This week, lawyers intervened on behalf of Guantanamo prisoner Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri in a pending Polish investigation on CIA black sites, demanding the investigation and prosecution of persons responsible for his illegal transfer, detention, and torture on Polish soil. The intervention was filed in cooperation with the Open Society Justice Initiative.
This is significant, as prospects for justice for rendition victims are looking particularly bleak in the United States. Just this month, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals dismissed on state secrets grounds a case against Jeppesen Dataplan Inc., a Boeing subsidiary that transported CIA rendition victims across the globe. In June, the U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the dismissal of rendition victim Maher Arar’s case. In 2007, it declined to hear the case of German citizen Khaled El Masri.
Numerous reports have now confirmed that CIA black sites existed in Eastern Europe—in particular, in Poland, Romania, and Lithuania. In 2007, a Council of Europe report cited evidence of secret CIA detention facilities in Poland, at the Stare Kiejkuty intelligence training base, and in Romania. The same report noted that high level officials, including then president of Poland, Aleksander Kwasniweski, either authorized or were aware of the black site at Stare Kiejkuty. A 2009 ABC News report of a secret CIA prison in Lithuania prompted an inquiry by the Lithuanian Parliament, which concluded that two sites in Lithuania could have been used for CIA detention. More recently, a United Nations report on secret detention confirmed that al-Nashiri was rendered to Poland.
There is no doubt that al-Nashiri was brutally tortured while held in various CIA black sites, including in Poland—the United States government’s own documents confirm this fact. According to a report authored by the CIA Inspector General’s Office, al-Nashiri was subjected to waterboarding, mock executions, stress positions, and threats of injury and sexual abuse directed at his family members.
“Before I was arrested, I used to be able to run about ten kilometers,” said al-Nashiri at a hearing in March 2007. “Now, I cannot walk for more than ten minutes. My nerves are swollen in my body.”
He added: “They used to drown me in water. So I used to say: ‘yes, yes.’”
Poland must account for a host of human rights violations conducted on its soil. Al-Nashiri’s torture violates his rights under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights, his arbitrary detention without charge or trial violates Article 5, and his transfer to face a real risk of imposition of the death penalty violates his rights under Article 2.
Since early 2008, the Polish prosecutor’s office has been investigating the possible abuse of power by Polish public officials with respect to the CIA black site. The fact that an investigation was opened is certainly encouraging, but findings have not yet been made public or led to any indictments.
This week’s filing is the first attempt by an extraordinary rendition victim to pursue legal remedies in Poland. It will make it much harder for the prosecutor to turn a blind eye to the grave human rights violations associated with the CIA’s rendition program.