Poland grants 'injured person' status to Guantánamo detainee over torture allegations

Poland ‘must have the political courage to tell the truth about the CIA secret site and what happened there’
Julia Hall, Amnesty International

By granting “injured person” status to a torture survivor currently detained at Guantánamo Bay, the Polish authorities are a step closer to revealing the truth about their involvement in the US-led secret detention and rendition programme in Poland, Amnesty International said today.
 
Yemeni national Walid Mohammed bin Attash is the third person to be recognised as a victim by the Polish Prosecutor General in its five-year investigation into alleged human rights violations by the CIA on Polish territory.
 
Walid Mohammad bin Attash is one of several detainees linked to a secret detention facility in Poland. The Yemeni was one of 14 people that former US president George W Bush acknowledged in 2006 had been held in secret CIA detention before his transfer to Guantánamo. At Guantánamo Bay Walid bin Attash is facing trial by military commission and could face the death penalty.
 
Amnesty believes that the injured person status assignment is a key development, as Poland’s investigation of the CIA “black site” has largely been conducted in secret since it began in 2008, with Polish prosecutors refusing to disclose almost any information related to the investigation or make its findings public. Under Polish law an “injured person” may review files as well as make a complaint concerning refusal to disclose documents. Such a person also has the right to challenge delays in the proceedings.
 
Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, Julia Hall, said:
 
“Walid bin Attash’s allegations of torture are extremely serious and deserve investigation - it is good that the Polish prosecutors agree.
 
“This development should provide the much-needed push forward for the lagging investigation, which is now over five years running.
 
“If Poland is committed to human rights and the rule of law, its authorities must have the political courage to tell the truth about the CIA secret site and what happened there. The criminal investigation must be truly independent and effective, and anyone responsible for torture or enforced disappearance must be brought to justice.”
 
Mariusz Paplaczyk, who is representing Walid bin Attash, joined Amnesty in welcoming the development: “This is a breakthrough. Information about granting ‘injured person’ status in the Polish investigation is extremely important to my client.”
 
Amnesty and other human rights organisations are at the United Nations in Geneva this week as Poland reports to the UN Committee against Torture about its human rights record. The CIA secret site investigation and its progress were key concerns at the session. UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay also raised them in a recent visit to Poland.

Background

A partially-leaked International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) report and other public documents indicate that between 29 April 2003 and 4 September 2006 Walid bin Attash was secretly held by the CIA in a variety of locations around the world, and that he was subjected to torture and other ill-treatment - in addition to enforced disappearance - during that time. Walid bin Attash’s complaint to the Polish Prosecutor General alleges that one of his places of secret detention was in Poland.
 
During an interview with the ICRC, Walid bin Attash has described how he was treated during his transfer, allegedly to Poland, which he maintains was aboard a military aircraft:

“After approximately three weeks in Afghanistan I was transferred to another place.

I was blindfolded and earphones were placed over my ears. I was transported in a sitting position, shackled by the ankles and by the wrists with my hands in front of my body.

I think that the flight lasted probably more than eight hours. On this occasion the transfer was done using a military plane. If I shifted my position too much during the journey somebody hit me by hand on the head.”
Walid bin Attash

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