Tag Archives: extraordinary rendition

The CIA Black Sites at the European Court of Human Rights

CIA black sites. image amnesty USA

The CIA ran a secret jail on Polish soil, the European Court of Human Rights ruled on July 24, 2014, piling pressure on Poland, one of Washington’s closest allies, to break its long silence about the global programme for detaining al Qaeda suspects.  The court said it had been established that the CIA used a facility in a northern Polish forest, code named “Quartz”, as a hub in its network for interrogating suspected al Qaeda operatives rounded up after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.

Poland has always denied that the CIA had a jail on its territory, even as leaks from former U.S. intelligence officials, and a Senate investigation, brought more and more details of the programme into the open.  The July 24, 2014 ruling was the first time that a court in Europe had said that the CIA operated one of the secret jails – often referred to as “black sites” -on the continent.

Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative who acted for one of the men who brought the case, told Reuters both Poland and the United States would have to take note of what she called an historic ruling…The court case was brought by lawyers for two men, Saudi-born Abu Zubaydah, and Saudi national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, who are now both inmates at Guantanamo Bay, the U.S. military’s prison on Cuba.

They alleged they were flown in secret to a remote Polish airfield, then transferred to the CIA-facility near the village of Stare Kiejkuty where they were subject to treatment they said amounted to torture.  Lawyers for Nashiri said one on occasion he was forced to stand naked and hooded in his cell while his interrogator operated a power drill, making the detainee believe he would be harmed. In another incident, the lawyers said, an interrogator cocked a pistol next to Nashiri’s head.

The court ruled that, despite the wall of secrecy around the U.S.-led “extraordinary rendition” programme, there was enough circumstantial evidence to say beyond reasonable doubt that both men were held at a CIA-run facility in Poland. It said Poland knew about their detention and should have known they were at risk of ill-treatment.

The court found Poland violated its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights to prevent torture, ensure the right to liberty, and properly investigate allegations a crime had been committed on its territory.  It ordered Poland to pay al-Nashiri 100,000 euros in damages and 130,000 euros to Zubaydah….

The ruling from Strasbourg may have implications for other European states alleged to have hosted CIA prisons: similar cases have been lodged with the court in Strasbourg against Romania and Lithuania. The court ruling did not directly cover the United States, which is outside its jurisdiction.

Excerpt from CHRISTIAN LOWE European court says CIA ran secret jail in a Polish forest, Reuters, July 24, 2014

CIA Torture Program: the case of El-Masri

torture instruments 1729

Nearly a decade after a German man claimed he was snatched off the street, held in secret and tortured as part of the CIA’s extraordinary rendition program — all due to a case of mistaken identity — a panel of international judges said today what Khaled El-Masri has been waiting to hear since 2004: We believe you.  The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) handed down a unanimous verdict siding with El-Masri (pdf of verdict) in his case against the government of Macedonia, which he claimed first played an integral role in his illegal detention and then ignored his pleas to investigate the traumatic ordeal. For his troubles, the ECHR ordered the government of Macedonia to pay El-Masri 60,000 Euros in damages, about $80,000.

“There’s no question 60,000 Euros does not begin to provide compensation for the harm he has suffered,” James Goldston, executive director of the Open Society Justice Initiative, which is representing El-Masri, told ABC News today. “That said… for Mr. El-Masri, the most important thing that he was hoping for was to have the European court officially acknowledge what he did and say that what he’s been claiming is in fact true and it was in fact a breach of the law… It’s an extraordinary ruling.”

El-Masri’s dramatic story, as detailed in various court and government documents, began in late 2003 when he was snatched off a bus at a border crossing in Macedonia. Plainclothes Macedonian police officers brought him to a hotel in the capital city of Skopje and held him there under guard for 23 days. In the hotel he was interrogated repeatedly and told to admit he was a member of al Qaeda, according to an account provided by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

The German was then blindfolded and taken to an airport where he said he was met by men he believed to be a secret CIA rendition team. In its ruling today, the EHRC recounted how the CIA men allegedly beat and sodomized El-Masri in an airport facility, treatment that the court said “amounted to torture.” The CIA declined to comment for this report.  El-Masri was then put on a plane and claims that the next thing he knew, he was in Afghanistan, where he would stay for four months under what his lawyers called “inhuman and degrading” conditions.  According to the Initiative, it wasn’t until May 28, 2004 that El-Masri was suddenly removed from his cell, put on another plane and flown to a military base in Albania. “On arrival he was driven in a car for several hours and then let out and told not to look back,” the group says on its website. Albanian authorities soon picked El-Masri up and took him to an airport where he flew back to Frankfurt, Germany.  According to El-Masri’s lawyers, the CIA had finally realized they accidentally picked up the wrong man.

In their decision today, the ECHR said El-Masri’s account was established “beyond reasonable doubt,” in part based on the findings of previous investigations into flight logs and forensic evidence.  Before the EHRC, El-Masri and his supporters had tried to bring his case to trial in several courts, including in the U.S. in 2005. There, the American Civil Liberties Union filed a suit on behalf of El-Masri against George Tenet, then director of the CIA, but the case was dismissed in 2006 after the U.S. government claimed hearing it would jeopardize “state secrets.” The U.S. Supreme Court declined to review the case in 2007.The same year, a German prosecutor issued an arrest warrant for 13 CIA agents for their alleged role, according to the New York Times, but the agents were never arrested.

In addition to the money Macedonia has been ordered to pay El-Masri, the Open Society Justice Initiative is calling on Macedonia, the U.S. and Germany to offer official apologies to El-Masri and for Germany to ask the U.S. to hand over the officers allegedly involved in the kidnapping so they may see trial.  Goldston said he hoped the ECHR’s ruling could open the door to further investigations into the CIA’s controversial rendition program and “all these kinds of cases where allegations of abuse arise from counter-terrorism practices.”

LEE FERRAN. Court: CIA Tortured German During Botched Rendition, ABC News, Dec. 13, 2012