Lithuania in the dock for role in CIA rendition program

A human rights group has filed a lawsuit against Lithuania for its role in a CIA rendition program which allegedly involved the illegal detention and torture of “high-value detainee” Abu Zubaydah.

Zubaydah, who was initially captured by American and Pakistani special services in a raid in Pakistan in 2002, spent some of his time in custody in a secret detention center in Lithuania, according to the Interights group. The European country allegedly collaborated with the CIA on its program of secret prisons, which allowed suspects to be incarcerated and tortured outside American territory.

The Saudi national was rendered to Lithuania in 2005 along with a number of other prisoners, the Interights statement says. It adds that Lithuanian officials ignored “information indicating the serious nature of human rights violations occurring in the CIA-led rendition program.”

On Thursday, Interights filed a complaint in the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) over the failure of the Lithuanian government to prevent the alleged detention and torture as well as to conduct a proper criminal investigation into the secret CIA prison program on its soil.

The probe was launched after a 2009 report on the American TV channel ABC exposed the secret detention facilities in Lithuania, which closed later the same year, reports the Delfi news agency. The General Prosecutor discarded a parliamentary report which strongly indicated that the country’s special services aided the CIA in its secret transportation, detention and interrogation of prisoners.

The US authorities initially claimed Zubaydah was a senior member of al-Qaeda who had had a hand in the majority of the terror attacks it carried out. However, the US government later retracted its statements, Interights says. It is not clear what Zubaydah is being accused of or what the legal grounds are for his current incarceration at the Guantanamo Bay prison.

“The US no longer even alleges that Abu Zubaydah was a member of al-Qaeda or that he supported al-Qaeda’s radical ideology. It no longer alleges that he was Osama bin Laden’s senior lieutenant. Nor does it allege that Abu Zubaydah had any role in, or knowledge of, any terrorist attack planned or perpetrated by al-Qaeda, including the attacks of 11 September 2001,”
the Interights statement says.

The human rights group seeks to have the ECHR recognize Zubaydah as a victim of torture, secret detention and enforced disappearance on Lithuanian soil. It also hopes that that the court will rule that Lithuania conducts an independent and thorough investigation of the complaints.

“This is a unique case, shedding light on how the CIA’s extraordinary rendition, detention and interrogation program operated. Although created by the US, this program could not have been implemented without the active collaboration of numerous other countries around the world. This case is about Lithuania’s responsibility for its participation in serious violations of human rights,” says Danny Silverstone, Executive Director of Interights.

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