WARSAW - Poland's chief prosecutor said on Tuesday that Poland plans to challenge a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that the country hosted a secret CIA jail on its soil.
Rights campaigners said by challenging the ruling of the court in Strasbourg on procedural grounds, the government was trying to delay the moment when it has to own up to its involvement in the CIA's network of “black sites.”
The court said in a ruling issued in July this year that the CIA had used a facility in a Polish forest, code named “Quartz,” as a hub in its network of sites around the world where al Qaeda suspects were interrogated.
Poland has always denied that the CIA had a jail on its territory, despite evidence pointing to Polish involvement in the U.S. program of extraordinary rendition put in place after the Sept. 11 attacks in 2001.
“A motion from Poland to the court on a review of this case before the Grand Chamber is being finalized,” Polish state news agency PAP quoted Prosecutor-General Andrzej Seremet as saying.
Under the procedures of the Strasbourg court, seeking a referral to the Grand Chamber is equivalent to lodging an appeal. A panel of judges at the court could though reject Poland's request before it reaches the Grand Chamber.
Poland is one of the staunchest allies of the United States in Europe. Officials in Warsaw say that if they release details of intelligence cooperation with the CIA, that could endanger national security.
The prosecutor-general said Poland was disputing the ruling on procedural grounds: that the court did not put in place arrangements that would have allowed the government to hand over classified documents about the case.
Julia Hall, of rights group Amnesty International, said she saw no reasonable grounds for the government to seek to have the ruling overturned. “This is another tactic to delay,” she said.
Amrit Singh, a lawyer with the U.S.-based Open Society Justice Initiative who helped bring the case to the court, said: “The court issued a unanimous, well-reasoned decision that cogently and comprehensively addressed all of the issues. We see no basis for seeking further review.”
In its July ruling, the Strasbourg court ruled Poland had violated its human rights commitments by allowing the CIA to hold people on Polish soil without allowing them a court hearing or giving them access to lawyers.
The court also said Poland had failed to properly investigate allegations about the case. Polish prosecutors are mounting an investigation, which has now been running for more than six years.
The United States has acknowledged the extraordinary rendition program existed, but it has not revealed which countries hosted jails.
The case was brought to the European court on behalf of two inmates of the U.S. military's Guantanamo Bay prison. They say they were held at the Polish site and subject to interrogation techniques that amounted to torture.