Advocacy update

Justice Initiative Urges Poland to Stop Death Penalty Against Guantánamo Prisoner

December 09, 2022
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NEW YORK—The Open Society Justice Initiative welcomes the resolution adopted today by the Council of Europe urging Poland to do everything in its power to seek diplomatic assurances from the U.S. that it would not subject a Guantánamo prisoner, who is the victim of a joint U.S.-Polish rendition operation, to the death penalty after a military commission trial that used evidence obtained through torture.

Abd al-Rahim Hussayn Muhammed al-Nashiri is a Saudi national who was captured in Dubai in 2002 and taken to black site prisons in Afghanistan and Bangkok before being transferred to yet another secret prison in Poland. Polish authorities took extraordinary security measures to conceal his flight to Poland, where U.S. interrogators subjected al-Nashiri to mock executions with a power drill as he stood naked and hooded; racked a semiautomatic handgun close to his head as he sat shackled before them; held him in “standing stress positions”; and threatened to bring in his mother and sexually abuse her in front of him.

Poland subsequently assisted the U.S. in secretly flying al-Nashiri out of Poland to transfer him to Guantánamo Bay. On April 20, 2011, U.S. military commissions prosecutors brought charges against him stating their intent to seek the death penalty in his case.

On July 24, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights delivered a historic judgement confirming that Poland had hosted the secret CIA prison. It also held that Poland had violated the European Convention on Human Rights by enabling al-Nashiri’s secret detention and torture in Poland, and his transfer from Poland despite the real risk that his rights would be further violated; failing to conduct an effective investigation into the violation of his rights; and not complying with the Court’s evidential requests. The Court ordered Poland to seek diplomatic assurances from the U.S. that it would not subject al-Nashiri to the death penalty and to pay Al Nashiri €100,000 in damages.

“Despite the extraordinary horrors of ‘extraordinary rendition’ and its widespread condemnation by the international community, governments have not been held fully accountable for their role in this heinous practice,” said James A. Goldston, executive director of the Justice Initiative. “Meanwhile, al-Nashiri continues to languish in Guantánamo based on faulty evidence gathered under torture. Poland must immediately take measures to ensure that the U.S. does not subject him to the death penalty.”

According to the U.S. Department of Defense, 35 detainees remain at Guantánamo Bay.

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