The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) has censured Lithuania and Romania for their complicity in the CIA secret rendition programme after the 9/11 attacks in 2001 which resulted in suspected terrorists and extremists being kidnapped and held at secret detention sites around the world.
Key evidence at the court in the cases of Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri was given by the Bureau’s Crofton Black. Black helped unpick the CIA rendition programme, tracking flights and identifying the secret sites while working at human rights agency Reprieve and then the Bureau.
Black said: “Our investigation into CIA black sites in Lithuania and Romania took around seven years and involved the analysis of thousands of pieces of data: contracting documents, flight records and redacted government documents as well as archival sources and fieldwork.”
Abu Zubaydah was suspected of being a senior Al Qaeda operative and was captured in Pakistan in 2002 and sent to a “black site” in Thailand. He was water-boarded 83 times in one month, forced into stress positions, and confined in small boxes. He lost an eye while in CIA custody and is still detained in Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.
After Thailand, Abu Zubaydah was sent to secret detention locations in Poland, Morocco and Afghanistan. In 2016 the Bureau published exclusive documents showing how the Lithuanian authorities helped the CIA set up the black site near Vilnius where Zubaydah was detained between 2005-6, but the Lithuanian government still denied their part in the CIA rendition programme.
Black said: “throughout this period government officials stated again and again that there was no evidence to show that people were held in secret sites. I'm very pleased that the Court has ruled today that their denials lack credibility."
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Al-Nashiri, who was suspected of involvement in the attack on the USS Cole in 2000, was also waterboarded in Thailand and held in various countries including a black site in Romania in 2003-5. The ECHR said he had been held in “an extremely harsh detention regime.” Romania and Lithuania were ordered to pay €100,000 each to both complainants.
The ECHR’s ruling is awkwardly timed for Gina Haspel, whose appointment by President Trump as CIA Director has just been confirmed. Haspel ran the torture site in Thailand at the time al-Nashiri was being waterboarded there and she refused to condemn waterboarding at her confirmation hearings in Washington earlier this month.
UPDATE: A major study, 'CIA Torture Unredacted', is forthcoming in late 2018, co-produced by TBIJ and The Rendition Project (Westminster and Sheffield Universities).