Moral Low Ground


Guantánamo Detainees Sue Poland over CIA Rendition, Torture

Abu Zubaydah (L) and al-Nashiri

Abu Zubaydah (L) and al-Nashiri

Two terrorism suspects imprisoned in the US military prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba are suing Poland in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) in Strasbourg, France, alleging Warsaw’s complicity in their torture at the hands of their American captors.

BBC reports the men, 42-year-old Palestinian Abu Zubaydah and Saudi Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 48, claim they were tortured at a secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) ‘black site’ prison in Poland. Among the illegal torture techniques they say they were subjected to are waterboarding, an interrupted drowning technique in which large quantities of water are poured over a restrained prisoner’s face, mock executions, and rape threats against their family members.

Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times, allegedly made travel arrangement for al-Qaeda terrorists, including the perpetrators of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States, which killed nearly 3,000 people. Al-Nashiri is accused of organizing the 2000 attack on the USS Cole warship in Yemen, which killed 17 US sailors.

The two men were allegedly flown together on the same rendition plane in late 2002. Extraordinary rendition is the American practice of sending foreign terrorism suspects to other nations for interrogation, where they are often subjected to horrific torture.

More than 50 countries, including more than 20 European nations, participated in the US extraordinary rendition scheme.

“European support for the CIA’s torture program is one of the darkest chapters of our recent history,” Crofton Black of the UK-based human rights group Reprieve told the BBC. “It is encouraging that the court now looks set to bring it to light, where the [Polish] government has sought to sweep it under the carpet.”

“We have now heard overwhelming and uncontested evidence that the CIA was running a secret torture prison on Polish soil, with the Polish government’s knowledge,” Black added.

Earlier this year, Poland became the first country to press charges against one of its own officials over involvement in secret CIA torture prisons on its soil. Former intelligence chief Zbigniew Siemiatkowski was charged with exceeding his powers, depriving prisoners of war of their freedom and allowing their abuse.

Last year, the ECHR ruled that the small Balkan nation of Macedonia violated the rights of Khaled al-Masri, an innocent German citizen who was kidnapped there and rendered to Afghanistan, where he was raped and tortured at a CIA ‘black site’ and imprisoned in the notorious CIA ‘Salt Pit’ before being released without charge. The CIA has acknowledged that al-Masri’s rendition was a mistake. The ECHR awarded him €60,000 ($82,000).

Romania and Lithuania also have cases pending in the ECHR over their hosting of secret CIA torture prisons.

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