Rendered via the Balkans to Egypt and subsequently killed, Tal’at Fu’ad Qassim is is the first known rendition by the U.S. government to a third country with a record of torture, and represented a turning point for the United States.
At the time of his abduction, 38 year old Qassim was living in exile in Denmark where he had been granted political asylum. In September 1995, he was abducted in Croatia en route to Bosnia.
According to the Croatian Foreign Ministry, Qassim was expelled for “violating Croatian residency laws.” Before being forcibly transferred to Egypt, Qassim was allegedly questioned aboard a US Navy vessel, and the handover to Egypt took place in the middle of the Adriatic. After his return to Egypt, the Egyptian government refused to answer any questions about Qassim’s whereabouts, and he was denied access to his family or a lawyer. Qassim had already been tried and convicted in absentia by an Egyptian military tribunal. Qassim was not retried after his return to Egypt, and is believed to have been executed by the Egyptian government.
In a 2004 interview with Human Rights Watch, Qassim’s lawyer said:
"I didn’t see him. I don’t think that anyone managed to see him, except for security of course. And those who carried out the execution…we heard about [his abduction] as soon as he was kidnapped. But we didn’t know where he was."
Qassim’s case has been described as a turning point for both for the Egyptians and the Americans. Richard Clarke has written that the 1995 US decision to take Qassim into custody was prompted by a recognition within the Clinton Administration of the threat posed by international terrorism, and according to Human Rights watch:
“Qassim’s case is the first known rendition by the US government to a third country with a record of torture. The Qassim case marked a first of sorts for the Egyptian government as well. Its handling of the Qassim case – complete disappearance, refusing to allow any access to the individual, either by his family or his lawyers – would be repeated many times in the years to come.”