Guantánamo detainee takes Lithuania to court over secret CIA prison

October 28, 2011

A Guantánamo detainee is today filing a complaint against Lithuania in the European Court of Human Rights, over its role in facilitating his extraordinary rendition and hosting the CIA ‘black site’ in which he was held. Abu Zubaydah, who continues to be detained indefinitely without charge in Guantánamo Bay, was captured by the US in 2002. He was the first ‘high value detainee’ and the person around whom the CIA developed their notorious ‘enhanced interrogation’ system. Subjected to a battery of mental and physical torture – including being waterboarded 83 times in one month – he spent four and a half years in secret detention, including a period in a specially constructed CIA prison facility outside Vilnius, Lithuania. Revelations of the CIA’s prison in Lithuania first emerged in mid-2009. However, the Lithuanian authorities have yet to undertake a credible investigation. Earlier this month, the state prosecutor refused to reopen the inquiry into the existence of CIA prison sites on Lithuanian territory, despite Reprieve’s offer of access to confidential information demonstrating that a CIA-chartered plane had flown from Morocco to Lithuania at the time that Abu Zubaydah was moved between these two countries. The prosecutor declined even to look at this material, which Reprieve has now submitted under seal to the Court. Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “This is a deeply embarrassing development for the Lithuanian Government. Because they have been unwilling or unable to get to the bottom of their part in the murky business of rendition, they are now being dragged before the European Courts. Lithuania’s role in the CIA’s secret prisons programme will continue to be a stain on their international reputation, unless they undertake a proper, thorough inquiry into just what abuses were allowed to happen in their country.” ENDS Notes to editors 1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office on +44 (0) 207 427 1082. Background on the investigation into EU complicity in rendition can be found on Reprieve’s website.

2. The full text of Abu Zubaydah’s Application to the ECHR can be found here. 3. Abu Zubaydah’s case is being filed in the Strasbourg court by INTERIGHTS, the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights, together with a team of U.S. lawyers. For more information, please contact Sarah Harrington or Rachel Fleetwood on +44 (0) 207 843 0472. 4. Abu Zubaydah: Although at the moment of his capture he was wishfully described by the Bush administration as “number three in al-Qaeda”, the US government no longer asserts that Abu Zubaydah was even a member of this organization. Despite this, he remains in top secret detention in Guantánamo Bay, and the government declines either to try or charge him. He has no recourse to any meaningful legal mechanism. The government has denied him a voice by presumptively classifying his every utterance, so that no one – outside his few top-security cleared lawyers – can hear any aspect of his story. The enforcement of this regime is so absolute that the government has refused even to consider for declassification the power of attorney form that he signed for this European Court action. Nor are they prepared to process for declassification any part of his own affidavit about his years of secret detention in Lithuania and elsewhere, despite the fact that a considerable part of this history has long been in the public domain following freedom of information requests in the US. 5. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’ 

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