The people of Poland are expressing outrage on Friday as news spread that their own government is on the verge of paying more than $250,000 to victims of CIA torture which took place at an agency black site in the country even as the U.S. government refuses to acknowledge the crime or take responsibility for the grave human rights abuses that took place under the Bush administration.
The European Court of Human Rights imposed the penalty against Poland for its role in the torture of two individuals— Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri—both of whom were rendered by the CIA to a secret location in Poland in the wake of 9/11 attacks. Taken into custody overseas as "suspected terrorists," the men remain detained by the U.S. government in the offshore prison at Guantanamo Bay.
According to the Associated Press, "It irks many in Poland that their country is facing legal repercussions for the secret rendition and detention program which the CIA operated under then-President George W. Bush in several countries across the world after the 9/11 attacks. So far no U.S. officials have been held accountable, but the European Court of Human Rights has shown that it doesn't want to let European powers that helped the program off the hook."
AP's reporting continues:
[The court] ruled last July that Poland violated the rights of [the two men] by allowing the CIA to imprison them and by failing to stop the "torture and inhuman or degrading treatment" of the inmates.
It ordered Warsaw to pay 130,000 euros ($147,000) to Zubaydah, a Palestinian, and 100,000 euros ($113,000) to al-Nashiri, a Saudi national charged with orchestrating the attack in 2000 on the USS Cole that killed 17 U.S. sailors.
Poland appealed the ruling but lost in February. Foreign Minister Grzegorz Schetyna said at the time that "we will abide by this ruling because we are a law-abiding country."
Bartlomiej Jankowski, a Polish lawyer representing Abu Zubaydah, said his client wants the money he is awarded to go to an organization that helps women and children displaced or otherwise victimized by war. The exact organization has not been decided on yet because of limits U.S. officials have placed on Zubaydah's communications with his lawyers. In the meantime the money will be kept in a fund, Jankowski said.
A lawyer for al-Nashiri, Amrit Singh, refused to disclose how his money will be used.
Poland apparently received millions of dollars from the United States when it allowed the site to operate in 2002 and 2003, last year's report on the renditions program by the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee said in a section that appears to refer to Poland though the country name was redacted.
Though Poland long fought off charges of its complicity with the CIA's torture and rendition program, all indications now show that it will now submit to the court's order and make the payment. According to the Los Angeles Times:
Revelations contained in a U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report five months ago provided the final pieces of evidence confirming the complicity of Polish leaders, who had steadfastly denied knowledge of the prison after hints of their complicity were disclosed in a 2006 European Parliament investigation and a Polish inquiry still underway eight years after it was launched.
After release of the American report, Polish jurists and human rights advocates have stepped up their demands that those ultimately responsible for allowing criminal activities on Polish soil, former President Aleksander Kwasniewski and then-Prime Minister Leszek Miller, be held accountable for the excesses that some say have stained their ex-communist nation's democratic credentials.
After years of denying that a secret CIA prison ever operated in Poland, Kwasniewski and Miller conceded a day after the Dec. 9 release of the Senate report that they had agreed to let the CIA bring captured terrorism suspects to Stare Kiejkuty. They insisted, however, that they knew nothing of any abuse.
According to UPI's reporting, "Kwasniewski is still liable for a possible jail sentence for his complicity in the CIA site, and his denial of its existence during a 2006 European Parliament investigation."
Though the highly cited AP headline used the phrase "alleged torture" in its headline, human rights activists took issue with the qualifying language.