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European court rejects Polish appeal in CIA jail case

WARSAW: The European Court of Human Rights refused on Tuesday to reconsider its ruling that Poland hosted a secret CIA jail, a decision that will now oblige Warsaw to swiftly hold to account Polish officials who allowed the jail to operate.

The court’s decision will add to pressure on other European countries to end years of secrecy about their involvement in the CIA’s global program of secret detention after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

The Polish foreign ministry, which had delayed implementing the court’s ruling by submitting a request for an appeal, said in a statement it would now abide by the court’s decision.

The original ruling in July last year included a demand that Poland swiftly conclude a criminal investigation into the jail, and pay compensation totaling 230,000 euros ($262,660) to two men who were held there.

“Poland is required to finally conduct a thorough and effective investigation, make public information concerning its role and hold those responsible to account,” Helen Duffy, the lawyer for one of the men, Abu Zubaydah, said of Tuesday’s decision.

“It is remarkable, and an affront to the rule of law, that despite the mass of information now available to us still no one has been held to account for torture,” she said.

The wall of secrecy around the CIA program of “extraordinary rendition,” already started to crumble in December last year when the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee published a report into the scheme.

It detailed how dozens of detainees in CIA-run sites around the world were subject to torture — including waterboarding or simulated drowning, and mock executions — with little useful intelligence gained as a result.

After the release of the Senate report, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and former prime minister Leszek Miller acknowledged for the first time that they knew the CIA had been holding people on Polish soil.

But they said they knew nothing about what was happening inside the detention center, codenamed Quartz, in a villa on the grounds of an intelligence training academy in a Polish forest.

Lawyers for ex-detainees say the investigation is being deliberately stalled to avoid a politically embarrassing trial, possibly of senior Polish officials, but prosecutors deny that and say the case is complex and needs time.

Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative who acted for Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, one of the men who brought the case against Poland, said Tuesday’s ruling established a precedent for other countries.

“This judgment sends a message loud and clear that European states that collaborated in the CIA torture program cannot evade accountability,” said Singh.

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