Poland Says Washington Stonewalling CIA Jail Investigation
June 13, 2015
Christian Lowe and Wojciech Zurawski / Reuters
The United States is ignoring a request from Poland to hand over the full version of a Senate report that could shed light on allegations the CIA abused al Qaeda suspects at a secret prison in the north of the country, according to Polish prosecutors. The report last December by the US Senate intelligence committee detailed how the CIA used techniques including water-boarding and mock executions on terrorism suspects at secret overseas facilities in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
WARSAW/KRAKOW, Poland (June 12, 2015) -- The United States is ignoring a request from Poland to hand over the full version of a Senate report that could shed light on allegations the CIA abused al Qaeda suspects at a secret prison in the north of the country, according to Polish prosecutors.
The report last December by the US Senate intelligence committee detailed how the CIA used techniques including water-boarding and mock executions on terrorism suspects at secret overseas facilities in the years following the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
It named the locations of the secret prisons, but these were blacked out in the summary that was released to the public.
Polish prosecutors say they formally asked the US Justice Department for a full, unredacted copy of the report to help their criminal investigation into allegations the CIA ran one of the facilities in a Polish forest.
"The US side did not send Poland a full version of the report . . . despite our written request," said Piotr Kosmaty, a representative of the Appellate Prosecutor's office in the city of Krakow, which is handling the investigation. "We have not received any legal assistance from the American side," he told Reuters.
After the summary of the Senate report was released, President Barack Obama acknowledged the CIA had "tortured some folks" in secret overseas jails during the administration of his predecessor George W. Bush. But the White House has resisted moves to hold anyone legally accountable in the United States, a stance rights groups say it is now also extending to investigations in Europe.
Washington's failure to provide a copy of the Senate report is part of a pattern of behavior, according to a Polish government document submitted to the Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights body.
It said Warsaw has sent six applications to the US Justice Department for help under a US-Polish treaty on mutual legal assistance. "The first one of those applications was refused and the other five were not even answered," the document said. It said that Polish officials had raised the lack of US assistance in a series of diplomatic and other contacts, again with no definitive response.
Those contacts included a meeting on April 14 this year between a senior Polish diplomat and Victoria Nuland, Assistant Secretary at the State Department, and one in February last year between the Polish prosecutor general and Eric Holder, then the US Attorney General.
The State Department and the Justice Department declined to comment when Reuters asked about their response to Polish requests for help with the investigation.
RIGHT TO KNOW
Julia Hall, an expert on counter-terrorism and human rights with Amnesty International, said the US government had shown no willingness to pursue those responsible for the abuses revealed in the US Senate report.
"If you look at what is happening in the United States, you can see why there would be no cooperation with the European side," she said. "For any partner of the US government in these operations, they should be sent the full, unredacted (Senate) report. They have a right to this information. That is information which potentially could help them with their investigation."
Between 2002 and 2003 the CIA held al Qaeda suspects on the forested grounds of a Polish intelligence academy, according to a ruling by the European Court of Human Rights, which found Poland breached international law by hosting the site.
The court ruled earlier this year that two men, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Abu Zubaydah, had been held there illegally and later transferred without due process to the US detention center for terrorism suspects in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.
Polish prosecutors have since 2008 been conducting a criminal investigation into whether Polish officials broke the law by allowing the secret detentions to take place.
Rights activists and lawyers for people who allege they were detained at the facility say the prosecutors already have enough evidence without US help, but are stalling because the case is politically sensitive. The prosecutors deny that.
Poland's government has never acknowledged hosting a CIA jail and argued in submissions to the European court that if the agency was holding people in Poland, the local authorities would not necessarily have been aware.
Aleksander Kwasniewski, who was president at the time, said last December he knew about the facility but thought the people there were not prisoners but cooperating with the CIA of their own free will.
(Additional reporting by Arshad Mohammed and Julia Edwards in Washington; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)
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