European Court Wants Answers from Poland in CIA Black Site Case

NEW YORK— The European Court of Human Rights has told Poland to provide answers and specific documents in the case of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national who was imprisoned and tortured at a secret CIA detention facility on Polish soil before being transferred to the US military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Al-Nashiri’s case was brought before the European Court by the Open Society Justice Initiative. 

Al-Nashiri is currently detained at Guantanamo, where he awaits trial by military commission on capital charges arising from his alleged involvement in the bombing of the U.S.S. Cole in Aden harbor in 2000 and other acts.  

This week, the U.S. military commission will hear pre-trial motions in his case, including  what appear to be two requests from al-Nashiri’s defence team that the U.S. government turn over information in the possession of  unspecified foreign governments related to his arrest, detention and rendition.   

The European court has asked Poland if al-Nashiri was held in a secret detention facility on Polish territory and if there existed “a document on setting up and running a secret CIA prison on Polish territory prepared by the Polish authorities.”  

It has also asked the Polish government to confidentially “supply materials showing on which grounds the applicant was granted injured person status” in a criminal investigation into CIA prisons pending in Poland since March 2008. (Al-Nashiri was granted victim status in the investigation in late 2010.)  

The court also asked that the Polish government confidentially supply any “agreement on setting up and running a secret CIA prison on Polish territory prepared by the Polish authorities,” if such a document exists. Recent news reports indicate the existence of such a document signed by the Polish authorities but not by their U.S. counterparts.

In addition, Polish senator Jozef Pinior reportedly told the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza that prosecutors have a document that shows a local contractor was asked to build a cage at Stare Kiejkuty, where the secret CIA prison was located.

“The European Court is rightly giving al-Nashiri’s claims the consideration they deserve,” said Amrit Singh, Senior Legal Officer at the Open Society Justice Initiative.  “U.S. courts may have closed their doors to CIA torture victims, but the European Court has demonstrated that it remains open for justice. We hope that it will deliver justice by holding Poland accountable for its complicity in the CIA torture and rendition program.”

Meanwhile, at the pre-trial hearings before the military commission at Guantanamo Bay, U.S. government replies to two defence motions (AE 088 and AE 089), posted on the military commission website (www.mc.mil), indicate that the motions are for “Discovery Of Information In The Possession Of [Redacted] And The United States Relating To The Arrest, Detention And Rendition Of Mr. Nashiri.” 

The government’s replies also each contain a section arguing that the “U.S. Government Cannot Compel a Foreign Government To Produce Information,” and that “military commissions cannot compel a foreign government to produce information or documents.” The section concludes by saying that “any request seeking to compel information from a foreign government should be denied.”

As such, the motions appear to relate to the defense’s request for information in the possession of a foreign government concerning al-Nashiri’s arrest, detention, and rendition.

During his detention in Poland from December 5, 2002 until June 6, 2003, U.S. interrogators subjected al-Nashiri to mock executions with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded; racked a semi-automatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them; held him in “standing stress positions;” and threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him. Al-Nashiri was reportedly also secretly detained by the CIA in Thailand and Romania.

Poland has to respond to the European court’s questions and document requests by September 5, 2012. The communication is a significant step forward for the case, which was filed in May, 2011, as only about ten percent of all cases brought before the court make it to this phase.