THE BLOG

Pressure Mounts on Lithuania Over CIA Prison

Lithuania's secret prison problems continue to pile up. Earlier this week the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Nils Muižnieks, issued a denunciation of Lithuania's failure to investigate its role in the CIA's rendition, detention and interrogation programme. Torture victim Abu Zubaydah's case against Lithuania is already under consideration by the European Court of Human Rights. Now, London NGO Redress and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute in Vilnius have filed a complaint with the Lithuanian Prosecutor General over information that another CIA prisoner was held in Lithuania between 2004 and 2006. These are only the latest in a string of events which cast doubt on Lithuania's commitment to support of human rights and accountability for their abuse, even as it holds the presidency of the Council of the European Union.

Lithuania abruptly terminated its investigation into criminal complicity in the CIA's torture program in January 2011. Since then, criticism of the aborted investigation has only become harsher and more widespread.

In 2011, the Council of Europe's Committee for the Prevention of Torture castigated Lithuania's investigation for lack of openness and other failings. In 2012, new flight data released by Reprieve cast previously unseen light on Lithuania's connections to the CIA's secret prison network. The data showed how false flight plans and plane switches were used to conceal transfer routes between Lithuania, Morocco, Romania and Afghanistan. The European Parliament called for the reopening of Lithuania's investigation in a strongly worded resolution last September. No action was taken.

Abu Zubaydah's case against Lithuania was filed by London NGO Interights in October 2011. In May 2013 the Lithuanian authorities produced an astonishing reply, in which they admitted that:
  • Prosecutors spent a mere 1 hour 15 minutes examining the CIA-equipped detention site.
  • They took no photographs of the inside of the building, made no inventory of its contents and performed only a cursory examination of its interior.
  • They made no forensic examination of any part of the site.
  • Their full report on the prison site, totalling only 10 pages, made no reference to the building's unusual double-shell structure, lack of windows, extensive air-conditioning and CCTV apparatus.
  • Their dossier of photographic evidence showed nothing beyond what is readily visible to any casual observer.
  • They relied on the lack of "bars" as sufficient evidence that there was no prison facility in the building.
  • They failed to understand the role of flight data as an evidential resource and as a result failed to comprehend how flight plans, invoices and contractual documents, published by Reprieve, tied specific plane movements to Lithuania and to the CIA's rendition programme.

Lithuania's presidency of the EU is dedicated to a "credible, growing and open Europe". But will Lithuania ever manage a credible and open investigation into what is by now extremely well attested -- and growing -- evidence of abuses?

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