Abu Zubaydah v Poland
Latest case development
INTERIGHTS, together with partner lawyers, launched legal action in Poland on behalf of Abu Zubaydah, the first victim of the CIA’s experimental torture programme, regarding crimes committed in the CIA’s secret prison in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland.
On 26 March 2013 an application was filed before the European Court of Human Rights. The complaint alleges that, through both its acts as well as omissions – including by agreeing to house the secret detention centre, turning a blind eye to normal protections and oversight, and otherwise participating in and facilitating the extraordinary rendition of Abu Zubaydah into and out of Poland – the Polish authorities are responsible for multiple violations of Abu Zubaydah’s rights.
Working with Polish lawyer Bartlomiej Jankowski, Reprieve and Zubaydah’s U.S. lawyers Joseph Margulies and Brent Mickum, INTERIGHTS is undertaking a legal battle to hold officials accountable for their contribution to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and enhanced interrogation programme.
In December 2010, Mr. Jankowski filed two applications for Zubaydah providing official notification of crimes committed against him while he was held by the CIA in Poland, and requesting that Abu Zubaydah be formally recognised as a victim in the ongoing investigation into abuse of office by Polish officials, and any criminal investigations that may follow. As an indication of the strength and seriousness of the claims presented, the Polish prosecutor recognised Abu Zubaydah as a victim within weeks and joined him as a party to the investigation.
Filings on behalf of Abu Zubaydah show that he was transferred from Thailand to Poland by the CIA on 5 December 2002 and was held there for nine or ten months. The documents include evidence of:
- The roles played by CIA agents and Polish officials in the CIA programme in Poland;
- The rendition flights that transported Abu Zubaydah into and out of Poland;
- The private companies involved in those flights; and
- The operation of the CIA’s secret prison site at Stare Kiejkuty.
Among the CIA ‘black sites’, the secret prison at Stare Kiejkuty, Poland was 'the most important one', according to A.B. Krongard, the Agency’s former Executive Director.
INTERIGHTS argues that the Polish government must now lift the regime of state secrecy about Stare Kiejkuty or risk committing further violations of international law. Currently, no information is available about the scope of the Polish investigation. Public reports suggest that high-level officials and other implicated individuals have sought to shield themselves from inquiry by invoking state secrets.
In the applications, Abu Zubaydah and his lawyers seek access to the Prosecutor’s investigation files and the right to take part in the investigation. They are requesting that Abu Zubaydah be recognised as a victim of torture and unlawful detention in Poland and that he is granted all of the rights of a victim under Polish and international law, including the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention Against Torture.
Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, more commonly known as Abu Zubaydah, is a stateless Palestinian born in Saudi Arabia. He was held in secret detention by the CIA of the United States of America from the time of his abduction from a house in Faisalbad, Pakistan on 28 March 2002 until approximately 6 September 2006, when it was announced that he was transferred to the custody of the U.S. Department of Defence ('DOD') at Guantanamo Bay. He remains in indefinite detention in DOD custody at Guantanamo Bay. However he has never been charged with any crime, neither in proceedings before a military commission nor in a civilian court.
Abu Zubaydah was the first so-called 'high value detainee' to be captured, detained and interrogated by the CIA. For the purpose of his interrogation, the CIA devised a set of 'enhanced interrogation techniques' intended to create a state of learned helplessness through the application of severe physical and psychological stress. According to former CIA Director George Tenet, once Abu Zubaydah was in custody, the CIA 'got into holding and interrogating high-value detainees . . . in a serious way.' He is one of three detainees subjected to the waterboard, and U.S. government documents show that he was waterboarded at least 83 times in one month.
Throughout the period of Abu Zubaydah’s secret detention, interrogation and torture by the CIA he was falsely alleged to be a member of al Qaeda and a close associate and senior lieutenant of Osama bin Laden. He was also falsely alleged to have had a role in various al Qaeda terrorist acts – including the attacks on 11 September 2001. After more than six years of incommunicado detention, Zubaydah obtained access to U.S. lawyers, who challenged his detention in U.S. courts and forced the U.S. Department of Justice to withdraw all such allegations. The United States no longer alleges Abu Zubaydah was ever a member of al Qaeda or that he supported al Qaeda's radical ideology. The United States no longer alleges that Abu Zubaydah was an associate of Osama bin Laden or that he was his senior lieutenant. The United States no longer alleges that Zubaydah had any role in any terrorist attack planned or perpetrated by al Qaeda, including the attacks of 11 September 2001.
26 March 2013 Application to the European Court of Human Rights
28 January 2013 Introductory Complaint to the European Court of Human Rights
16 December 2010 Abu Zubaydah Application for Victim Status in Polish Article 231 Criminal Investigation (English (unofficial translation))
Response to HFHR freedom of information request reveals CIA planes that landed in Poland (English) (Polish)
Abu Zubaydah’s Account of His Experiences to the ICRC (at page 29)
Dick Marty’s Second Investigation Report for the Council of Europe
UN Joint Experts Report on Secret Detention
9 April 2013 the ECtHR decided to give priority treatment to the application in accordance with Rule 41 of the Rules of Court
29 September 2011 Amnesty International publish Unlock the Truth in Lithuania: Investigate Secret Prisons Now calling on Lithuania to immediately reinstate the criminal investigation into its involvement in the US-led rendition and secret detention programmes
4 February 2011 Polish Prosecutor response to HFHR letter of 17 December 2011 (English) (Polish)
27 January 2011 HFHR Letter to Polish Prime Minister Donald Tusk calling for diplomatic support for request for assistance from the United States (English) (Polish)
20 January 2011 INTERIGHTS press release: Polish Prosecutor officially recognises Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah as a victim in Poland’s CIA secret prison investigation; decision should allow former ‘high-value detainee’ to testify against his US torturers and their allies
28 December 2010 Thenews.pl: US refuses cooperation with Poland’s CIA ‘black site’ probe
17 December 2010 HFHR Letter to the Polish Prosecutor (English) (Polish)
16 December 2010 Associated Press: Guantanamo detainee lawyers ask Poles for probe
15 December 2010 Polish Prosecutor response to HFHR letter of 30 November 2010 (English) (Polish)
30 November 2010 HFHR Letter to the Polish Prosecutor requesting information about scope and progress of investigation (English) (Polish)
Joseph Margulies, Clinical Professor of Law, Assistant Director, MacArthur Justice Center, Northwestern University Law School
Jankowski & Co. — Bartlomiej Jankowski is counsel for Abu Zubaydah in Poland
Reprieve — London-based human rights NGO
Helsińka Fundacja Praw Człowieka — the Polish Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights is providing advice on the case
For further information on the case please contact Vesi Vandova, Senior Lawyer, Security and Rule of Law at INTERIGHTS.
INTERIGHTS’ representation of Abu Zubaydah is part of its broader effort to establish the truth of the crimes perpetrated against victims of extraordinary rendition in Europe and Africa. Until all involved states initiate effective investigations, it will not be possible to establish the truth of the CIA’s programme. Numerous European and African governments were instrumental in the programme’s operation, and have substantial and urgent legal obligations to provide robust and transparent investigations that uncover the facts and hold the perpetrators responsible.
Click here to read Volume 16 Number 1 of the INTERIGHTS Bulletin: Kidnapped by the State: Extraordinary Rendition and Secret Detention in the 'War on Terror' published May 2010.