01 July 2016
Last week the European Court of Human Rights held confidential hearings on two cases concerning the CIA's rendition programme, Al Nashiri v Romana and Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania. Both men are currently imprisoned in Guantanamo Bay. An ECHR news item said: "Both cases concern the alleged “rendition” of the applicants, suspected of terrorist acts, to CIA secret detention sites, where, according to their submissions, illegal interrogation methods amounting to torture were used."
Press releases issued by the ECHR outline the details of the two men's cases (see below). It should be noted that in a seperate case, a Lithuanian court recently refused permission for a rendition victim to participate in a pre-trial criminal investigation. See: Lithuanian court prevents secret detention and rendition victim from participating in investigation into CIA secret prisons in Lithuania (Statewatch News Online, 1 July 2016)
And see: CIA rendition victims challenge Romania and Lithuania at Europe’s human rights court (Amnesty International, link)
In related news, a retired CIA officer who was tried and convicted in absentia by an Italian court in 2009 for her involvement in the Abu Omar rendition case has lost her appeal against extradition. Sabrina De Sousa "said in an interview that she expects to be sent to Italy, where she faces four years in prison," according to the L.A. Times. See: Former CIA officer could go to jail for a notorious 'rendition' case (Los Angeles Times, link). For detailed background and analysis, see: State secrets in the Abu Omar case: the transatlantic relationship undermines the rule of law in cases involving human rights abuses by intelligence services (pdf)
The Al Nashiri case: experts from the ECHR press release (pdf)
"The applicant, Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri, is a Saudi Arabian national of Yemeni descent who was born in 1965. Mr Al Nashiri is currently detained in the Internment Facility at the United States (US) Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. He has been suspected of the terrorist attack on the US Navy ship USS Cole in the harbour of Aden, Yemen, in October 2000 and of playing a role in the attack on the French oil tanker MV Limburg in the Gulf of Aden in October 2002.
Mr Al Nashiri alleges that he was the victim of an “extraordinary rendition” by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), that is, of apprehension and extrajudicial transfer to CIA secret detention facilities in various countries, including Poland and Romania. He submits that he was held in a secret detention site in Romania, from 12 April 2004 to an unknown date before 6 September 2006, before being transferred and imprisoned at Guantanamo Bay, with the knowledge of the Romanian authorities for the purpose of interrogation, during which he was tortured.
Mr Al Nashiri’s complaints under the European Convention on Human Rights relate to three principal issues: his ill-treatment in Romania while in US custody, his transfer from Romania, and Romania’s failure to conduct an effective investigation into the circumstances surrounding his ill-treatment, detention and transfer from the Romanian territory. As regards his ill-treatment and detention in Romania, he alleges that Romania violated Articles 3 (prohibition of torture), 5 (right to liberty and security) and 8 (right to respect for family and private life) of the Convention in enabling his torture,ill-treatment and incommunicado detention on Romanian territory.
As regards his transfer from Romania, Mr Al Nashiri submits that, in knowingly and intentionally enabling his transfer despite substantial grounds for believing that there was a real risk that he would be subjected to the death penalty, Romania violated his rights under Articles 2 (right to life) and 3 of the Convention as well as Protocol No. 6 (abolition of death penalty) to the Convention. Furthermore, he submits that Romania violated his right to an effective remedy under Article 13 of the Convention by failing to conduct an effective investigation into the serious violations of his rights."
The Abu Zubaydah case: excerpts from the ECHR press release (pdf)
"The applicant, Abu Zubaydah is a stateless Palestinian, who was born in 1971 in Saudi Arabia. He is currently detained in the Internment Facility at the United States (US) Guantanamo Bay Naval Base in Cuba. At the time of his capture, he was considered by the US authorities as one of the key members of the terrorist network Al’ Qaeda, who played a role in several terrorist operations, including planning the attacks of 11 September 2001 in the US.
Mr Abu Zubaydah submits that on 27 March 2002 he was captured in Pakistan and then kept in CIA secret detention facilities elsewhere, including Guantanamo Bay, Poland, Morocco and Lithuania. He alleges that from 17 February 2005 to 25 March 2006 he was held in a secret detention facility in Lithuania, constructed and equipped specifically for CIA detention, in accordance with prior authorisation from Lithuanian authorities. Subsequently, he was transferred to Guantanamo.
Mr Abu Zubaydah complains that the rendition process amounted to a violation of his rights under Article 3 (prohibition of torture) of the Convention. Although he was detained in Lithuania for over a year, his detention was not acknowledged, and no official trace of it existed in the public domain at that stage, in violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security). It is further alleged that while in detention in Lithuania he was not permitted any contact with his family, nor was he allowed to establish contact with a lawyer, in breach of Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life). Lastly, he complains that Lithuania has violated, and continues to violate, his rights under Articles 3, 5 and 8, as well as his right to an effective remedy under Article 13 of the Convention, by failing to conduct an effective investigation of his enforced disappearance, secret detention, torture and illtreatment."
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