Poland: government must investigate secret CIA jails

With evidence that the CIA operated a secret detention facility in Poland mounting, Amnesty International has welcomed the news that public prosecutors have initiated an investigation into these long-standing allegations.  This is an important  step in the journey towards accountability for the unlawful detention and transfer of detainees in Europe. The organization has, however, stressed that the investigation must be thorough and independent, and expressed concerns about its proposed scope and powers. Former government officials have reportedly said that although they are willing to speak to investigators, their testimony will be limited by Poland’s laws on the confidentiality of state secrets. Also, the scope of the prosecutor’s investigation will be limited to offences under Article 231 of the Polish Penal Code, relating only to public officials overstepping their official powers. Those held in the CIA secret detention programme, however, were subjected to torture and enforced disappearance, both crimes under international law. Amnesty International’s demands

The Polish government must initiate a full, independent, impartial and effective investigation, which is adequately resourced and able to establish whether or not there was a CIA detention facility on Polish soil, and if so, the arrangements under which it operated. The investigating body must refer appropriate information about alleged criminal conduct and human rights violations to the relevant authorities. Prosecutors, in this or any future investigation, must have authority to investigate allegations that individuals were subjected to the crimes of enforced disappearance and torture and other ill-treatment on Polish territory, regardless of nationality, position or rank of those alleged to have been responsible or complicit.

BackgroundThe stonewalling and denials of the previous government are increasingly wearing thin. In August 2008, Polish media reported that a note prepared by military intelligence, confirming the existence of a secret CIA facility, had been seen by government officials in 2006. Allegations of secret CIA detention facilities in Eastern Europe first emerged in November 2005 in the Washington Post; other media and Human Rights Watch later identified Poland as one of the countries hosting CIA “black sites”. Earlier in 2005, Amnesty International interviewed three Yemeni men who had been held in the secret CIA programme, who had alleged that they were detained in Europe. Former detainees from other countries have since provided similar accounts. In 2007, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe’s report affirmed that “there was now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA did exist in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania”. The Polish government initiated internal inquiries in November and December 2005. The Sejm (Polish Parliament) Secret Services committee conducted the investigation but did not release the findings or methodology. The government nevertheless claimed that they “unequivocally” showed that there was no secret detention facility in Poland.