Poland Must Investigate Its Role in U.S. Secret Prisons, says Amnesty International

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February 24, 2012

Poland Must Investigate Its Role in U.S. Secret Prisons, says Amnesty International

Contact: Sharon Singh, ssinghl@aiusa.org, 202-675-8579

(Washington, D.C.) -- Poland must cease hiding behind state secrecy and allow a fully transparent investigation into its role in U.S.-led rendition and secret detention programs, Amnesty International said.

The call came after the Polish prosecutor general changed the prosecutor in charge of an investigation into the matter for the second time in a year. No explanation has been offered for the decision.

"To ensure credibility, the chief prosecutor must cease hiding behind the veil of state secrecy and explain why the latest prosecutor was replaced," said Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counter-terrorism and human rights. "Several changes over the course of this investigation have caused delays in securing real accountability."

The recent decision is yet another worrying signal of how an excessive reliance on state secrecy may jeopardize the investigation's credibility. Transparency must be a critical component of the investigation -- both in the interest of the public but also considering that two former detainees have been granted the status of victims in the context of the investigation.

In 2002, Saudi Arabian national Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was arrested in Dubai while a Palestinian man born in Saudi Arabia, Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn -- also known as Abu Zubaydah -- was arrested in Pakistan. They were handed over to U.S. custody and held in secret detention sites run by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for around four years.

During that time, they had no contact with the outside world, were held in solitary confinement and were allegedly subjected to torture and ill-treatment during interrogation. This included "waterboarding," and allegedly other beatings and kicking, forced nudity, sleep deprivation, stress positions and threats. In September 2006, they were transferred to Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, where they remain.

Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Nashiri have alleged they were detained in a secret CIA prison in Poland between 2002 and 2003. These prisons were operated as part of the covert CIA-run rendition and secret detention programs after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States.

Amnesty International believes the men and their representatives must be granted effective access to information obtained in the course of the Polish prosecutor general's investigation and should be kept informed of the timing and progress of the proceedings. In accordance with Poland's international legal obligations, the government should make every effort to maximize the participation of victims who allege that they have been tortured and ill-treated, and subjected to enforced disappearance.

Amnesty International calls on the prosecutor general's office to report publicly on what steps are being taken to ensure an independent, impartial, thorough and effective investigation that will result in accountability, in terms both of individual criminal responsibility and Poland's broader human rights responsibilities.

Poland's human rights performance is coming under review this year both by the U.N. Human Rights Council's Universal Periodic Review and through an upcoming report by the European Parliament on the CIA's alleged transportation and illegal detention of prisoners in European countries.

Amnesty International expects the Polish government to take these initiatives as an opportunity to show what progress has been made on this issue in line with its international legal obligations.

Amnesty International is a Nobel Peace Prize-winning grassroots activist organization with more than 3 million supporters, activists and volunteers in more than 150 countries campaigning for human rights worldwide. The organization investigates and exposes abuses, educates and mobilizes the public and works to protect people wherever justice, freedom and dignity are denied.

For more information, please visit www.amnestyusa.org