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15 Nov, 2013 02:16

Human rights court turns down Polish govt request to keep CIA jail hearing closed

Human rights court turns down Polish govt request to keep CIA jail hearing closed

The Polish government’s request to the European Court of Human Rights to prohibit the press and public from attending a hearing investigation on whether the US kept a CIA prison on Polish soil has been rejected.

The public hearing is scheduled for December 3 in Strasbourg, France and will be the first time that allegations stating that the US intelligence agency used rogue “black sites” in Poland for its “extraordinary rendition” program are heard publicly. The US is accused of illegally detaining Al-Qaeda terror suspects and using torture to interrogate them in a forest in northern Poland.

I can confirm that the hearing on 3 December will be a public hearing,” a spokeswoman for the European Court of Human Rights told reporters on Thursday. 

After the ruling was announced, the Polish Foreign Ministry told Reuters that the court had also, by its own volition, scheduled a separate closed-door hearing in the case for December 2. 

Warsaw has denied that any such facility has ever existed and said that court communications should be kept classified to protect Poland’s national security. The Helsinki Foundation for Human Rights, which has a location in Warsaw, has accused the Polish government of deceiving the public. 

We should have the right to review this case in public,” Adam Bodnar, vice president of the group, told Reuters before Thursday’s decision. “I do not see a reason for confidentiality of proceedings.” 

Former US President George W. Bush first acknowledged the secret prisons in 2006, more than a year after the first media reports on the matter. He ordered their closure and announced that many of the detainees would be transferred Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. American lawmakers have never provided the location of the "black sites."

The European Court of Human Rights intends to review the legal status of two detainees in particular, both of whom are currently in custody at Guantanamo Bay. Lawyers for Abu Zubaydah, born in Saudi Arabaia, and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, a Saudi national, say that both men were flown to a dense Polish forest in 2002 on planes with CIA agents. They were then held for months without access to an attorney - a violation of due process - and tortured, the lawyers claim.

The Polish CIA "black site" is thought to be held near the village of Stare Kiejkuty, where CIA Director John Brennan reportedly visited during a trip to Europe in June. No acknowledgement of any such European detour has been made, although Stare Kiekjkuty has a long history of military bases dating back to Soviet occupation in the late 1960s.

There, The Economist has reported, al-Nashiri was forced to endure mock executions with a handgun and power drill while being threatening with sodomy and the rape of his family. Zubayadah was reportedly waterboarded at least 83 times.

Both men are also listed as parties to an investigation that the Polish government is conducting on itself, although that measure has been criticized for being intentionally delayed.