Poland: trust no one but the law

von Adam Bodnar

The Strasbourg court has found that Poland violated the European Convention on Human Rights due to its collaboration in the rendition, imprisonment and torture of two terrorism-suspects (Al-Nashiri and Abu-Zubaydah) by CIA officers.

This judgment may be interpreted as an accusation against the US. But neither the ECtHR nor any international human rights’ court has any jurisdiction over the assessment of individual complaints against the US. Therefore, individual cases can only be taken up against supportive countries such as Macedonia, Poland, Lithuania or Romania, but cannot be lodged against the major perpetrator. This is like punishing the fence, but not the real robber – because the latter is untouchable de iure and de facto.

Looking more closely at these judgments of the European Court of Human Rights (Al-Nashiri v. Poland, application No. 28761/11, Abu-Zubaydah v. Poland, application No. 7511/13, judgments of 24 July 2014), Polish politicians may feel rather betrayed. Those who allowed for the secret CIA site on their territories could well have expected high levels of confidentiality and secrecy. That is why, when the first disclosures of the Polish CIA site appeared in 2005, the initial reaction was one of total denial. However, interest taken in these matters by international organizations, NGOs, media and detainees’ lawyers, sooner or later resulted in further leaks and revelations.

In the course of time, the feeling of betrayal by one’s US partners changed in character. Poland was simply left alone with the problem – due to the lack of any admission of guilt, apology or even slight cooperation on the part of US authorities – when domestic actors and European partners asked further questions. An atmosphere of shame, the obligation to continue to lie and the potential criminal responsibility of some politicians in this process, made things harder to explain or investigate ...

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