A decision by a court in Lithuania ruling that a Saudi Arabian national has a right to an investigation into his alleged torture in a secret CIA detention centre in the country is a breakthrough for justice, said Amnesty International.
“The court’s decision in the case of Mustafa al-Hawsawi is a real victory in the pursuit of accountability for Lithuania’s alleged complicity in the CIA rendition and secret detention programmes,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.
“The Lithuanian court has set an example for all of Europe and the USA by upholding the rule of law and recognizing that victims of torture and enforced disappearance at the hands of the CIA and European agents have an absolute right to a thorough investigation.”
“The Lithuanian government and Prosecutor General must now open a full and effective investigation into Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s claims and ensure that any other individuals who have alleged that they were held in secret CIA detention there are afforded the same right.”
The Vilnius Regional Court ruled that Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s claims involved violations under the Lithuanian Constitution and international agreements and that he had a right to an full investigation. The court added that the Prosecutor General’s prior refusal to investigate had been “groundless”.
Mustafa al-Hawawsi was apprehended by Pakistani agents in 2003 and handed over to US custody. He has alleged that he was illegally transferred to Lithuania and subjected to torture and enforced disappearance in a secret CIA facility in the village of Antaviliai, sometime between September 2004 and September 2006.
In October 2013, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General refused to open an investigation into Mustafa al-Hawsawi’s case. A lower court upheld the Prosecutor General’s decision, but the regional court today repealed that decision, paving the way for a new investigation.
Another man, Abu Zubaydah, had also claimed he was held in secret CIA detention in Lithuania, but the Prosecutor General had also refused to initiate an investigation. His case is pending at the European Court of Human Rights. Any new investigation into secret CIA detention centres in Lithuania should include Abu Zubaydah.
Abu Zubaydah was another of the men transferred from secret CIA custody to Guantánamo in early September 2006. He remains there, without charge or trial, nearly a dozen years since being apprehended in Pakistan in March 2002 and handed over to the USA soon thereafter.
Mustafa al-Hawsawi currently faces capital charges in a trial by military commission At Guantánamo Bay for his alleged role as a financier of the 11 September 2001 attacks in the US. The US military commission system does not meet international fair trial standards.
The operational details of the CIA secret detention programme, including where detainees were held, remain classified Top Secret by the US authorities. A 6,000 page report on the programme produced by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence also currently remains classified.
There has been no accountability in the USA for the human rights violations, including the crimes under international law of torture and enforced disappearance, committed in the CIA secret detention programme operated during the administration of President George W. Bush.