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European Court of Human Rights Holds Poland Responsible for Allowing CIA Torture & Rendition

Abu Zubaydah, subjected to torture and rendition, was awarded 130,000 euros by European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Poland had violated the United Nations Convention Against Torture when it allowed the CIA to torture and abuse prisoners on its territory. It also ruled that the country had violated the Convention by allowing the CIA to transfer prisoners, even though they would likely be subject to undisclosed detention. And the court ruled that Poland had violated the Convention by transferring prisoners to a country where they had a real risk of facing a “flagrant denial of justice.”

The complaints of violations of the torture convention came from Abu Zubaydah [PDF] and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri [PDF].

Poland was ordered to pay 130,000 euros to Zubaydah and $100,000 to Nashiri for “enabling US authorities” to subject the two men to torture and ill-treatment. ECHR also sought to hold the country accountable for its “failure to carry out an effective investigation,” a violation of the torture convention as well.

The Polish government has not decided whether it would like to appeal. Throughout the ECHR proceedings, the government consistently refused to constructively participate and provide information that would help the court make a fair ruling.

The United States government has alleged that Abu Zubaydah had a role in the planning of al Qaeda terrorism operations as “Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant.” Zubaydah was the first so-called “high value detainee” captured by the CIA and, when he was captured in Pakistan, he was shot multiple times in the groin, thigh and stomach. Seriously wounded, he was transferred to a secret prison in Thailand, code-named “Cat’s Eye,” and then transferred again to a restricted military area, Stare Kiejkuty, in Poland. There, he was subjected to “enhanced interrogation techniques” or torture.

Al Nashiri is alleged to have been involved in the bombing of the USS Cole in 2000 and the bombing of a French oil tanker in 2002. He was captured in Dubai and transferred to CIA custody. The CIA sent him to a secret prison in Afghanistan known as the “Salt Pit,” where he was “shackled to a bar or hook in the ceiling above” his head for “at least two days.” Al Nashiri was transferred to the same secret CIA prison where Zubaydah was held. He was also eventually transferred to Stare Kiejkuty as well.

While in CIA custody, Zubaydah (and Nashiri) were waterboarded. Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times in Thailand. Zubaydah was subjected to beatings, confinement in a box, sleep deprivation, prolonged nudity, prolonged shackling of hands and or feet, exposure to cold temperatures, threats of ill-treatment to family, forced shaving and “stress standing positions” often while naked and with arms extended and chained above his head.

Al Nashiri was threatened with a handgun and a power drill during an interrogation in December while he was in detention in Poland. Interrogators also would smoke cigars and blow it into his face. He was put in stress positions where one officer expressed concern that his shoulders may have been dislocated. He also was subjected to a stiff brush that was used to induce pain.

Both Zubaydah and Nashiri were transferred to Guantanamo in 2006, where they remain in detention today. Nashiri has been put on trial before a military commission for his alleged role in the USS Cole bombing.

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Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola

Kevin Gosztola is managing editor of Shadowproof Press. He also produces and co-hosts the weekly podcast, "Unauthorized Disclosure."