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Justice Minister: Lithuania must close the chapter of illegal CIA prisons

Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevicius [Council Newsroom]

By Angele Kedaitiene

Lithuania along with neighbouring Poland were the EU countries which have faced the European Court of Human Rights for so-called secret CIA prisons for interrogation of the suspected terrorists, following the al-Qaeda attack on World Trade Centre on 11 of September 2001.

On 31 May 2018 the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Lithuania had hosted a secret CIA prison in 2005-2006 where the claimant Abu Zubaydah, a Saudi Arabia-born Palestinian, was held there unlawfully over his suspected involvement in terrorism. The  Lithuanian Government did appeal the ruling, but lost it, and has paid the assigned €130,000 compensation to Abu Zubaydah.

According to the European Court of Human Rights, the Americans captured Abu Zubaydah in Pakistan in 2002 on suspicions that he had been involved in Al Qaeda’s 9/11 attacks on the United States. The man was later interrogated in secret prisons in Poland, Thailand and Morocco. He was secretly brought to Lithuania in February 2005 (the so-called rendition flights) and was transferred out of the country in March 2006. He is still detained in Guantanamo, without charge or trial, 16-and-a-half year after being taken into the secret detention program.

Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevicius said, the country must “close the chapter” and prevent similar legal precedents in the future as he presented Lithuania’s actions in the suspected secret CIA prison case on Friday.

According to the minister, such cases discredit Lithuania. “We must adhere to the principle of zero tolerance toward any violation of human rights,” he said. “In the execution of the ECHR judgements, we will continue to cooperate closely with the committee to reinforce the legal background for protecting and fostering one of the fundamental values ​​of a democratic society”.

Lithuanian government officials told the Strasbourg court that the suspected building in Antaviliai, on the outskirts of Vilnius, had been “an intelligence support centre” and that the suspected planes had transported communication equipment rather than people to Lithuania.

Although, in December 2014, the US Senate published a report on secret CIA detention sites. Human rights activists believe that one of the sites, the one referred to as “Violet” in the report, was located in a building in Antaviliai, near Vilnius.

The office of Lithuanian General prosecutor opened the case related to the illegal CIA prison in 2014, following the pressure from the international community, as the case has emerged in Strasbourg, and an European Parliament delegation visited the country in this connection.   Some year later the case was closed, possibly silenced by the authorities, later re-opened and still ongoing. Along with paying the compensation, European Court of Human Rights has ruled to conduct detailed internal investigation and to charge those found guilty. The Court has found the evidences as convincing.

Recently, the Strasbourg-based court examines a new petition submitted against Lithuania by Saudi Arabian citizen Mustafa Ahmed Adam al-Hawsawi who claimed that he was unlawfully detained in the alleged secret CIA prison in the Baltic country.

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