Poland: New report calls for end to delays and secrecy in CIA 'black site' investigation

Guantánamo detainee Abu Zubaydah thought to have been waterboarded in Poland

A five-year investigation into Poland’s involvement in the US-led rendition and secret detention programme must be completed immediately, with those responsible for human rights violations brought to justice in fair trials, Amnesty International said in a new report published today.

The Polish government is accused of colluding with the CIA to establish a secret “black site” prison at the restricted military area of Stare Kiejkuty, approximately 100 miles north of Warsaw, where suspects were subjected to enforced disappearance and tortured between 2002 and 2005.

The investigation has dragged on since 2008 and has been conducted largely secretly. The Polish prosecutors have thus far declined to disclose almost any information related to the investigation or to make its findings public.

Poland has been in the spotlight since 2005, when it was first identified as having hosted a secret CIA detention facility. In 2008, the Polish authorities opened a criminal investigation which has been repeatedly delayed due to changes in prosecution personnel, a shift in location from Warsaw to Krakow, and claims that cooperation from the US government has not been forthcoming. “National security” is routinely invoked as a justification for the secrecy that shrouds the investigation.

Amnesty’s 63-page report, Unlock the truth: Poland’s involvement in CIA secret detention, calls for Poland to end the delays and secrecy over the investigation.

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

“Secrecy and delay cannot be used as tactics to avoid accountability.

“The Polish government must come clean about a period in the country’s history when those in authority appear to have colluded with the USA and other states in the unlawful apprehension of people and their transfer to places where they were tortured and subjected to enforced disappearance.

“If Poland was complicit in these violations, it must also acknowledge its own role and hold the perpetrators accountable.

“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.”

Two men have been granted “injured person” status in the investigation. The first is Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi Arabian national alleged to have masterminded the bombing of the USS Cole off the coast of Yemen in 2000. He has claimed that he was questioned in a secret facility in Poland and subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” and other human rights violations, such as “mock execution” with a gun and threats of sexual assault against his family members.

The second, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah, a stateless Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia, is also believed to have been held in Poland, where he says he was subjected to extreme physical pain and psychological pressure. Former US President George W Bush admitted in his 2010 memoir that Abu Zubaydah was subjected to “waterboarding” - simulated drowning - while in secret CIA detention. 

Abu Zubaydah and al-Nashiri are currently detained at the US Navy’s Guantánamo Bay detention facility in Cuba, where al-Nashiri is subject to a trial by military commission. Both men have also lodged applications with the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 and 2013. In the al-Nashiri case, the Polish government has refused to disclose information requested by the Court.

Amnesty’s new report includes a profile of a third man who alleges he was held at a secret detention site in Poland in 2003. Walid bin Attash, a Yemeni national, is currently detained at Guantánamo and is also awaiting trial by military commission.

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