STRASBOURG, France : Europe’s top human rights court condemned Poland on Thursday for hosting secret CIA prisons on its territory, saying Warsaw knowingly abetted unlawful imprisonment and torture of Guantanamo-bound detainees.
The European Court of Human Rights ruled in favour of a Palestinian and a Saudi national who were held in a US detention centre for several months in Poland in 2002-2003 before being transferred to the US military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. The Polish government “enabled the US authorities to subject the applicant to torture and ill-treatment on its territory”, the ECHR said in its rulings over the cases of Palestinian Abu Zubaydah, 43, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, 49, of Saudia Arabia. The men’s lawyers had argued before the Strasbourg court that during their detention, they were repeatedly tortured by waterboarding. The ECHR also found Warsaw guilty of allowing the men to be sent to places where they faced torture, further detention and “flagrant denial of justice”.
The government was ordered to pay 100,000 euros (135,000 dollars) in damages to each plaintiff. A decade later, both men remain at Guantanamo, and have as yet not had a hearing before a US judge. Poland has three months to appeal the decision to the Strasbourg court.
A spokesman for the foreign ministry told AFP the government had “no comment for the moment”, and that it would prepare a reaction for later on Thursday.
Poland’s president at the time, Aleksander Kwasniewski, was quoted by Polish news agency PAP as saying, “I respect the verdicts of independent tribunals, but I will not comment on them.”
An investigation into the detainees’ treatment was opened in Poland in 2008 but is still not concluded - a situation that has been condemned by the UN’s anti-torture body.
Poland is one of a number of European countries accused of having assisted the United States in its extraordinary rendition of suspected terrorists from the Middle East, Pakistan and Afghanistan to Guantanamo, in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
Macedonia was condemned by the ECHR in December 2012 over the case of Khaled el-Masri, a German of Lebanese origin who was arrested in Macedonia at the end of 2003 and transferred to a CIA prison in Afghanistan, where he was held in secret for five months.