BUCHAREST, ROMANIA - The European Court of Human Rights ruled Thursday that Romania and Lithuania allowed the detention and abuse of a Saudi and a Palestinian at secret U.S. prisons.
The Strasbourg, France-based court said Thursday that Abd al-Rahim Al Nashiri, a Saudi national later sent to Guantanamo Bay, was detained and abused in Romania between Sept. 2003 and Oct. 2005, and urged Romania to investigate and punish perpetrators.
The court concluded that Al-Nashiri was blindfolded, hooded, shackled, kept in solitary confinement, and subjected to loud noise and bright light during his detention at the CIA prison in Romania.
Romania denies hosting such CIA facilities. There was no immediate reaction from the government.
The court said Al Nashiri and Zubaydah were both considered "high-value detainees" taken by the CIA at the start of the U.S.-led "war on terror."
Al Nashiri's lawyer, Amrit Singh, called the ruling "a sharp rebuke to Romania's shameful attempts" to conceal its hosting of a secret CIA prison.She was the lead lawyer on the case with the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative.
Singh also noted the court's decision in light of the appointment of new CIA Director Gina Haspel, who supervised a covert detention site in Thailand where terror suspects, including al-Nashiri, were waterboarded, an interrogation technique that simulates drowning.
"The European court's ruling is critical for upholding standards of international law — that torture is absolutely prohibited and those involved in torture must be held to account," said Singh. "It stands in stark contrast to the United States' decision to promote Gina Haspel to CIA Director despite her role in my client's torture."
The court also said that Lithuania hosted a secret CIA detention facility from February 2005 to March 2006 where Abu Zubaydah, a Palestinian suspected of being a planner for the Sept. 11 attacks, was detained.
It ruled that Lithuania allowed him to be moved to another CIA detention site in Afghanistan, "exposing him to further ill-treatment." He is currently detained at Guantanamo Bay and has not been charged.
Lithuanian authorities said they would consider appealing the court's decision and may also investigate the claims again.
Justice Minister Elvinas Jankevicius told reporters that "we will take a decision after carefully examining," the ruling. Vytautas Bakas, the chairman of the parliamentary committee for national security and defense, said he would propose opening a new probe.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite, however, contradicted the justice minister and said in a statement that the small Baltic country's "reputation damage is done," adding that Lithuania "thus will have to execute a court judgment" and pay Zubaydah 130,000 euros ($152,000). She has regularly clashed with the Lithuanian government and forced a minister to resign after expressing her distrust.
Amnesty International called the rulings "a key milestone in holding European governments accountable for their involvement in illegal CIA activities in the aftermath" of the 9/11 attacks.
Roisin Pillay, director of the International Council of Jurists' Europe and Central Asia Program claimed that "many other European governments colluded with the U.S. to illegally transfer, `disappear' and torture people during rendition operations and must also be held accountable."
A 2009 investigation in Lithuania concluded that the country's intelligence agency helped the CIA set up two small detention centers there, but did not determine whether the facilities were actually used in the interrogation of terrorism suspects.