New torture flights between Lithuania and secret CIA prisons in Afghanistan & Morocco revealed as European Parliament debates rendition report

September 10, 2012

Lawyers for “high value detainee” Abu Zubaydah – who was waterboarded 83 times by the CIA – have today filed a new submission concerning his transfer to and from a prison site in Lithuania.

The filing, by London-based organization Interights, comes as Reprieve releases new information showing how renditions contractor Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) arranged covert flights connecting Lithuania to other countries in the CIA’s secret prison network, including Morocco and Afghanistan.

The revelation comes ahead of a debate in the European Parliament, led by rapporteur Hélène Flautre, on a new report on the kidnapping – or ‘rendition’ – and illegal detention of prisoners in European countries by the CIA.

The US intelligence agency ran a so-called ‘black site’ outside Vilnius between 2004 and 2007, where detainees were held without charge. In their new report, the European Parliament’s Justice Committee concluded that “the layout of the buildings and installations inside appear compatible with the detention of prisoners” and that “many questions related to CIA operations in Lithuania remain open” despite a judicial investigation which closed in January 2011.

The rapporteur has requested clarification on these flights from Lithuanian prosecutors – but the country’s authorities have declined to reveal what steps they have taken in relation to them, if any.

Reprieve’s analysis of the data shows how contractors flying into and out of Lithuania falsified flight plans and switched planes mid-route to conceal their itineraries. False and incomplete flight routes were recorded by Lithuanian authorities and misleadingly reported to the Lithuanian parliament.

Reprieve’s analysis shows that a flight contracted by CSC flew from Rabat, Morocco to Palanga, Lithuania on 18 February 2005 – consistent with the likely transfer date of “high value detainee” Abu Zubaydah from Morocco to Lithuania.  Mr Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times while in CIA custody. It also shows how a CSC-contracted plane left Palanga on 25 March 2006 and disclosed to authorities that it was going to Porto, Portugal whereas it in fact went to Cairo to make a connection with another CSC plane bound for Kabul – consistent with accounts that prisoners were moved from Lithuania to Afghanistan in early 2006.

Commenting, Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “The flaws in the Lithuanian authorities’ investigations are becoming increasingly apparent. Far from exhausting the available evidence, it’s now clear that they didn’t even scratch the surface. Other than prisoner transfer, no credible explanation can be attached to these flights.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 / donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk

2. Reprieve has been investigating complicity in secret detention by contracting companies, including CSC and various aviation firms. The data gathered and analysed in relation to these flights includes invoices for services, trip planning documents and flight plan data released by EuroControl to the European Parliament’s Committee for Justice, Civil Liberties and Home Affairs.

3. Reprieve has been investigating Lithuanian complicity in secret CIA prisons in collaboration with the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, Vilnius.

4. In the case of Abu Zubaydah v. Lithuania, Abu Zubaydah is represented at the European Court of Human Rights by Interights: see http://www.interights.org/abu-zubaydah-v-lithuania/index.html