Representatives of a prisoner tortured by the CIA and held without charge or trial for 10 years will today (Thursday) meet prosecutors to discuss charges against former senior members of the Polish intelligence services for complicity in his abuse.
Polish prosecutors brought charges against the former head of the intelligence services, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski and his deputy in January this year, although news of the move only emerged in recent weeks. The charges include exceeding official powers and allowing corporal punishment – in other words, torture.
The charges – the first of their kind brought anywhere in Europe – reflect the fact that, in 2002 and 2003, prisoners were flown secretly into Poland and tortured in a CIA-run facility on the military base at Stare Kiejkuty, in the north of the country. Among them was Abu Zubaydah, who was waterboarded 83 times in one month while in CIA custody in 2002. He continues to be held in Guantanamo Bay, where he was transferred after his imprisonment in Poland and other CIA ‘black sites,’ despite never having been charged with any crime.
There has been concern among lawyers that, although the charges have been widely discussed in the media and confirmed by Mr Siemiatkowski himself, prosecutors have yet to make them public. Victims’ lawyers have until now not had any discussion with prosecutors about the charges. Joe Margulies, one of Abu Zubaydah’s US lawyers, is in Poland to meet the prosecutor in charge of the case and discuss his client’s participation in the forthcoming steps.
Crofton Black, an investigator at Reprieve, said: “Poland appears to be demonstrating its commitment to rigorous investigation and showing that European countries cannot be party to torture and secret detention with impunity. Now is the time for Lithuania and Romania to breathe new life into their moribund accountability exercises and emulate the Polish prosecutors’ lead.”
Joe Margulies, Professor of Law at Northwestern University Law School, Chicago and attorney for Abu Zubaydah, said: "It is no accident that charges like these were brought first in a former communist country. No one appreciates the rule of law better than those to whom it was so long denied."
Bartlomiej Jankowski of JSLegal, who represents Abu Zubaydah in proceedings in Poland, said: "We appreciate the work of all prosecutors involved in the matter so far. Their professionalism and independence mean a lot to democracy in Poland. They show that the law must be obeyed by authorities independently from the circumstances they act in."
Notes to editors
1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell at Reprieve's press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082
2. 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 33 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’