Time for Romania to Face the Truth over Secret CIA Prison

They called it “Bright Light,” the operational code name of a secret prison located in the Romanian capital Bucharest. Hidden in the basement of a government building used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information (ORNISS), the site was used by the CIA to hold and interrogate alleged “high-value” terrorist suspects. Romania assisted the CIA in secretly flying these suspects in and out of the country, probably drugged and chained spread-eagled to the floor of the aircraft.

Evidence of the secret CIA prison in Romania has been mounting since 2005. Yet, Romania has consistently denied its existence. The Foreign Ministry declared last September, after being urged to come clean by the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, that it had “no information whatsoever showing that there existed secret CIA detention centers on its territory.”

A superficial Senate inquiry previously concluded years ago, in a report that seemed like an echo of the public lies of Romania’s authoritarian past, that CIA detention centers did not exist in Romania, no flights transported prisoners through Romania, and no Romanian institutions participated in the CIA program. A report for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe by Swiss senator Dick Marty in 2007 dismissed that inquiry as “an exercise in denial and rebuttal, without impartial consideration of the evidence” whose conclusions “cannot be sustained.”

Now, a complaint before the European Court of Human Rights is pushing for the truth about Bright Light. The case was filed by the Open Society Justice Initiative, on behalf of Abd-al Rahim al-Nashiri, who was secretly detained in that prison sometime between June 2003 and September 2006. Al-Nashiri is currently facing capital charges before a U.S. military commission at Guantanamo Bay arising from his alleged role in the 2000 bombing of the USS Cole in Aden harbor and other attacks. 

The complaint says that Romania assisted the CIA in landing a secret flight bearing al-Nashiri in Romania, and transferring him to a secret prison. During the first month of detention there, al-Nashiri and other prisoners were reportedly subjected to sleep deprivation, water dousing, slapping or forcible standing in painful positions. At some later point, Romania assisted the U.S. in secretly flying al-Nashiri out, despite the grave risk of his being subjected to further ill-treatment and torture, incommunicado detention, a flagrantly unfair trial, and the death penalty in U.S. custody.

After Romania assisted the CIA in transporting al-Nashiri from Romania, the CIA eventually transferred him in 2006 to Guantanamo. His U.S. lawyers have been unable to relay his communications in public because, under current U.S. government classification guidelines, everything he says is presumed to be classified as secret.

As a result of this extraordinary secrecy, there is only a single publicly available document, dating back to 2007, which provides a glimpse of al-Nashiri’s torture in his own words. A heavily censored transcript of a closed proceeding held in Guantanamo Bay reveals that he said: “From the time I was arrested five years ago, they have been torturing me. It happened during interviews. One time they tortured me one way and another time they tortured me in a different way”. Al-Nashiri’s own descriptions of the torture methods applied on him by the U.S. government are blacked out in the transcript. He does, however, state: “Before I was arrested I used to be able to run about ten kilometers. Now, I cannot walk for more than ten minutes. My nerves are swollen in my body.”

None of the accusations against Romania in this affair are new. Dick Marty’s 2007 report concluded the Romanian government was “knowingly complicit” in the CIA’s secret detention program and that senior Romanian officials “knew about, authorized, and stand accountable” for what happened on Romanian soil. What is new is that the European Court has the power to order Romania to respond to its inquiries—just as it recently ordered Poland to provide documentation and responses to a similar complaint filed over al-Nashiri’s torture and detention at another secret CIA prison there.

In Poland, the issue continues to gnaw at the political establishment, as occasional leaks from a faltering official investigation feed speculation over who approved what and when, and a public debate over the role of the U.S. in pressuring its new allies in east and central Europe to facilitate clandestine torture and illegal detention.

Now, as Romania battles through an intense political crisis, there have been plenty of calls from the international community for the country to adhere to the rule of law, and to ensure it protects the institutions of the country’s post-Communist democratic order. But democracies do not leave people to be tortured in secret basement prisons either—that was the stuff of Communism. For the sake of its future, it is time for Romania to face up to what happened in the prison codenamed Bright Light.

15 Comments

They should ask the same of any other country, including the USA! But, I as Romanian agree on the fact we have a lot of issues to solve.

Torturing humans by other humans is a barbaric act and it can only be treated as such and can never be justified in a democracy.We no longer have democracy but rather elected dictatorship that is used by the powerful for their own sick objectives. The EU could act derisively and become the bright beacon of light to shine the way forward out of the darkness for justice but sadly it has lost its way and become part of the global system...

When the 'developed world' was out to break down socialism in the east an allegory was always made to the nakedly cruel human rights record by the communist countries.

It is becoming surprisng how the very same states resort to torture as a means of acquiring evidence from those termed ' terrorists'.

The key question is one, are the states not aware that the so called terrorist will in reponse turn to training programmes calculated at hardening their cadres against emminent tourture upon being caught-which would make it counter-productive even to think of using torture as a means of extracting evidence?

Another basic consideration is that when the 'terrorist' knows of the cruel torture awaiting him/ her on being caught that adds onto the ruthlessness of his/ her actions!

I have never come to understand why authorities believe in breaking down suspects in order to get information from them. Is it that they do not have tangible evidence and would like to deduce confessions to complement the weak evidence they have?

History has it that People have been known to give self-incriminating evidence when faced with hard toture, thus, causing states dearly come th compensation time.

Last but not least, torture is by nature inhuman and dehumanises both the torturer and the totortured!

How do such People sleep at night-do they resort to drugs in order to sleep 'peacefully'!

So what?

thanx open society,God Bless those who stand for justice and peace

"democracies do not leave people to be tortured in secret basement prisons"

WTF????
While USA tortures the people and goes on war against different countries, theese talks sound like bullshit.

The majority of people inhabiting this planet in all
countries just want to live their lives fully and ensure that their children and grandchildren can do likewise.
I believe that there is a very small minority who actually favour any of these inhumane pratices anywhere, on any side, of any divide.

I think Westerners are day dreaming when they think they have democracy! Yes, its democracy is for corporations and the rich, not for the people. When they feel in any way threatened, they act so barbaric just like the middle ages in Europe! Is that democracy? Democratic systems were designed for times when a country is threatened. We can all claim to be very democratic when no one is questioning us and we do what the hec we want to do. These so called new and old democratic countries put a shame on the word democracy. When will their undemocratic acts and secrecy stop? Don't they feel ashamed? Don't torturers feel sorry for the victims? How can they look at their children? They probably abuse their children too and no one knows about it. Wow, how sad.

Still struggling and craving for a Just and Peaceful world.

How quickly we turn our own disillusionment into the subject of this blog. Churchill said: "... Indeed it has been said that democracy is the worst form of government - except all those other forms that have been tried from time to time." (1947)

As regards imprisonment, I am still looking for a young man (after 8 years) who was caught up in a sweep of Bucharest when the police were clearing the downtown area of homeless so that George W. Bush could visit Romania (for 4 hours) when they were admitted into NATO. Can't find him... Also, I wonder about the last time the EU checked on those sanctions against Romania (i.e., government corruption and treatment of children). And we're worried about some rumored secret prison? Let's stop focusing on our outrage and start helping the innocents!

There is scientific proof that torture doesn't yield the intended outcome, i.e. a confession of having committed a certain crime. Even a totally innocent person will admit having committed any crime under torture. What kind of perverse minds imagine that truth can be obtained through physical and/or psychological torture? Any right-thinking human being would be appalled at watching a person being tortured.

Without actions like these from OSF, Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International or some still independant quality newspapers the world would be much worse for progressive people / everybody who stands up for freedom and respect. It is very important that OSF is doing this and let's hope the some European institutions have the power and morality to bring to light what really happened. Also for progressive people in the US it is important to have this information, in their struggle against a state that is breaking down more and more freedoms in the name of "security". The world is not getting safer by torture but more unsafe. Keep on doing this good job OSF!

Romania to face what? The allegations of a terrorist? Common, I thought I would have find some evidence on that prison. I found nothing, except a desperate guy statements'! Was this supposed to be an informative article?

You can find more details about the case by clicking on the Al-Nashiri v. Romania litigation page, featured in the column on the right.

Democracy. Democracy, secularism, freedom of speech, equality, truth, justice are all relative terms. It's a dictum that there are surely more equal than others. Those in power, economically well off preach these qualities but don't practice. Countries like America the big bully should be opposed vehemently. And religious organisations of the Muslims and Christians and others who terrorise on the basis of religion should be abhorred vehemently.

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