In what has been described as a watershed moment, a European court ruled Thursday that Poland enabled rendition and torture carried out by the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency.
The ruling by the European Court of Human Rights marks the first court judgement on the CIA’s so-called “black sites,” secret offshore prisons where detainees are tortured.
The damning finding comes as a result of cases brought forth regarding two men currently held at the Guantanamo prison, Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri and Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah, who were captured by the U.S. and sent to a secret black site in Poland where they were tortured in 2002 and 2003.
The Court found that rights of the men as set out under the European Convention on Human Rights, including their right to “effective remedy” and to not be tortured, were violated.
Testimony heard by the Court included an account as it appeared in the 2007 ICRC Report by Abu Zubaydah of his detention:
A description of detention at CIA black sites given to the ICRC by 14 “high-value detainees,” including al-Nashiri, which was also seen by the Court stated:
Though it is unlikely that Polish officials witnessed the torture of the two men or knew of the specific actions that took place at the black site, the Court stated that “[f]or all practical purposes, Poland had facilitated the whole process, had created the conditions for it to happen and had made no attempt to prevent it from occurring.”
“The Court found that Poland had cooperated in the preparation and execution of the CIA rendition, secret detention and interrogation operations on its territory and it ought to have known that by enabling the CIA to detain the applicants on its territory, it was exposing them to a serious risk of treatment contrary to the Convention,” the Court states.
The Court also ordered Poland to pay the men each 100,000 euros, and for Abu Zubaydah to be paid an additional 30,000 euros for costs and expenses.
“This ruling is of landmark significance for ending impunity with respect to the abuses associated with the rendition program,” stated Amrit Singh of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which brought froth the case on behalf of al-Nashiri.
“In stark contrast to U.S. courts that have closed their doors to victims of CIA torture, this ruling sends an unmistakable signal that these kinds of abuses will not be tolerated in Europe, and those who participated in these abuses will be held accountable,” Singh stated.