* European court fines Macedonia over German's 2003 handover
* Says Macedonia "facilitated torture" in CIA rendition programme
The European Court of Human Rights condemned Macedonia on Thursday for violating the rights of a German citizen by handing him to U.S. secret services, in the first such ruling against a country involved in a CIA "rendition" programme.
The Strasbourg-based court ruled that Macedonia's government had violated provisions of the European Convention on Human Rights including "facilitating torture" for having arrested Khaled El Masri in 2003 and sent him to a secret U.S. detention facility.
El Masri, of Lebanese origin, said he had been beaten and sodomized after being detained. The Macedonian government was ordered to pay him 60,000 euros ($78,000) in damages.
Rights groups called the ruling historic.
"It recognises that the CIA rendition and secret detention system involved torture and enforced disappearances," Wilder Tayler, Secretary General of the International Committee of Jurists, said in a statement.
The CIA declined to comment.
The decision came as the U.S. Senate's intelligence committee was due to vote on a report investigating the effectiveness of the CIA's rendition programme.
The practice of "extraordinary rendition" is used to describe a practice in which the CIA would pick up and detain militants without any legal formalities and then deliver them to third countries where they were sometimes ill-treated by local authorities.
German courts have issued 13 arrest warrants for suspected CIA agents involved in similar rendition cases.
El Masri was sent back to Germany, after being flown to Albania, in May, 2004, court documents show.
In its ruling, the European rights court said Macedonian police had arrested El Masri before putting him in a plane under sedatives to be flown to Afghanistan, where he was jailed and treated harshly for nearly four months.
At the time the case became public, U.S. and European officials said that the reason El Masri had been picked up but then released was that he had been mistaken by the CIA for someone else with the same or a similar name.
Its ruling added that Macedonia was also responsible for violating El Masri's rights "during the entire period of his captivity".
The Strasbourg-based court said that the first month of El Masri's detention in Macedonia, during which he said he was beaten and sodomized with an object, "constitutes a particularly grave violation of his right to liberty and security" under the convention.