Update: Poland Appeals “Black Site” Rendition Ruling

The Polish government announced its decision to appeal a July ruling by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) (here) which found multiple violations of the rights of two detainees, Abd al-Rahim and Abu Zubaydah who were held in so called “black-sites” run by the CIA in northeast Poland. The Court upheld violations of Convention articles 3 (torture), 5 & 6 (liberty, security and trial),  8 (family and private life), and 13 (right to an effective remedy) and confirmed Poland’s complicity in and responsibility for the harms caused to both men. The Court stated that:

For all practical purposes, Poland had facilitated the whole process, had created the conditions for it to happen and had made no attempt to prevent it from occurring.

Under the Just Satisfaction (article 41 remedy) portion of its July judgment the Court required Poland to take a number of concrete steps to remedy the harms caused to the men. Polish authorities seem particularly incensed by the Court’s finding that they had failed to co-operate with the investigation. Specifically, the ECtHR had asked Poland to hand over various documents that would have shed light on the degree of complicity by the state in the operation of the “black-site” and the cooperation with the CIA by Polish authorities. Poland had refused.  The Chief Prosecutor’s office now claims that “Poland could not turn over the documents that the court requested because of their highly sensitive and classified nature”.  The appeal is being advanced on procedural grounds, specifically that the court did not have the capacity to handle the kind of sensitive and classified documents that the state was being asked to produce.  As reported here, Polish chances of a successful appeal appear low given the resolve of the Court and the lack of any dissenting judgment. The move to appeal may be both a face-saving gesture for Poland and perhaps a manoeuvre to avoid implementing the remedies required by the Court in the short-term. 

About the Author(s)

Fionnuala Ní Aoláin

U.N. Special Rapporteur on the Promotion and Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms While Countering Terrorism; This article is written in the author's personal and academic capacity; Robina Chair in Law, Public Policy, and Society at the University of Minnesota Law School; Professor of Law at the University of Ulster’s Transitional Justice Institute in Belfast, Northern Ireland; Follow her on Twitter (@NiAolainF).