European court finds Poland complicit in torture at CIA secret prison

(By Deutsche Welle) Poland enabled human rights violations by allowing the CIA to run a secret prison on its territory, according to a European court ruling. Warsaw has been ordered to pay two suspected former al Qaeda operatives damages.

The European Court of Human Rights ruled on Thursday that the Polish government was complicit in human rights abuses carried out by CIA operatives at a so-called “black site,” shedding further light on a network of secret prisons built by the US in Eastern and Central Europe after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks.

According to the court, Poland’s government allowed the CIA to operate a secret prison, where two suspected al Qaeda operatives were subjected to torture among other rights violations. The black site was located on a Polish military facility in a village called Stare Kiejkuty, located 180 kilometers (111 miles) north of Warsaw.

Suspected al Qaeda operatives Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri and Zayn Al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn – also known as Abu Zubaydah – brought the case against Poland, accusing Warsaw of aiding and abetting in their rendition and mistreatment in 2002-2003. They are currently being held by the US at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

Although the judges said that “it was unlikely that the Polish officials had witnessed or known exactly what happened inside this facility,” they had enabled the CIA to commit human rights abuses by allowing the facility to operate, making them culpable.

“For all practical purposes, Poland had facilitated the whole process, had created the conditions for it to happen and had made no attempt to prevent it from occurring,” the court wrote in its ruling.

According to Crofton Black, who has been investigating the CIA’s now closed secret prisons in Europe, Thursday’s ruling makes attempts by the Polish government to whitewash its involvement look increasingly “ridiculous.”

“It’s the first time there’s been a ruling by any court on the CIA’s black sites in Europe, and it confirms what we and other legal organizations have been saying for years, which is the evidence that such sites existed and suspects were tortured in them is overwhelming,” Black, who works for the advocacy group Reprieve, told DW.

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NATO allies warn US on too much defense scrimping

(By Deutsche Welle) While the Pentagon tightens its financial belt, Defense Secretary Robert Gates has hinted at reducing American troop levels in Europe. However, Washington must reconcile a smaller force with traditional NATO obligations.

With US engagement in Iraq and Afghanistan winding down, the Obama administration is promising to cut spending. US Defense Secretary Robert Gates has announced cuts to the tune of  $78 billion (57 billion euros). And these cuts may impact what Gates has called an “excess force structure in Europe.”

Once meant to hold the Soviet Union at bay, the Atlantic alliance is redefining its mission on a continent now largely united and at peace. In the future, a smaller US military presence in Europe will focus on rapidly deploying elsewhere in the world. However, Washington must balance this smaller, more cost-effective force with its traditional security obligations as a NATO member.

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