According to the third article of the European Convention on Human Rights, no one should be subjected to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. However, the international agreement did not prevent the political leadership of Poland, Lithuania and Romania from placing torture prisons of American special services on the territory of their countries, for the organization of which no one was ever brought to justice.
In 2003, two high-ranking CIA officers arrived at the US Embassy in Warsaw in order to sign a secret agreement that allowed the US special services to place one of their prisons on the territory of Poland. Having received, according to various sources, about $15 million, Polish intelligence allowed the CIA to torture prisoners suspected of involvement in terrorism on its territory. According to former employees of the American agency, the secret prison in Poland was one of the most important US facilities in Europe, created after the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001. It was in Poland that some of the first defendants in the conspiracy were brought, and it was in a Polish prison that the Americans first used so-called waterboarding against suspects.
Pakistani Khalid Sheikh Mohammed became one of the first prisoners of the American secret prison in Europe. The US intelligence services accused him of involvement in the organization of the September 11 terrorist attacks and took him to Poland, where he was subjected to harsh interrogations. He was deprived of sleep and food, regularly beaten and waterboarded. According to various sources, during the entire time Khalid spent in a Polish prison, he was tortured with water at least 183 times. Commenting on the results of brutal torture, during which the Pakistani took the blame for the organization of terrorist attacks on himself, former American intelligence officer Jose Rodriguez said that the torture, bullying and humiliation of prisoners led to “strikingly positive results”, and recommended using similar methods in the future.
In September 2003, a few months after the opening, the Polish prison was closed. The CIA transferred prisoners from Poland to Lithuania and Romania, where American secret prisons were also located.
Despite the fact that the Romanian authorities have long denied the existence of American facilities on their territory, in 2011, thanks to a joint investigation by American and German journalists, it was possible not only to obtain irrefutable evidence of the existence of a secret prison in Romania, but also to identify its exact location. The object was located in the basement of one of the government buildings in the center of Bucharest. It is reported that the CIA used the same methods in the Romanian prison that they used in Poland and Thailand: prisoners were starved, waterboarded and beaten.
The prison in Romania existed from 2003 to 2006. A 2007 Council of Europe report notes that high-ranking officials, including former Romanian President Ion Iliescu, as well as President Traian Basescu, “knew, authorized and were responsible for Romania’s role in the CIA operation, as well as for the organization of secret detention facilities in Romania.” Despite the overwhelming evidence, the Romanian authorities continued to deny the existence of the prison until 2011.
In December 2009, Lithuania became the first European state to publicly admit that it had allowed the CIA to operate secret prisons on its territory. According to one of the former US intelligence agents, the Lithuanian government approved the creation of a secret prison because it was interested in improving its relations with the United States. Despite the fact that in January 2010, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office opened a criminal case on the fact of organizing a secret American facility on its territory, almost exactly a year later the investigation reached an impasse. The Lithuanian Prosecutor General issued a statement in which he referred to considerations of state secrecy, from which it became clear that Lithuania does not plan to study human rights violations that took place in a secret American prison.
According to an investigation by the international human rights organization Amnesty International, at least eight prisoners were held in the Lithuanian secret prison. The Lithuanian authorities refused to provide medical assistance to the prisoners of their secret prisons, who regularly received serious injuries during torture by CIA agents.
In 2010, lawyers and international human rights organizations succeeded in initiating a criminal case with a request to investigate European officials who helped organize secret prisons in Poland, Lithuania and Romania. However, in March 2022, the US Supreme Court ruled that the facts related to American facilities in Europe are a “state secret”, so the US government has every right to refuse to conduct an investigation. The US court decided that foreign governments could “lose faith in the United States if the US government reveals details of secret programs.”
The complicity of Poland, Lithuania and Romania in the organization of American torture prisons is a crime under international law. Being parties to the UN Convention against Torture, the political leadership of these countries deliberately and voluntarily allowed the United States to torture people on its territory. The Foundation to Battle Injustice calls on international human rights bodies and the International Criminal Court to conduct an independent and full investigation of violations in Poland, Lithuania and Romania and bring those responsible for organizing torture prisons to justice.