European Court Must Respond to Death Penalty for Guantanamo Case

The Open Society Justice Initiative deplores the decision by the United States' Convening Authority for Military Commissions to seek the death penalty in the case against Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national held at the US military base in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, who was previously detained and tortured by the CIA in Poland.

The Convening Authority said today it is referring al-Nashiri's case for trial as a capital case, despite a filing from the defendant’s U.S. lawyers, arguing that his torture and abuse by the CIA had compromised the case against him.

Al-Nashiri is charged with organizing the attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbor in 2000 which killed 17 US sailors and injured 39, as well as an attempted attack on the USS Sullivan, and an attack on the French oil tanker Limburg, which also killed one sailor.

He was detained and tortured at a secret CIA prison in Poland in 2002 and 2003, before his ultimate transfer to the US military base at Guantánamo.

The Open Society Justice Initiative also urged the European Court of Human Rights to respond to an application on al-Nashiri's behalf, calling on the court to instruct Poland to do everything in its power to prevent the imposition of the death penalty in the case.

Al-Nashiri's will be the first death penalty case to be tried before a military commission.

Amrit Singh, one of the Justice Initiative lawyers representing al-Nashiri before the court in Strasbourg said: "The European Court must act swiftly to prevent the stain of US torture and death penalty practices from spreading to Europe."

"The Court must prevail on Poland to use all available means to ensure that the United States does not subject al-Nashiri to the death penalty following a trial in a military commission system that does not meet international fair trial standards," she added. 

Members of the European Parliament called on the Convening Authority not to seek capital charges in the case in a resolution in June which said that "the military commission trials do not meet the standards internationally required for the application of the death sentence".

During his detention in Poland, 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 is represented before the European Court by James Goldston, Amrit Singh, and Rupert Skilbeck of the Justice Initiative, and Nancy Hollander of Freedman Boyd Hollander Goldberg Ives & Duncan.

He is represented in Poland by advocate Mikolaj Pietrzak of the Pietrzak & Sidor law office in Warsaw, and in the U.S. by Lt. Commander Stephen C. Reyes, Nancy Hollander, and Richard Kammen.