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Lithuania should re-open its CIA rendition investigation after new victim comes forward

Guantánamo Bay detainee Mustafa al-Hawsawi can provide new evidence, claims NGO

With a new victim claiming he was held in a secret CIA detention centre in Lithuania, Amnesty International is urging the Lithuanian authorities to re-open the country’s shelved  investigation into the country’s involvement in the US-led rendition and secret detention programmes. 

Amnesty is in Lithuania this week - with NGOs Reprieve, Redress, and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute - to meet government officials and civil society representatives to call for accountability over Lithuania’s involvement in the notorious renditions programme.

On 13 September Redress and the Vilnius-based Human Rights Monitoring Institute lodged a complaint with the Lithuanian Prosecutor General on behalf of Mustafa al-Hawsawi, a Saudi Arabian national currently detained at Guantánamo Bay. Redress claims al-Hawsawi was held in secret detention in Lithuania sometime between 2004 and 2006.

A previous criminal investigation by Lithuania’s Prosecutor General into acknowledged CIA secret prisons on Lithuanian territory was closed in January 2011, amidst claims of state secrecy. Amnesty condemned the investigation’s premature closure and later that year the London-based NGO Interights filed new information with the Lithuanian Prosecutor General on behalf of Abu Zubaydah, a stateless Palestinian, also currently detained at Guantánamo. At the time Interights and Amnesty called on the Prosecutor General to re-open the criminal investigation, but the prosecutor refused.

Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, said:

“The Lithuanian government has said time and again that if fresh information is presented, it will consider re-opening the previous investigation. Well, here it is.

“But let’s be clear: this new case is not the only one that requires the Prosecutor General’s attention. Any and all victims of these practices have the right to effective redress for the violations they suffered as a result of being illegally transferred, tortured under interrogation and disappeared into secret prisons.

“The Lithuanians utterly failed to conduct an effective investigation the first time, despite having acknowledged that secret sites were established, and then ignored new information in Abu Zubaydah’s case.

“The Prosecutor General needs to finish the job now by thoroughly investigating all the circumstances surrounding al-Hawsawi’s and Abu Zubaydah’s claims and the broader context of Lithuania’s complicity in the CIA operations.”

The European Parliament has also urged the Lithuanian authorities to re-open its investigation into the renditions programme. Lithuania currently holds the rotating presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Julia Hall added:

“It is imperative that Lithuania be a standard-bearer for human rights and the rule of law, as it holds the EU presidency.

“Stalling on accountability for its involvement in torture and disappearance sends a dangerous message that the EU, indeed the world, cannot afford.”

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