Poland found to be complicit in US torture programme

Poland was complicit in the USA’s rendition, secret detention, and torture of alleged terrorism suspects, a top human rights court has ruled.

The judgement, made by the European Court of Human Rights, found that the Polish government colluded with the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) to establish a secret prison at Stare Kiejkuty.

The decision by the court makes Poland the first European Union member state to be found to have involvement in the USA’s extraordinary rendition programme.

The prison was in operation between 2002 and 2005. Located 180km north of Warsaw, detainees were held in secret detention and tortured.

The articles of the European Convention on Human Rights Poland were found to have violated in both cases are:

    Article 3 – prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment
  • Article 5 – right to liberty and security
  • Article 8 – right to respect for private and family life
  • Article 13 – right to an effective remedy
  • Article 6 and 1 – right to a fair trial

On the ruling, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights Julia Hall said:

Today’s historic rulings finally unlock the truth about a dark period of Poland’s recent history and mark a milestone against impunity. Poland knowingly became part of the USA’s illegal network of black sites that was used to secretly detain and torture individuals rounded up in counter-terrorism operations.

The two men who brought the claim are Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national, accused of involvement in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (also known as Abu Zubaydah), a Saudi-born Palestinian.

Al-Nashiri described being subject to “enhanced interrogation techniques”, “mock execution” and threats of sexual assault against his family members.

In his 2010 memoirs, former US President George W. Bush outlines that he authorised the use of waterboarding against Abu Zubaydah. Waterboarding is the controversial practice of simulated drowning.

The government was ordered to pay the two claimants €100,000. The cases were brought to the European Court in 2011 and 2013.

Both men are currently being held at the US Navy’s Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba.

On the ruling John Lannon, spokesperson for Shannonwatch, said:

I welcome the judgement. I’d also note that as well as being particularly pertinent in relation to Ireland. We know that the detention centres existed in places like Romania, Poland and Lithuania.

“But hopefully in time investigation will go beyond countries that have secret prisons, to places like Ireland that helped transfer prisoners.”

Joanna Trzaska-Wieczorek, a Polish presidential spokesperson said: “The ruling of the tribunal in Strasbourg on CIA jails is embarrassing for Poland and is a burden both in terms of our country’s finances as well as its image.”

On the issue, executive director of Amnesty International Ireland said:

Poland is not alone. Many other EU governments colluded with the USA to abduct, illegally transfer, ‘disappear’ and torture people in the course of rendition operations. While today’s judgments are a significant step forward, much more needs to be done to ensure accountability across Europe’

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