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Szczytno District Court hears CIA secret prison case

On 14 September, the District Court of Szczytno conducted a hearing in the case of Mustafa al Hawsawi, who was allegedly held in a CIA secret detention facility in Poland. The court’s decision is to be handed down on 28 September 2015.

In November 2013, Mr al-Hawsawi’s attorney Bogumił Zygmont filed for awarding his client the victim status in the Polish investigation into the operation of CIA “black sites” in Poland. Having decided to examine this request in a separate proceeding, the prosecutor’s office conducted a preliminary inquiry and then refused to launch an investigation. Mr Zygmont appealed against the refusal, arguing that the inquiry should have been extended.

At the hearing, the court considered the appeal of al-Hawsawi’s lawyer. Speaking on behalf of his client, Mr Zygmont referred, among other things, to the findings of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, published in December 2014.

REDRESS, a London-based NGO that assists victims of torture, have also become involved in the case of Mustafa al-Hawsawi. REDRESS’ representative Kyra Hild addressed the court during the hearing and noted that State-Parties to the European Convention on Human Rights were obliged to investigate allegations concerning violations of the prohibition of torture. This obligation has also been affirmed in the ECtHR judgments issued in July 2014 in the cases of Al Nashiri v. Poland and Abu Zubaydah v. Poland.

Speaking on behalf of the prosecution, a prosecutor with the Appellate Prosecutor’s Office in Kraków argued that there was no prima facie evidence of Mr al-Hawsawi’s presence on the Polish soil. She admitted, though, that the man could have been tortured. However, the prosecution claims that no evidence confirms that the abuse occurred in the Polish territory.

“The District Court’s ruling on the submitted appeal will have a substantial impact on the Polish probe into the alleged national authorities’ complicity in the CIA programme of clandestine rendition and detention of terrorist suspects”, observes Barbara Grabowska-Moroz, an HFHR-appointed observer of the hearing.

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