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Accountability for U.S. Torture — But in Poland

Anna Estevao,
National Security Project
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March 27, 2012

A Polish investigation into CIA black sites has made a meaningful step towards accountability for torture. Zbigniew Siematkowski, former chief of Polish intelligence services, has reportedly been charged with “unlawful deprivation of liberty” and “corporal punishment” against prisoners of war for facilitating the CIA’s torture of terror suspects in Poland. Jameel Jaffer, ACLU Deputy Legal Director, had this reaction:

This is an important and welcome development. Every state that has signed the Convention Against Torture has an obligation not just to prevent torture but to hold accountable officials who authorize or facilitate it. As a signatory to the Convention, the United States has this obligation, too. By shirking this obligation, we undermine our ability to promote human rights abroad and erode the rule of law here at home.

The ACLU has been at the forefront of exposing the U.S. government’s torture policy. ACLU litigation under the Freedom of Information Act has resulted in the release of more than 100,000 pages of government documents relating to the Bush administration’s torture program, including information on the CIA’s secret prisons.

The Polish investigation focuses in part on the abuse and torture of Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammad al-Nashiri, who was imprisoned at a CIA black site in Poland from December 2002 to June 2003. Al-Nashiri is currently being held at Guantánamo and is scheduled to be tried by military commission for allegedly planning the attack on the USS Cole. The Obama administration is seeking the death penalty. A hearing is scheduled for next month, and the ACLU will be at Guantánamo to monitor the proceedings.

Last week, the ACLU published a new briefing paper laying out concrete steps the Obama administration should take to live up to the human rights promises it made to the U.N. Human Rights Council just over one year ago. The ACLU stated that the U.S. “should commit to fully pursuing accountability for all those responsible for acts of torture consistent with its international legal obligations under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT).”

Also last week, the ACLU filed a petition against the United States with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IAHCR) on behalf of three Afghans and three Iraqis who were tortured and abused while being detained by the U.S. military forces in Afghanistan and Iraq. The petition is part of the continuing effort to hold the U.S. accountable for international human rights and seek legal remedies for those who were tortured and abused.

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