The judges reportedly want to know whether the then Polish cabinet of ministers knew about the “interrogation techniques” of the American agents and whether the presumed agreement between Warsaw and Washington included provisions that made torture in Poland possible.
The issue was so emotional it has been provoking a heated discussion in Polish media and political establishment. Support for American initiatives, including the invasion into Iraq in 2003, has been the backbone of the Polish foreign policy since the 1990s. It was this support that allowed the then American Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld to trumpet Poland in 2003 as the embodiment of his concept of “New Europe” (a loose group of mostly post-communist states of the old continent that supported the occupation of Iraq). As it now transpires, 2003 was the peak year of secret torture in Poland and Rumsfeld was the main architect of this practice. An interesting coincidence that gives a rather ominous tinge to the vision of Europe’s future prevalent among American neoconservatives of Rumsfeld’s type. Now Poles ask themselves more and more often whether their country should continue issuing Washington more and more blank checks, including the eventual deployment of anti-ballistic missiles near the Russian border. The blank check issued to CIA in 2002-2003 backfired badly.
“I am ashamed for Poland, I am ashamed for [Poland’s prime minister in 2002 Leszek] Miller. We were treated like a third world country, it is just a scandal,” said Janusz Palikot, the leader of Palikot’s Movement, the third largest faction in Polish parliament, which made fighting aggressive nationalism and human rights abuses in Poland the top of its agenda. However, not all Polish politicians followed in Palikot’s footsteps. Many view collaboration with the European Court of Human Rights as some kind of treason to the American ally and Poland itself. Rzeczpospolita, a conservative daily, quotes an unnamed representative of liberal Donald Tusk’s government as saying that “openness in this issue can be a threat to state security.”
The problem is that the main CIA facility on Polish territory was located in Stary Kiejkuty, a location previously used for training of Polish special forces, conveniently placed near a military airfield. This probably made it a location of choice for the American experts in “special interrogation techniques” who, naturally, preferred discretion in their operations. However, at least two Saudi citizens, presumably tortured there, somehow realized that waterboarding, privation of sleep and other similar techniques were applied to them in no other place than Poland, and carefully noted the time – from December 2002 to June 2003. Their attorneys laid a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights, pointing to the fact that Poland, as a signatory of the European Convention on Human Rights, took upon itself the obligation not to allow torture on its territory. The fact that the court wants clarifications on the case from someone no less important than Polish government ministers is seen by experts as a sign that the two Saudis’ complaint was taken seriously and that the verdict on the case may be not in Poland’s favor.
The plaintiffs, Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammed al-Nashiri and Zayn al-Abidin Husayn, say they were tortured during all of their stay in Poland, sometimes during interrogations. It is interesting to note that Poland’s own prosecutor’s office started an investigation into their complaints and gave Mr. al-Nashiri the status of the “aggrieved party.” The European Court of Human Rights, according to the influential Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza, wants to know on what grounds Mr. al-Nashiri was given that status.
Obviously, Mr. al-Nashiri had indeed impressed both the Polish prosecutors and the European justices with his story, since the United States firmly believes him to have been involved in a bombing of US military vessel Cole. Al-Nashiri had been held in detention in Guantanamo since his transfer there from Poland in 2003. According to the information obtained George Soros’ Open Society Institute from U.S. authorities, it was only on April 20, 2011, after 8 years of interrogations, that United States military commissions prosecutors brought charges against him. The prosecutors reportedly stated their intent to seek the death penalty in his case.
In this situation, Polish society became badly split. On one side, human rights activists demand compliance with the requirements of the European Court of Human Rights.
“I can’t imagine that Poland would deny the court the materials that it requires,” Gazeta Wyborcza quotes Adam Bodnar, a representative of the Polish Helsinki Foundation as saying. “How then can we expect from Russia that it collaborates with the court on Chechen issues?”
On the other hand, politicians, especially from the nationalist rightist camp, noting the unsavory nature of al-Nashiri’s crimes, demand silence as a sign of solidarity with the big American ally. “I don’t see any urgency in helping in the investigation over some alleged torture which was applied to people who for sure planned terrorist acts,” said Adam Rogacki, a parliament deputy of the nationalist Law and Justice party.
Interestingly, the United States provides no comment on the situation, leaving its little Polish ally face to face with its European problem. “The American politicians probably just used you, their Polish friends, to make dirty work for them,” said Philippe Sands, a law professor from the University College in London, the author of the book “Torture Team: Uncovering War Crimes in the Land of the Free.”
Source: The Voice of Russia