A Chance for Europe to Stand Up for Justice over CIA Torture

The European Court of Human Rights is hearing a case this week involving European complicity in CIA torture. In doing so, it has a chance to deliver justice in relation to the CIA’s torture programme and highlight the failure of institutions in the United States to do the same.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Guantanamo prisoner, has filed suit against Poland. Al-Nashiri was secretly detained by the CIA on a Polish military intelligence base in Stare Keijkuty, Poland, where was held for six months from December 2002 until June 2003. During that time, he was tortured.

(Al-Nashiri’s case has been consolidated with that of another Guantánamo prisoner, Abu Zubaydah, who also was secretly detained and tortured in Poland under the same CIA programme).  

A report released by the CIA Office of Inspector General confirms that interrogators subjected al-Nashiri to mock executions while he stood naked and hooded; to painful stress positions that nearly dislocated his shoulders from their sockets; and to threats of his mother being brought in to be sexually abused before him.

Al-Nashiri was brought to Guantanamo Bay after almost four years of secret detention in various locations, including in Poland. Since the CIA captured him in 2002, he has remained hidden away. He is unable to publicly relay the details of his torture because the U.S. government takes the remarkable position that his own memories and observations of what happened to him would reveal classified sources and methods.

A heavily redacted transcript of a closed-door proceeding held in Guantánamo Bay in 2007 reveals that al-Nashiri said: “From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me.” Al-Nashiri's descriptions of his torture are blacked out in the transcript. He does, however, state: “Before I was arrested I used to be able to run about ten kilometres. Now, I cannot walk for more than ten minutes.” Even U.S. government doctors have concluded upon examining al-Nashiri that he suffers from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

But torture and secret detention are not the only issues at stake in this case. Poland's complicity in al-Nashiri's rendition has exposed Europe to the stain of the U.S. death penalty, a practice that European institutions repeatedly criticise as uncivilized and morally abhorrent.

Now, more than ten years after his torture in Poland, al-Nashiri faces a potential death sentence, not after a trial in a U.S. federal court, but by a military commission at Guantánamo Bay that does not meet international standards of justice. The European Convention on Human Rights prohibits contracting states like Poland from transferring individuals to jurisdictions where there is a substantial risk of facing the death penalty. Al-Nashiri is asking the Court to direct Poland to use all available means—including by seeking diplomatic assurances from the United States—to preclude the death sentence in his case.

The European Court has an opportunity to deliver justice in this case, as it weighs Poland’s complicity in the CIA’s programme against the country's obligations under European human rights law. The implications of doing so would extend far beyond this case, as Lithuania and Romania also have cases pending against them before the Court for hosting secret CIA prisons. More generally, it would puncture the shroud of impunity surrounding the CIA’s flagrantly illegal secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, in which more than a quarter of the world’s countries were complicit in various ways (as documented earlier this year in the Justice Initiative's report, Globalizing Torture).

A favourable European Court decision would be in stark contrast to the failure of U.S. institutions to deliver any measure of accountability for the Bush administration’s policy of torture.  Since 9/11, U.S. courts have refused to give victims of U.S.-sanctioned torture their day in court. No government entity has said it is sorry. Meanwhile, a 6,000-page report on CIA detention and interrogation, which the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence adopted in a bipartisan vote last year, remains classified. It remains classified even though the Sen. Dianne Feinstein confirmed that a majority of her fellow committee members believe that “clandestine black sites” and “enhanced interrogation techniques” were “terrible mistakes” and that the report would settle the debate on torture once and for all.  

Washington’s failure to give a full account of the CIA programme, and to hold officials accountable for torture, continues to corrode the moral stature of the United States around the world. We must now look instead to the European court in Strasbourg to do the right thing.  

8 Comments

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Maybe the courts in Europe can make a difference.

Enough is enough. Modern civilization wouldn't tolerate torture any more. In 2010 when I was joining Human Rights Leaders' meeting with President Obama in white house, he assured us of proper steps to avoid future Guantanamo and or strategy of torture adopted by Bush.

The only land of the free must honor the freedom to be secure in our homes and our persons. Kidnap and torture are not American ideals, they are what this country was founded to end.

Have always been shocked with learning how it was possible for the highly civilized and very cultural population of Germany to descend into a culture supporting war criminals.But now I watch in horror as America is revealing the same psychosis.

Well, the role plaid by the USA Agencies allover the world proves how the United States of America government is the cause of chaos on the glob. The killing of innocents people in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, Afganistan, Iraq, Syria, Libya and many places

I believe that in this war on terror, terrorists are the winners.
they proved to the world how powerful and democratic countries are ready to abandon their principles and their so called Human Rights....???

The US dollar has corrupted the world. If we were a poor nation would all these countries have agreed to break the law for us?

Venezuela and Nicaragua have both refused US dollars. They have continued to oppose the US when they feel they should. We have continued to demonize them as dictatorships and trouble makers.

When are we going to learn? We have a Constitution and Bill of Rights that is the envy of the world. We have signed treaties that make torture against the law. We have agreed to punish anyone that tortures.

We boast, "America the land of the free and the home of the brave". "America where no man is above the law." A government of the people, by the people and for the people." America where ALL men are created equal"

Unfortunately our modern statue of Justice is a tired old woman whose blindfold has slipped down allowing her to see the defendant and the prosecutor. In one hand she holds a sword that is rusty and dented. That side is labeled "The rich and powerful". On the other side is a blade that is sharp and bight. It is labeled, "The poor and middle class". In her other hand she is holding a set of scales which have a biasing weight on one side that says "Secret Stuff". And no amount of indignation or law or outrage can outweigh that counter weight.

Sixty years ago Pogo in his comic strip said it right. He said, "We have met the enemy, and he is us."

We have sacrificed our nation's honor in a useless, vain and cowardly attempt to make us "Safe". We have sent our youth to strange lands to die in a war that will never be won and can never be successfully fought using the military.

We are violating other nations sovereignty by drone attacks that kill unnamed and unknown victims. We have allowed our torturers to go free and our politicians and our industry to profit from war.

Our drones and our unrestricted use of military in any land we choose; our use of huge numbers of "private contractors" (mercenaries) in countries where we have never declared war, our contention that we have the right to kill even our own citizens if some star chamber decides they are a danger to the US, our Congress that has and continues to duck its responsibility as either a check or balance to the Executive Branch, and a Supreme Court that thinks corporations are people and can donate as much money to politicians as they wish are just some of the ills we have tolerated.

Maybe if the American public gets angry enough about the politicians trying to take away their social security, that they worked all their lives for, and contributed money for, they will suddenly feel enough power to elect politicians that will do what this country needs.

Maybe, or maybe they will just turn on the TV and watch cartoons. Lets hope its Pogo.

This buttresses the facts claimed by some theories that these international human rights standards are created for the growing nations, that have no economical strength to protect themselves. My expectations are that Strasbourg will find violation against Poland under Art. 3 for allowing itself to be used as a torture hub by U.S and also in violation of the human rights standard of prohibition of extradition knowing that Al-Nashiri will face death penalty. And then what next? Nothing. Because Strasbourg has no jurisdictional power against U.S as such the judgment will be like all other ones wherein the BIG BROTHER always goes free. Poland is unfortunately going to suffer for the sins of U.S, as it has always planned its game, that is why it has Guatanomo in Cuba to avoid jurisdictional powers of prosecution and unfortunately it is not a party to the Inter-American Human Rights system. So nothing new, just "same old, same old", because so long as the U.S cannot be found guilty for all these violations, the human rights system is just a double standard system.

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