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12/09/2013

What did Poland know about the existence of CIA 'torture' sites on its soil?

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Stare Kiejkuty, Poland, a reported CIA torture site. (Monika Kaczyńska/PAP)

Warsaw - The European Court of Human Rights heard evidence last week Poland was well aware of the U.S.  Central Intelligence Agency operating a "torture" site on its soil.

The European court - sitting in a secret session - heard "from a range of expert witnesses" that a CIA torture prison was located in Poland with full knowledge of Polish authorities, reports Reprieve, a British based justice group.

However, the head of the Polish Senate Bogdan Borusewicz told the Star last Thursday that the revelations came as a complete surprise to him.

"I personally was not aware about it. The investigation proceedings are currently going on and I"m not aware of what it looks like. But obviously this is a fundamental question," Borusewicz said from his Parliamentary office. 

However, Reprieve reports one of their investigators, Crofton Black, obtained access to the court information. Black is an expert on the existence of secret prisons in Europe used during the war on terror.

"Despite being given many opportunities to do so, the Polish government has failed to contest that it knew prisoners were being held beyond the rule of law and tortured by the CIA inside their own country. It has also become clear that the Polish government’s investigation into the issue was in reality nothing more than a smoke-screen, which was neither designed nor intended to get to the truth," Black said in a release.

The question is, Borusewicz said through a translator, is to what extent should the "people who want to destroy democracy" benefit from democratic protection? 

"The situation has to be balanced out, somehow. Terrorist attacks are not directed against Poland - they are more directed against the United States and, I guess, Canada. If it was my call, I would not agree with any secret prisons. And I would not agree to any such situations," he added.

The international human rights group INTERIGHTS, earlier this year, launched a legal action against Poland on Abu Zubaydah's behalf at the European court, arguing he is the "first victim of the CIA’s experimental torture programme, regarding crimes committed in the CIA’s secret prison in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland."

They allege Poland ignored turned a "blind eye to normal protections and oversights," therefore violating Zubaydah's rights.

Reprieve further reports declassified U.S. documents and their own investigations indicate Zubaydah, a Guantanamo detainee, was taken from a CIA site in Thailand to Poland in Dec. 2002.

He was reportedly held in Poland for nine or ten months.

 Tanya Talaga is the Star's global economics reporter. Follow her on Twitter @tanyatalaga

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