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ECtHR judgments in Al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah v. Poland

The European Court of Human Rights has entered judgments in the cases brought by applications of Al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, allegedly detained and tortured in a CIA secret prison in Poland. The judges unanimously ruled that a number of human rights violations had occurred in the cases of both applicants, pointing to abuses of the prohibition of torture, the right to a fair trial or right to personal freedom and safety. The Court also criticised the Polish government for the lack of cooperation during the case which resulted in a breach of the Convention’s Article 38.

“Tohe judgments are as good as they could be”, says Dr Adam Bodnar, Deputy President of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights. “The Strasbourg Court has not been fully informed by the Government so it accepted all the arguments presented by the applicants. The Government saw it coming. If the authorities think that ignoring different international institutions make the world forget about the case of secret prisons, then this judgment shows what a short-sighted strategy this was”, adds Dr Bodnar.

Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri filed his application to the European Court of Human Rights in 2011. Mr al-Nashiri claims to have been tortured in a CIA black site in Poland in 2002-2003. In his application to the ECtHR, he alleged, among other things, that Poland had violated the prohibition of torture and his right to a fair trial. In 2013 a similar application was submitted by Abu Zubaydah who is presently detained in the Guantanamo Bay prison camp.

A UN report has expressed a suspicion that in the years 2003-2005 eight terrorist suspects had been being detained in the village of Kiejkuty and Polish authorities had set up a team of intelligence agents subordinated and answering directly to US secret services.

The Strasbourg Court ruled that Poland had enabled the detention and torture of the two applicants. Moreover, the ECtHR held that Poland had enabled the CIA to transfer the applicants abroad despite them being exposed to a risk of further ill-treatment and illegal detention. “The Court has referred to an amicus curiae brief of the Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights and documents which the Foundation had managed to obtain”, says Irmina Pacho, HFHR’s lawyer.

In 2010, the HFHR revealed records of the Border Guard that between December 2002 and September 2003 seven Gulfstream aircraft had transported to the Szymany airport 20 individuals from Afghanistan, Dubai and Morocco. Gulfstreams are believed to be used by the CIA in the so-called special rendition programme.

An inquiry into CIA secret prisons in Poland has been ongoing for more than six years. During that time the investigation was transferred from the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Warsaw to its counterpart in Kraków and extended ten times. “According to the Strasbourg Court, the investigation conducted in this case was ineffective”, says HFHR’s Ms Pacho.

The ECtHR awarded al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah 100,000 euros each as compensation for moral injury.


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