Unlocking the Truth of Secret CIA Prisons in Lithuania

September 30, 2011

secret prison lithuania
There are allegations of renditions between Lithuania and other European countries © Amnesty International

On Thursday Amnesty International launched a new report, Unlock the Truth, on the Lithuanian government’s abortive investigation of CIA ‘black sites’ that operated on their soil.

In December 2009 Lithuania became the first, and so far only, European state to publicly acknowledge that it had allowed the CIA to operate secret prisons on its territory. In January 2010 the Lithuanian Prosecutor General initiated a criminal investigation into the revelations.

Initial inquiries revealed that at least five CIA rendition flights touched down in Lithuania between 2002 and 2006, that two black sites were built on Lithuanian soil, and identified the three senior State Security Department (SSD) officials who had cooperated closely with the US extraordinary rendition program.

However, perhaps the most pertinent question – whether or not any CIA detainees were actually held in Lithuania – was not resolved.

secret CIA prison lithuania
A security training centre is alleged to have been used as a secret CIA prison © REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

The human rights group Reprieve has suggested that Abu Zubaydah – one of three CIA prisoners known to have been subjected to waterboarding – was held in a black site in Lithuania between Spring 2004 and September 2006.

Although limited in scope, these preliminary steps seemed to be the harbinger of a real attempt to hold officials accountable for abuses that potentially included forced disappearance, unlawful detention and torture.

It was to prove a false dawn.

Almost exactly a year after such a promising start the investigation fizzled out – the Lithuanian Prosecutor General issued a statement citing state secrecy concerns that made it clear that he had never seriously investigated the potential human rights abuses that had occurred.

To date, no one has been held accountable and there are no plans to reopen the case.

We will not allow matters to rest there.

Our next step will be to call on the Civil Liberties, Justice and Home Affairs (LIBE) committee of the European Parliament to prioritize its own investigation of Lithuanian complicity in extraordinary rendition and pressure Lithuania to make full reparation to any individual whose rights were abused on Lithuanian soil as part of this program.

Full and effective reparation includes restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and guarantees of non-repetition. Lithuania has a long way to go before it can be said to have met this standard.