By Alexandra Halsey-Storch
Impunity Watch Reporter, Europe
STRASBOURG, France – London-based human rights organization INTERIGHTS the International Centre for Legal Protection of Human Rights, and a team of United States-based lawyers filed a complaint on Thursday, October 27, 2011 against Lithuania on behalf of alleged al Qaeda terrorist, Abu Zubayadah at the European Court of Human Rights.
The complaint sets forth that Lithuania failed to protect Zubaydah against various human rights abuses that occurred in a secret CIA detention facility on Lithuanian territory. The complaint also contends that the Lithuanian Prosecutor General “prematurely” closed a “superficial criminal investigation” which could have led to evidence showing Lithuania’s role in the human rights violations.
According to The New York Times, a statement issued last week stated that Lithuanian prosecutors have declined to reopen an investigation despite new information on the Zubaydah’s case provided by the rights groups.
Zubaydah was captured in March 2002 in Pakistan, where he was initially interrogated. Later, he was moved to a secret CIA detention facility in Thailand and thereafter to Morocco. Eventually, in February 2005, Zubaydah was relocated to Lithuania. Today, he is held at Guantanamo Bay where he “continues to languish in a legal vacuum” even though the United States has “no intention of initiating any legal action” against him.
A 2002 legal memorandum issued by Jay S. Bybee, the Justice Department’s head of the Office of Legal Counsel, describes Zubaydah as one of al Qaeda’s leaders, being a senior lieutenant to Osama bin Laden. He “managed a network of training camps” and was involved in every major terrorist operation carried out by al Qaeda before his capture. At the time of his capture, it was alleged that he was the most senior al Qaeda member to be caught since the September 2001 attacks.
Interestingly, according to INTERIGHTS’s press release on October 27, 2011 “all such allegations were formally withdrawn after Abu Zubaydah was finally afforded legal counsel.” The release goes on to say that, “the U.S. no longer even alleges that Abu Zubaydah was a member of al Qaeda or that he supported al Qaeda’s radical ideology. It no longer alleges that he was Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant. Nor does it allege that Abu Zubaydah had any role in, or knowledge of, any terrorist attack planned or perpetrated by al Qaeda, including the attacks of 11 September 2001.”
In 2009, a Justice Department memorandum from April 2005 was released detailing Zubaydah’s prolonged incarceration. It describes Zubaydah, upon being captured, was stripped of his clothes and held in a cold cell. Thereafter, Zubaydah revealed important information pertaining to al Qaeda, including information that led to the capture of Ramzi Binalshibh. Despite officers’ beliefs that Zubaydah had revealed everything he knew, CIA officials demanded that waterboarding be used to coerce more information. Zubaydah experienced waterboarding 85 times, yet he came forth with no new information.
The CIA’s Rendition, Detention and Interrogation program (“RDI”) consisted of a world-wide network—something like a “spider’s web”—of disappearances, secret detentions, and otherwise illegal inter-state transfers of detainees suspected of having knowledge of or being an active member of terrorist groups, and in particular, al Qaeda. Thomas Hammarberg, Commissioner for the Council of Europe” has maintained that the RDI program has deeply violated the systems of justice and human rights protection. There is “no doubt,” Hammarberg said, “that all 3 elements of this program have entailed systematic violations of human rights” for which the United States and European countries should be held accountable.
Danny Silverstone, the Executive Director of INTERIGHTS commented on Thursday, saying, “This is a unique case, shedding light on how the CIA’s extraordinary rendition, detention and interrogation programme operated. Although created by the U.S., this programme could not have been implemented without the active collaboration of numerous other countries around the world. This case is about Lithuania’s responsibility for its participation in serious violations of human rights, including torture, enforced disappearance and secret detention, and for its failure to conduct effective investigation into the existence of a secret CIA prison on its soil.”
For more information, please visit:
The New York Times – Lithuania: Terrorism Suspect Files Case Over C.I.A. Rendition Claim – 27 October 2011
INTERIGHTS – Abu Zubaydah, Victim of CIA’s Extraordinary Rendition, Seeks Accountability at the European Court of Human Rights – 27 October 2011