The European Court of Human Rights has today ruled that the Polish government was not only aware of but actively assisted the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw detainees held and tortured in secret prisons across the Continent.
In a judgement handed down today in the case of Abu Zubaydah, a Guantanamo detainee who the US has admitted it mistakenly believed to be a senior member of Al Qaeda, the court concluded that it was “established beyond reasonable doubt” that Abu Zubaydah was flown from a secret site in Thailand to another CIA prison in Stare Kiejkuty in northern Poland.
Judges described the evidence that Abu Zubaydah was detained in Poland as “coherent, clear and categorical,” and ruled that it was “inconceivable” that Poland was unaware of his mistreatment.
They concluded that not only was Poland “informed of and involved in the preparation and execution of the [High Value Detainee] Programme on its territory,” but “Poland, for all practical purposes, facilitated the whole process, created the conditions for it to happen and made no attempt to prevent it from occurring.”
In addition, the court ruled that the Polish government failed to conduct a “prompt”, “thorough” and “effective” investigation into CIA secret prisons on their own soil.
Abu Zubaydah is still held in Guantanamo Bay. The court stated that his ongoing imprisonment without charge amounts to a “flagrant denial of justice”.
This is the first time that any court has passed judgement on the CIA’s European “black site” programme, which saw dozens of detainees held in secret locations in Europe between 2002 and 2006.
Legal charity Reprieve and its partners investigated Abu Zubaydah’s case and brought the application to the European Court in March 2013 after it became clear that Polish domestic investigations were turning into a cover-up.
Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “The court has rightly shown that no reasonable mind could accept the Polish government’s denials of its complicity in torture. As the US Senate prepares to release its own report into the shocking abuses perpetrated by the CIA in its European dungeons, it will become exponentially harder for other nations to pretend that nothing occurred. Poland – like other implicated countries such as Lithuania, Romania and the UK – needs finally to accept that the days of denial are over. They must come clean about their involvement and take real steps to ensure that it cannot happen again.”
Joseph Margulies, one of Abu Zubaydah’s American counsel, said: “It’s always gratifying when a court speaks truth to power. The question now is whether Poland will listen. The rule of law demands more than words on a page. It demands justice.”