Senate report 'proves Lithuania hosted CIA jail': detainee's lawyers

Reuters News
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Posted: Sep 17, 2015 5:32 PM

By Christian Lowe

MOSCOW (Reuters) - A U.S. Senate report on CIA interrogations proves beyond doubt that Lithuania knowingly hosted one of the agency's secret detention facilities, lawyers for an ex-detainee told the European Court of Human Rights on Thursday.

Saudi-born Abu Zubaydah is asking the Strasbourg-based court to rule that NATO member Lithuania was part of a network of U.S. allies which agreed to host CIA "black sites" around the world where al Qaeda suspects were held and tortured.

His case was sent to the court in 2011, but last December's release of the Senate report has given new momentum to legal moves aimed at holding European governments to account over their role in the CIA's program.

New evidence in the public domain, including the Senate report, "renders Lithuania's responsibility for the violation of the applicant's rights beyond reasonable doubt," Zubaydah's lawyers said in a submission filed to the court on Thursday.

"Simply on the basis of information in the Senate report itself, there are numerous clear indications of agreements reached between Lithuanian officials and the CIA, and of money changing hands," said the submission, which was seen by Reuters.

The Senate report, a Lithuanian parliamentary inquiry and documents previously submitted to the court point to the CIA having used a converted horse-riding school near the Lithuanian capital Vilnius to house al-Qaeda suspects between 2005 and 2006.

In the published version of the Senate report, the locations of the CIA black sites were redacted. But the report describes a facility called "Detention Site Violet," which matches public information about the Lithuanian site.

The report said the CIA obtained approval of the leadership of an unidentified country to establish a detention site, and when the agency realized it might be too small, created the "Violet" facility instead.

It said the CIA offered at least $1 million to "show appreciation" for its partners' support for the facility. The exact amount was redacted.

It said the facility was closed down in 2006 after the host country refused to allow detainees with medical problems to be treated in a local hospital.

The report also makes hundreds of references to Zubaydah, with descriptions of how he was subjected to harsh interrogation techniques including waterboarding, or simulated drowning, while in CIA detention.

Lawyers for Zubaydah, who is now in the U.S. military prison in Guantanamo Bay, allege Lithuania broke European laws by knowingly letting the CIA hold him on its soil without due process and subject him to torture.

Lithuania ordered a parliamentary inquiry into the allegations, but it found there was not sufficient evidence to show the ex-riding school was used to house detainees.

Lithuanian officials say they want to establish what actually happened at the site. Earlier this year, Lithuanian prosecutors re-opened a criminal investigation into allegations of CIA detentions, four years after they dropped it.

(Editing by Jonathan Oatis)