On Monday and Tuesday, as I explained in a subsequent article, “an important step took place in the quest for those who ordered and undertook torture in the Bush administration’s ‘war on terror’ to be held accountable for their actions,” when a ground-breaking hearing took place in Strasbourg. For the first time since the start of the “war on terror” and the abuses that, in particular, took place between 2002 and 2006, the European Court of Human Rights listened to evidence about the role of the Polish authorities in the extraordinary rendition, secret detention and torture of two men currently held in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba — Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.
Both men were held at a secret prison at Stare Kiejkuty in the northeast of the country, between December 2002, when they were moved from a previous CIA “black site” in Thailand, until October 2003, when they were moved for five months to “Strawberry Fields,” a secret facility in Guantánamo, until the Bush administration realized that the Supreme Court was about to grant the Guantánamo prisoners habeas corpus rights, thereby allowing lawyers to visit and to shatter the secrecy that was necessary for torture abuse to take place unchallenged. They were then shunted around other “black sites” in Romania, Lithuania and Morocco, until they were returned to Guantánamo in September 2006, with 12 other “high-value detainees” held in “black sites” for several years.
Writing about the hearing, Crofton Black, an investigator with Reprieve, one of the organizations representing Abu Zubaydah, stated that the court had “heard overwhelming and uncontested evidence that the CIA was running a secret torture prison on Polish soil, with the Polish government’s knowledge.” As I wrote in my article, “although I am prepared for disappointment, I certainly hope that the European Court of Human Rights will find that the Polish authorities acted unlawfully in hosting a CIA ‘black site’ on their territory.”
On Thursday, I was delighted to be asked to talk about the case by Yekaterina Kudashkina of the Voice of Russia, for the “Burning Point” show, and the 15-minute show is available here.
Below is an excerpt from the interview, which I hope provides some useful insight into what I discussed with Yekaterina in our interview. I hope you have a quarter of an hour to spare to listen to the whole program, and to share it with others.
Andy Worthington: The first thing we need to understand is that people have been seeking accountability for what happened in the war on terror for many years now. And what we are talking about is the US engaging in the torture of individuals, which is illegal.
And according to the UN Convention against Torture, which almost everybody has signed up to, including the Americans, when countries find out that torture has taken place, they must take steps to prosecute the people responsible. The US has abdicated all its responsibilities for that. President Bush obviously had no desire to prosecute himself. But most importantly, President Obama has refused to hold anybody accountable for what took place.
So, in the absence of there being any accountability in the US, efforts have been made to seek accountability in other countries. And clearly the people who are in the most vulnerable position, as far as calls for accountability go, are those handful of countries that hosted CIA black sites, where the US agents were torturing prisoners.
The case of Poland is partly about trying to hold the Polish Government accountable for their complicity in the prison that was on their soil, but also partly because there appears to be no other way of getting close to holding the Americans accountable for what they did.
Also featured on the show was Tomoyuki Hashimoto, Lecturer of International Relations at the University of New York in Tirana and a PhD student at the University of Oxford, who stated that, although he couldn’t “see any political movement in terms of why the lawyers for Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri made their claim, “I see a very good intention and a very interesting political motivation of why the court accepted it. I think the court wants to hear these general human rights issues in the world, and this is the best case they can have.”
Andy Worthington is a freelance investigative journalist, activist, author, photographer and film-maker. He is the co-founder of the “Close Guantánamo” campaign, and the author of The Guantánamo Files: The Stories of the 774 Detainees in America’s Illegal Prison (published by Pluto Press, distributed by Macmillan in the US, and available from Amazon — click on the following for the US and the UK) and of two other books: Stonehenge: Celebration and Subversion and The Battle of the Beanfield. He is also the co-director (with Polly Nash) of the documentary film, “Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo” (available on DVD here — or here for the US).
To receive new articles in your inbox, please subscribe to Andy’s RSS feed — and he can also be found on Facebook (and here), Twitter, Flickr and YouTube. Also see the four-part definitive Guantánamo prisoner list, and “The Complete Guantánamo Files,” an ongoing, 70-part, million-word series drawing on files released by WikiLeaks in April 2011. Also see the definitive Guantánamo habeas list and the chronological list of all Andy’s articles.
When I posted this on Facebook, I wrote:
If you have 15 minutes to spare, please listen to an interview I did with Voice of Russia regarding the European Court of Human Rights’ ground-breaking hearing about Polish complicity in the establishment of a secret prison that existed from Dec. 2002 to Oct. 2003, where the claimants, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, now in Guantanamo, were held and tortured.
Dejanka Bryant wrote:
I will, definitely, Andy. Thank you.
Thanks, Dejanka. That’s great to hear.
Diana Murtaugh Coleman wrote:
Will do when we get home, Andy!
Thanks, Diana. Much appreciated.
Robert Palmer wrote:
Thank you Andy.
You’re welcome, Robert. Good to hear from you.
Investigative journalist, author, filmmaker, photographer and Guantanamo expert
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