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20th Sep 2019

European court confirms Polish complicity in CIA rendition

  • The CIA operated a so-called black site in Poland (Photo: mon.gov.pl)

A European Court of Human Rights ruling that Poland allowed a secret CIA jail on its soil became final on Tuesday (17 February) after the court rejected an appeal request.

The Strasbourg court last July found the Polish government had colluded with the CIA to establish the secret detention facility at the Stare Kiejkuty military base.

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The court said Poland had failed to launch a proper investigation into human rights violations on two individuals who had been tortured at the CIA prison camp in 2002 and 2003.

Poland challenged the July ruling and appealed the case at the court’s Grand Chamber of five judges in October.

The government at the time argued that the state prosecutor’s office had launched a criminal investigation into the alleged abuses in 2008 and that it was still on going.

But the judges on Tuesday rejected the application, making the July decision final.

It means the Polish government should move swiftly to hold account Polish officials involved.

Critics say the government was engaging in stalling tactics by repeatedly changing the prosecution personnel and invoking ‘national security’, to obscure the investigation.

“The court rightly rejected the Polish government’s latest attempt to evade accountability,” said Amrit Singh of the Justice Initiative, who presented the case before the judges, in a statement.

The Polish foreign ministry said it would abide by the ruling, reports Reuters.

The two claimants, current Guantanamo inmates Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, had lodged their cases in 2011 and in 2013 respectively.

The court in July awarded both men €100,000 in damages and Abu Zubaydah another €30,000 in legal costs.

The Bureau of investigative journalism reports Abu Zubaydah is set to donate his share of the money to victims of torture. His lawyer said he would not claim legal costs either, if the money were made available.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri is a Saudi Arabian national. He says he was forced to endure mock executions and other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” during his six months at Stare Kiejkuty.

The Americans say he was the mastermind behind the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000.

Al-Nashiri is facing a capital trial by a military commission at Guantanamo Bay.

“Consistent with the court’s judgment, Poland must now conduct an effective investigation into its hosting of a secret CIA prison and obtain assurances from the United States that it will not subject al-Nashiri to the death penalty,” said Singh.

Abu Zubaydah, for his part, has since been detained at Guantanamo without charge.

A stateless Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, Abu Zubaydah says he endured extreme physical pain and psychological suffering at the Polish base in December 2002. He was waterboarded 83 times in one month.

Pressure is mounting for other EU governments allegedly involved the rendition programme to be held accountable.

Last December, the US senate select committee on intelligence released a 524-page summary of its "Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Programme."

The full report runs to over 6,500 pages. But the unredacted portion of the report describes how some foreign governments had assisted either directly or indirectly the CIA. Cross-referenced with other evidence suggest European cooperation and collaboration.

The report's summary disclosure prompted the European Parliament to resume investigations into CIA-led operations in EU countries. The assembly earlier this month passed a resolution to dispatch teams of MEPs to the various sites.

“This is so much an issue of establishing some kind of moral authority for the EU and for Europe,” Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counter-terrorism, told this website in January.

Poland's CIA probe: road to nowhere

Poland is probing human rights abuses committed by the CIA on its territory, but politics and hostile public opinion have turned what was once a proper criminal investigation into a farce.

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