European Interest

EU court rules Romania, Lithuania knowingly hosted secret CIA jails

Flickr/Val Kerry/CC BY 2.0

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled on May 31 that Lithuania and Romania hosted secret CIA prisons a decade ago and their authorities were aware that detainees were held there illegally.

While Washington has acknowledged it held al Qaeda suspects in jails outside US jurisdiction – through its so-called rendition programme, it has not provided a full list of locations.

As reported by the Reuters news agency, the ECHR ruled four years ago that the CIA ran a secret jail in Poland. It has since been holding hearings about similar sites in Romania and Lithuania, neither of which has publicly acknowledged letting the US agency hold prisoners on its soil.

The Strasburg-based court said Lithuania hosted a CIA jail between February 2005 and March 2006 and Romania between September 2003 and November 2005. Both contravened the European Human Rights Convention which prohibits torture, illegal detention and the death penalty.

In its ruling, the ECHR said a stateless Palestinian, Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn, had been held in Lithuania and that authorities there “had known the CIA would subject him to treatment contrary to the Convention”.

“Lithuania had also permitted him to be moved to another CIA detention site in Afghanistan, exposing him to further ill-treatment,” it said.

The court said Romania had similarly violated the Convention in the case of a Saudi national, Abd Al Rahim Husseyn Muhammad Al Nashiri, who is facing the death penalty in the United States in charges over his alleged role in terrorist attacks.

It said Lithuania and Romania should launch full investigations into their roles in the rendition program and punish any officials responsible.

The cases were filed on behalf of detainees currently held by the United States in Guantanamo Bay.

In response, Lithuanian Prime Minister Saulius Skvernelis told reporters his government is considering whether to appeal the ruling.

As reported by Euronews, the ECHR concluded authorities in both Lithuania and Romania had cooperated and would have known the purpose of the centres.

Explore more