles in the kidnapping of Abu Omar, with all of the American defendants being tried in absentia. However, the European Court has ruled that “the investigation and trial had not led to the punishment of those responsible, who had therefore ultimately been granted impunity.”

Rather, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that those responsible had been protected by the application of the principle of state secrecy. The ruling also found that Italy knew that Abu Omar was the subject of extraordinary rendition, and had failed in its duty to protect an individual in the country’s custody from being subjected to inhumane methods of punishment and interrogation.

The court ordered Italy to make payments totalling around €115,000 (£90,000) to Abu Omar and to his wife, Nabila Ghali. These payments are a mixture of damages payments and expenses.

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