Guantanamo detainee files lawsuit against Poland over secret ‘black site’ imprisonment

March 27, 2013

Image of a secret prison

Abu Zubaydah, who has been held in the CIA’s secret prisons and Guantanamo Bay for over a decade without charge or trial, has filed a lawsuit against Poland over its role in his illegal detention and torture.

Mr Zubaydah – who was subjected to torture by the CIA including being waterboarded 83 times in one month – is bringing his case to the European Court of Human Rights, following Poland’s failure to carry out a proper investigation into his treatment.

Abu Zubaydah’s secret imprisonment in Poland, from 5 Dec. 2002 to 23 Sept. 2003, has been the subject of a Polish criminal investigation for over two years. But his lawyers have now concluded that the Polish investigation has been “limited in scope, shrouded in secrecy, and has made little progress in practice”.

The lawsuit, filed by human rights charity Reprieve’s partners Interights, argues that although Polish authorities already hold much of the necessary information supporting Abu Zubaydah’s claims, they have impeded access to it. All current indicators point to a lack of progress domestically and “no meaningful prospect of a remedy being available” to Abu Zubaydah in Poland.

According to material presented in the case filing, Polish authorities agreed to participate in the CIA’s secret prison programme despite widely available public domain material showing that prisoners were likely to be tortured there as a result. High-level Polish officials were aware that the site, at Stare Kiejkuty in the north of the country, was used as a prison and actively provided logistical support for the secret confinement of the prisoners.

Documents unearthed by Reprieve, and included in the filing, show how Abu Zubaydah was rendered to Poland on a Gulfstream jet, N63MU, operated by Airborne Inc. and chartered by Dyncorp Systems and Solutions. DynCorp were purchased by Computer Sciences Corporation (CSC) the following year. Details of rendition missions carried out by DynCorp and CSC emerged in a civil lawsuit in New York in 2011.

Following his period of incarceration in Poland, Abu Zubaydah was transferred to a number of different secret prison locations before ultimately being sent to Guantanamo Bay in 2006. A case by him against Lithuania, where he was imprisoned in 2005-6, is already before the European Court.

At the time of his capture, the US insisted that Abu Zubaydah was the “third or fourth man” in al-Qaeda. As a result, he was treated as a “guinea pig” for “enhanced interrogation” techniques – including being waterboarded 83 times in one month and kept awake for 11 consecutive days. Ten years later, however, the government no longer asserts that he was ever a member of al-Qaeda or indeed that he had any knowledge of al-Qaeda operations.

Reprieve’s investigator Crofton Black said: “The Polish investigation has evidently sunk into a slough of despond. This case shows that an overwhelming body of evidence already points to Poland’s complicity in the secret prison network. Let’s hope that the Polish authorities choose to cooperate with the Court and that the evidence they have themselves collected sees the light of day.”


Notes to editors

      For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 553 8166 / In March 2012,

Polish media announced

      that a former head of Polish intelligence services was to be charged with violating international law, unlawfully depriving prisoners of their liberty and “corporal punishment” [i.e. torture]:.Subsequent developments in the investigation suggest that no actual charges will be brought, however. Interights concluded as a result that “Polish authorities have failed to establish a proper independent public inquiry, failed to cooperate with existing international investigations and failed to conduct a thorough, effective and timely criminal investigation.” Abu Zubaydah was captured 11 years ago this week, on 28 March 2002. He was transferred to Poland from Thailand on 4 Dec. 2002. As part of its Renditions Inc. investigation into corporate complicity in secret detention, Reprieve has released documents showing how multiple US corporations colluded with the CIA in the rendition and secret detention of Abu Zubaydah and another prisoner on the same flight, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri – see:

    . An expanded account of this corporate network is included in Interights’s application to the European Court.

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