Press release

European Rights Court Rejects Romania’s Challenge to CIA Secret Prison Ruling

October 15, 2018
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NEW YORK—The European Court of Human Rights has rejected the Romanian government’s bid to challenge the court’s May 2018 ruling that Romania illegally hosted a secret CIA prison on its territory. 

In May 2018, the court unanimously held that Romania violated the European Convention on Human Rights by hosting between September 2003 and November 2005 a secret CIA prison, where Saudi national Abd-al-Rahim al-Nashiri, the applicant in the case, was detained and abused. On October 9, the court announced, without giving reasons, that it had rejected Romania’s request to challenge the ruling before the European Court of Human Rights’ Grand Chamber.

In its original ruling in Al-Nashiri v. Romania the court found that al-Nashiri was secretly flown from the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to the prison in Romania in April 2004, and secretly flown out of the country in late 2005 to another detention site in either Lithuania or Afghanistan. The court concluded that al-Nashiri was subjected to unlawful treatment while held in Romania, including detention conditions that included blindfolding and hooding as well as “incommunicado, solitary confinement; continuous noise of high and varying intensity played at all times; continuous light such that each cell was illuminated to about the same brightness as an office; and use of leg shackles.”

Amrit Singh, the lead lawyer on the case with the Justice Initiative, said: “The court’s decision means that it is time for Romania to acknowledge the truth about this shameful episode. It must now properly implement the court’s judgment, including by conducting an effective investigation into what happened.”

The Romanian government has never officially acknowledged that it hosted a CIA detention site in Bucharest, despite a mass of evidence presented in a complaint filed on his behalf by the Open Society Justice Initiative.

In 2014, the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee released a report confirming the existence of this site and al-Nashiri’s secret detention and ill treatment there. The report referred to the site as “DETENTION SITE BLACK.”  Romanian authorities claim that they have been investigating the hosting of the prison.

Diana Hatneanu, co-counsel in the case, said: “The Romanian authorities’ so-called investigation has thus far been ineffective. The court’s judgement requires it to conduct a thorough criminal investigation so that Romanian officials who acted unlawfully can be held accountable. We cannot allow this to happen again in Romania.”

Al-Nashiri is currently facing death penalty charges before a U.S. military tribunal at Guantanamo Bay, on charges relating to the October 2000 attack on the USS Cole in Aden harbor. After being seized and handed over to the CIA in 2002, he was tortured and abused at several CIA black sites, including in Thailand, Poland, and Romania. His military commission proceedings have dragged on for years, riddled with challenges to his torture; they were recently indefinitely suspended after his civilian lawyers resigned, citing a hidden microphone in the room where they regularly met him in the U.S. military-run facility.

The European Court ordered that Romania pay al-Nashiri €100,000 in damages.

In addition to Singh and Hatneanu, al-Nashiri was also represented before the European Court by James Goldston and Rupert Skilbeck of the Justice Initiative, and his U.S. lawyer, Nancy Hollander, acting as legal advisor to the team.

The al-Nashiri ruling marks the third European Court of Human Rights case brought by the Open Society Justice Initiative related to the CIA’s program. In 2012, the court ruled against Macedonia in the case of Khalid el-Masri, a German citizen who was kidnapped, abused, and flown to Afghanistan after being seized in Macedonia in a case of mistaken identity. In 2014, the court ruled against Poland, also in favor of al-Nashiri, over Poland’s role in his rendition, secret detention, and torture.

Romania was one of over 50 governments around the world that supported a program of secret rendition and torture launched by the CIA after the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States, as detailed in the Justice Initiative’s 2013 survey, Globalizing Torture: CIA Torture and Extraordinary Rendition.

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