Hearings being held today at the European Court of Human Rights in two crucial cases against Romania and Lithuania for complicity in the CIA-led rendition and secret detention programs represent a milestone in accountability, said Amnesty International.
A host of European states played a role in facilitating the torture and enforced disappearance of people by the CIA in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001 attacks on the U.S.. In this particular instance, the two men, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, often referred to as Abu Zubaydah – both of whom are now in U.S. custody at Guantanamo Bay – were subjected to torture including waterboarding in CIA secret sites.
“Romania and Lithuania have never been held accountable for their direct involvement in CIA rendition and secret detention. Today’s hearing is a chance for the victims’ lawyers to set the facts out before the European Court in the hope that it will help break the conspiracy of silence,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counterterrorism and human rights in Europe.
A December 2014 report by the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence included details of the torture suffered by al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah at the hands of the CIA, but U.S. courts have declined to hear cases related to the CIA operations and there has been virtually no accountability to date for these abuses in the U.S..
Similarly, in February 2016, the Council of Europe’s Secretary General closed its Article 52 inquiry into European states’ roles in the CIA rendition and secret detention programme, dealing a severe blow to accountability. The current European Court hearings are the last chance to lay bare the facts behind the CIA rendition programme in these countries.
“The hearings today on the human rights violations in Romania and Lithuania are all the more important given that other avenues for accountability have been closed off to these victims of torture,” said Hall.
Amnesty International has intervened, together with the International Commission of Jurists, in these proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights brought by Al-Nashiri against Romania and by Abu Zubaydah against Lithuania. Amnesty International has previously intervened in other similar European Court cases, including the claims brought by the same men against Poland, which resulted in a July 2014 judgment against Poland for its involvement in the CIA operations.