Polish Prosecutor Officially Recognises Guantánamo Prisoner Abu Zubaydah as a Victim in Poland’s CIA Secret Prison Investigation

For Immediate Release

REPRIEVE
Contact: 

Sarah Harrington at INTERIGHTS
sharrington@interights.org
+44 (0)20 7843 0472, or
Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office, Katherine.Oshea@reprieve.org.uk +44(0)20 7427 1099.

Polish Prosecutor Officially Recognises Guantánamo Prisoner Abu Zubaydah as a Victim in Poland’s CIA Secret Prison Investigation

LONDON - Guantánamo prisoner Abu Zubaydah has
been granted all-important ‘victim’ status in the pending criminal
investigation into a CIA black site in Poland, following a complaint
brought by Polish lawyer Bartlomiej Jankowski working with INTERIGHTS,
Reprieve and Joe Margulies.

The Polish Prosecutor is the
first state official to accept Abu Zubaydah’s claims that he was a
victim of extraordinary rendition and secret detention in Poland. Until
now both the Polish and US governments have repeatedly denied that he
was illegally imprisoned and tortured in a secret prison near Szymany;
the Prosecutor’s office has now accepted that Abu Zubaydah’s claims are
not only credible but also extremely serious.

Poland’s decision is
a crucial step towards uncovering the truth about the CIA’s rendition
and torture programme in Europe. Victim status allows Abu Zubaydah’s
lawyers to participate fully in the criminal investigation, which
includes introducing further evidence, calling witnesses and taking part
in the questioning of witnesses and suspects.Abu Zubaydah himself will
be able to testify against his US torturers and their allies.

The
Polish Prosecutor’s leadership stands in contrast with the Lithuanian
Prosecutor General’s bizarre decision, announced this week, to close his
investigation into the CIA black site in Lithuania in which Abu
Zubaydah was also held and tortured. Like many other European states,
Lithuania was instrumental in the operation of the CIA’s illegal
rendition and torture programme, and has urgent legal obligations to
provide robust and transparent investigations in order to uncover the
facts.

Today’s decision follows weeks of urgent litigation by Abu
Zubaydah’s international legal team. On 16 December 2010, Bartlomiej
Jankowski filed applications with the Polish Prosecutor’s office showing
his client was transferred from Thailand to Poland by the CIA on 5
December 2002, and held there for nine or ten months. The applications
included extensive 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, near Szymany.

Joseph Margulies, a law professor at Northwestern University in Chicago and US counsel for Abu Zubaydah said: "To
recognize Abu Zubaydah as a victim is to accept his humanity, which is
the first essential step to recovering from the hysteria of 9/11. It is
not surprising, that this step should be taken by the Poles before the
Americans."

Bartlomiej Jankowski, Polish cousel for Abu Zubaydah said: "Following
the arrangements made with Mr Jerzy Mierzewski, the prosecutor in
charge of the investigation, who personally informed me that Abu
Zubaydah is recognized as a victim, I will now be able to review at
least some of the unclassified documents in the investigation file. We
also expect to be given access to the classified documents. Secrecy
should not be used to shield gross human rights abuses from disclosure
to the Polish public. The Polish criminal investigation should also
receive full cooperation from the US government, which should promptly
comply with Poland's legal aid request. It is impossible to speak about
justice in this case without hearing the victims as witnesses, whether
directly in Poland or at least by video conference."

INTERIGHTS Litigation Director Helen Duffy said: "The
Prosecutor’s decision is a welcome first step, but the Polish
government must do much more to vindicate Abu Zubaydah’s rights. As a
recognised victim, he should now be entitled to take part in the
investigation and to uncover information concerning his abuse. It
remains to be seen whether the cloak of ‘state secrecy’ currently
surrounding the investigation will be lifted and the Polish authorities
will show their commitment to justice. Justice cannot be secret."

Reprieve Director Clive Stafford Smith said: “We
cannot expect to learn from history, and avoid repeating our mistakes,
if we do not know what that history was. So it is vital that European
complicity in the CIA renditions programme is brought into the light,
and the prosecutor’s decision is an important step towards that goal.
This investigation is not about the persecution of individual officials,
but rather about establishing a clear picture of exactly what happened
in order to ensure that it does not happen again. It is crucial that
those who created the programme and gave the orders are not permitted to
pretend it never happened.”

For more information please contact Sarah Harrington at INTERIGHTS sharrington@interights.org +44 (0)20 7843 0472, or Katherine O’Shea at Reprieve’s Press Office, Katherine.Oshea@reprieve.org.uk +44(0)20 7427 1099.

Background on Abu Zubaydah

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
Guantánamo Bay. He remains in indefinite detention in DOD custody at
Guantánamo 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 US 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, Abu 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 Abu Zubaydah had
any role in any terrorist attack planned or perpetrated by al Qaeda,
including the attacks of 11 September 2001.

Background on INTERIGHTS and Reprieve

INTERIGHTS,
the International Centre for the Legal Protection of Human Rights,
promotes and protects human rights through the use of law. We do so by
providing legal expertise to lawyers, judges, human rights defenders and
other partners concerning international and comparative human rights
law.

INTERIGHTS focuses on strategic litigation — bringing or
supporting cases in critical areas where human rights standards can be
developed and where existing standards are under threat.

Reprieve,
a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of
prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates,
litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal
support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes
the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair
trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of
Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the
death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve has represented, and continues
to represent, a large number of prisoners who have been rendered and
abused around the world, and is conducting ongoing investigations into
the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the
so-called ‘war on terror.’

To join our press mailing list please email katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk

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