Poland’s Role in CIA Torture and Rendition: Court Hearing Set for December 3

Poland’s role in the torture and secret detention of Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national now facing a possible death sentence before a U.S. military commission, will be examined at a public hearing of the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg on Tuesday, December 3, 2013.

The case, brought on al-Nashiri’s behalf by the Open Society Justice Initiative, accuses Poland of allowing him to be held incommunicado and tortured at a secret CIA base at Stare Kiejkuty in the northeast of the country. He was subsequently flown secretly to the U.S. military prison at Guantanamo Bay, where he now is facing an unfair trial and the threat of a death penalty.

Poland was one of at least 50 governments that supported a program of secret rendition and torture launched by the CIA after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States. 

Amrit Singh, a legal officer at the Justice Initiative who heads its work on accountability for human rights abuses linked to national security issues, said:

“Poland must account for its complicity in CIA torture and for rendering Mr. al-Nashiri to face the death penalty after a trial by a Guantánamo military commission that does not meet international standards. In the face of Polish and U.S. efforts to draw a veil over these abuses, the European Court of Human rights now has an opportunity to break this conspiracy of silence and to uphold the rule of law.”

The Justice Initiative argues that Poland violated al-Nashiri’s rights under European law, by holding him incommunicado and subjecting him to torture and ill-treatment, and by allowing his transfer out of the country despite the risk of further ill-treatment, an unfair trial and possible death sentence. The complaint also accuses Poland of failing in its duty to properly investigate what happened, as required by European law.

A judicial investigation by Polish prosecutors launched in 2008 has so far failed to throw any light on the case. Polish political leaders have repeatedly denied knowledge of the case, or of the CIA’s involvement at Stare Kiejkuty.

Arguments in al-Nashiri’s case will be heard at the same time as a second case filed on behalf of another Guantanamo detainee, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn (Abu Zubaydah), who is represented by the UK human rights law group, Interights. Abu Zubaydah was also held at Stare Kiejkuty.

The Justice Initiative has also filed a separate ECHR complaint on al-Nashiri’s behalf against Romania, where he was similarly secretly detained and abused at a CIA “black site.”

In December 2012, in another case argued by the Justice Initiative, the European Court of Human Rights condemned the arbitrary arrest, detention and interrogation of Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was mistakenly seized in Macedonia in 2004, handed over to the CIA, and shipped to Afghanistan for interrogation.

The ruling further found that El-Masri’s allegations of mistreatment throughout the more than four months he remained in U.S. custody were “established beyond reasonable doubt.”