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Poland yet to execute ECtHR judgments on the “Polish” CIA prisons. HFHR sends a communication to CoE Committee of Ministers

♦ In March, the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe will consider Poland’s implementation of the ECtHR Al Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah judgments.

♦ According to the HFHR, given the current state of affairs, it is not yet possible to conclude that the ECtHR judgments issued in cases involving CIA secret prisons in Poland have been executed. 

The Committee of Ministers has dealt with these cases before. The ECtHR decided the cases of Al Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah in 2014. Since then, Poland is yet to fully execute those judgments.

Torture in CIA secret prisons in Poland?

In 2004, foreign media started reporting on CIA operations in European countries. According to released information, in 2002-2003 the CIA operated secret prisons in a number of countries, including Poland. In the Polish “black site”, CIA operatives held and tortured individuals detained by the U.S. and Coalition forces (e.g. in Afghanistan). The detainees were to be imprisoned at the facility without a court order and subjected to interrogation methods that violated the prohibition of degrading and inhuman treatment and the prohibition of torture.

In 2011 and 2013, the European Court of Human Rights received the application submitted in the cases of Abd Al Rahim Hussayn Muhammad Al Nashiri and Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn. Both cases were decided on 24 July 2014. The Court found a violation of Article 3 of the Convention, which involved both the substantive and procedural aspects of the provision. The ECtHR also found violations of personal liberty and the right to a fair trial, which was a consequence of the applicants having been denied the right to fair judicial proceedings. In Al Nashiri, the Court also ruled that Article 2 had been infringed owing to the applicant’s exposure to a real risk of being subjected to the death penalty.

A 12-year-long inquiry

Since 2008, the Prosecution Service has been investigating whether Polish authorities approved the establishment of CIA secret prisons and whether any Polish senior officials abused their powers by consenting to the use of torture against terror suspects detained by the CIA.

In the opinion presented to the Committee of Ministers, the HFHR indicates that, despite the Government’s declared willingness to provide information on the inquiry to the media and NGOs and a number of access to public information requests made by the HFHR, the public is yet to be made fully aware of the progress in the ongoing proceedings.

Foundation’s recommendations to the Polish authorities:

  • The effective control over the clandestine operations of intelligence services in Poland must be ensured.
  • The Prosecution Service should regularly and promptly inform the public about the course of the criminal proceedings conducted in the case of CIA prisons in Poland.
  • Polish authorities should conduct an effective investigation to determine key facts related to the existence of a CIA secret facility in Poland and identify those responsible for its existence.

Furthermore, in its submission of 20 February 2020, the HFHR drew attention to the unresolved problem related to the reform of secret services in Poland. The Foundation argued that the Polish authorities have been long working a number of laws on special services. However, the new legislation does not introduce measures that would protect individuals against violations of human rights, including the right to privacy.

Case timeline:

⇒ 2002-2003 – the CIA uses facilities of the Polish armed forces;
⇒ 11 March 2008 – the Prosecution Service launches a criminal inquiry into the case of secret prisons operated by the CIA in Poland.
⇒ 6 May 2011 – the application in the case of Al Nashiri v. Poland and Abu Zubaydah v. Poland is submitted to the ECtHR.
⇒ 10 July 2012 – the case of Al Nashiri is communicated to the Government of Poland.
⇒ 28 January 2013 – the application in the case of Abu Zubaydah v. Poland is submitted to the ECtHR.
⇒ 9 July 2013 – the case of Abu Zubaydah is communicated to the Government of Poland.
⇒ 24 July 2014 – the ECtHR enters the judgment.
⇒ 13 August 2015 – the Government presents the first action plan.
⇒ 21 June 2018 – the Government presents the most recent, updated action plan.
⇒ 26 April 2019 – In its most recent correspondence to the CoE, the Government emphasises that all information contained in the action plan of 21 June 2018 are still up-to-date.
⇒ 31 July 2019 – the Regional Prosecutor’s Office in Kraków applies to the National Prosecutor’s Office for a six-month extension of the inquiry into the case of CIA prisons in Poland.



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