Lithuania’s failure to investigate its role in the US-led rendition programme has forced an alleged victim of secret detention to take his case to the European Court of Human Rights, Amnesty International said today.
The case - filed today – centres on Abu Zubaydah’s allegations that he was transferred to Lithuania in 2005, where he was tortured at a secret detention facility.
A Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry conducted in 2009 concluded that two secret CIA detention facilities had been prepared between 2002 and 2004 to receive detainees. However, a national investigation into those facilities, started in January 2010, was closed a year later on highly dubious grounds.
“The Lithuanian authorities have an obligation to investigate and they have the capacity to do so. But apparently they also have a fear of what the truth may reveal about Lithuania’s role in these appalling abuses” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.
“Leaving this case to the European Court is an act of evasion and cowardice,” she said. “But it is not too late for the Lithuanian government to act. It should re-open the criminal investigation into the secret prisons as a matter of urgency.”
Abu Zubaydah was initially captured in Pakistan in 2002. His representatives allege that he was then sent to Lithuania before finally being transferred to Guantanamo Bay, where he is now being held.
The US authorities have publicly acknowledged that Abu Zubaydah was waterboarded 83 times and subjected to a range of other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” in secret detention. As applied to Abu Zubaydah, these interrogation techniques amounted to torture.
The US originally claimed that Abu Zubaydah was a key member of al-Qaeda, but has since dropped such allegations and has no plans to charge him with any crimes.
Amnesty International and the London-based organization Reprieve submitted new information to the Lithuanian Prosecutor General in September 2011 in a bid to get the investigation re-opened. Amnesty International’s report, Unlock the Truth in Lithuania: Investigate Secret Prisons Now, argued that critical evidence from the first investigation had not been adequately investigated and that the new information in the report required serious consideration.
Last week, however, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General announced that the investigation would remain closed.