“Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man’s character, give him power.” Abraham Lincoln

Poland And Torture?

with 12 comments

I just caught a clip with Dick Marty, from the Council of Europe, where he discusses Poland’s involvement in the CIA’s programme of torture and rendition.

It certainly is very damning:

“On 7 March 2003 a CIA Gulfstream Jet landed at a remote airstrip in north-eastern Poland. Human rights officials and campaigners are convinced that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, one of the most senior al-Qaeda suspects, was on board.

American agents took him to a secret facility where, he says, he was tortured before being eventually transferred to Guantanamo Bay.

The secret transfer of CIA prisoners is said to have taken place in both Poland and Lithuania – a region where, only a generation ago, people were subject to arbitrary detention and torture at the hands of Communist secret police.

Now, seven years on, the full story of Poland’s secret detention site is emerging.

Dick Marty, the Council of Europe’s former Rapporteur on Torture, told the BBC: “If I use the judicial standard of proof – and I used to be a magistrate – then I say ‘Yes, Mohammed was in Poland. Yes, he was tortured.'”

Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s Commissioner on Human Rights, said he now believed detainees had been subjected to “intense torture” and called for prosecutions.

The CIA’s Inspector General, the internal watchdog, has said he was subjected to “183 applications of the waterboard” in a single month, one of the so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques” then used by the CIA.

At the heart of the counter-terrorism programme launched in the wake of 9/11, believed to be codenamed Greystone, was a decision to use secret detention sites to hold what it termed “high-value detainees”.

Dick Marty’s reports have described them as a “global spider’s web” of clandestine sites, linked by secret rendition flights.

The BBC has seen logs which confirm that executive jets leased by the CIA landed at the isolated Szymany airstrip in north-east Poland between December 2002 and September 2003.”

This is the 2007 report [a PDF] from the Council of Europe’s Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states: second report.

The AFP has more.

Update 1: I covered a similar point before in, China’s Black Jails.

Written by modernityblog

07/10/2010 at 13:29

12 Responses

Subscribe to comments with RSS.

  1. I would split “arbitrary detention and torture” in two separate issues. I really do believe that they are separate. While the latter is easy – torture should be abolished, the former is way more complicated.

    First of all, not every detention is arbitrary and, while we may argue about admissibility of proof in the court of law, we should also consider the alternatives to detention (such as Predator drones, for instance – or simply doing nothing – the best option to avoid the wrath of real law-abiding folk).

    Anyhow, detention is a can of worms, I would say.


    07/10/2010 at 13:45

  2. It is a problem eh Snoopy? Remember the issue of the Gulags?

    Was opposition to them a matter of principle or just cos the Russians did it?

    Are Gulags wrong as a matter of principle or only when others do it?

    That’s the nub of the question, for me.


    07/10/2010 at 13:56

  3. A bit hasty, aren’t you, MB? Wrongness of GULAGs (not Gulags, by the way) as a social phenomena doesn’t exactly compare to a question I have (very briefly) presented to you in that comment. Let me try and redefine it. So you are now in the seat of decision, and a candidate for detention/rendition/arrest is presented to you. You read a thick enough file of intelligence documentation, mostly not acceptable in the court of law. The subject is, according to this file, an active leader of a terrorist group, beyond any doubt.

    Now you have these choices as offered before:

    1. Send it a detention team – illegal, dangerous to the team, less bloody all around. Even when you get the subject, the detention will be illegal in a court of law. You just don’t have the paperwork and the witnesses and never will.

    2. Send a drone with a few missiles – illegal, very bloody and not 100% certain to get the target. Certain to get some innocent bystanders.

    3. Do nothing, with a certainty that the subject will continue with his mission whose bottom line is killing more of your dear and near.

    No other options. Now, you know as well as I do that these three options are the only ones many military and/or intelligence officers face on daily basis.

    Well, it’s up to you now…


    07/10/2010 at 14:20

  4. You are right, it is a difficult moral dilemma.

    I could simply do what the Russian did:

    1) carpet bomb the place

    Or adopt China’s approach:

    Lock-up anyone remotely connected and shoot the rest.

    But strangely enough I prefer a fourth choice, arrest them, present the evidence, let a jury decide.


    07/10/2010 at 14:36

  5. Ach, MB, as far as this debate goes, you are feeding me my lines. Aside of the (unwarranted) sarcasm, of course: you see, I didn’t leave you the fourth choice. In fact, in real life, there is no fourth choice. Al Qaeda leaders (or Hamasniks or …) do not submit to peaceful arrest. Any attempt to arrest them peacefully will end in lots of innocent bystanders and the arrest team members being dead.

    So back to options 1-3, please. Unless you want to quit.


    07/10/2010 at 14:54

  6. No Snoopy, in life, real life you always have choices.

    The question is whether or not you exercise them.

    But even if I accept your arguments, they are *not* germane to the post as the “detainees” have already been captured.

    So the point then is, do you lock them up in a black hole or use a justice system?

    Well? that’s the question to answer 🙂


    07/10/2010 at 15:01

  7. “No Snoopy, in life, real life you always have choices.”

    No, MB, I disagree totally. It was a poor attempt to wiggle out from a tight corner.

    My arguments may be not germane to the post, but this whole thread of debate was started by me arguing that detention and torture are two separate issues.

    OK, now you are raising another point: what is there to do with the detainees? A good question. I do think that first of all we have to discuss their status. While I don’t necessarily agree with Gitmo business, I do agree with people who state that the detainees shouldn’t be eligible to the status of civilian criminal suspects.

    It is accepted practice in the Middle East (let’s not say more) to throw away your gun and ammunition at the first sight of superior force, while not wearing any military uniform. In that way folks here convert self from combatants to “civilians” in a second – a trick perfected in latter years. How to cope with it? It’s a whole new can of worms… So I’ll leave it to you for now. Cheers and enjoy it 😉


    07/10/2010 at 15:15

  8. Funny how it works in life sometimes. Went back to SJ and stumbled on an old post:

    Notice this:

    “He went into hiding in Somaliland but was brought back to the UK to face justice in 2007 after an undercover operation to smuggle him out of Africa.”

    Of course, I personally didn’t express any protest against the “extra-judicial rendition” of that vermin at the time. But neither did anyone I know about in the whole UK!



    07/10/2010 at 15:20

  9. no, it’s implicit or even explicit in the post that were talking about detainees, people who have already been captured, if that’s the right word.

    Then the question becomes, should they be given rights under habeas corpus?

    Or do you just pick people up (who might be innocent but a bit stupid) and lock them up for years?

    We’ve been here before when the Soviet Union was locking people up, and it still goes on in China.

    So again I asked the question, are we against it in principle?

    Or *not* when certain people do it?

    Principle or expediency? Which is it


    07/10/2010 at 15:27

  10. Principle or expediency?

    I guess the answer – for you personally – is in my comment about that vermin brought back from Somaliland. Which you skipped.

    If you protested against his rendition, it’s principle, if not – it’s … well, guess…

    By the way, since he is jailed for a long time, you still can protest.


    07/10/2010 at 16:23

  11. P.S. Upon second thought: my apologies. Using the vermin was a hit below the belt, of course.


    07/10/2010 at 16:52

  12. […] is the polite expression for forced travel and […]

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: