Prohibition of Torture, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment

IV. Lithuania's Role in CIA's Extraordinary Rendition and Detention Programme

August 2014 marked the fifth anniversary of US media first publishing allegations of Lithuania's involvement in CIA's secret detention and extraordinary rendition programme. Parliamentary and pre-trial investigations initiated in response to these allegations were unable to reach unambiguous conclusions.

On 9 December 2014, the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence published its report on the CIA detentions and interrogations programme.[1] The report details the execution of the programme, the circumstances of establishing secret detention sites abroad and states that illegal interrogation methods were used on at least 39 detainees suspected of terrorism, harming their physical and mental health. It is thought that detention site "VIOLET", mentioned in the report, could have been operating in Lithuania.[2] The document states that the programme was unable to reach its objectives, while the officers in charge supplied distorted or false information on its alleged success to the US authorities.

State Security Department training base in Antaviliai, 15min.lt photo.

On 24 July 2014, the European Court of Human Rights issued rulings in two cases relating to the CIA program – Al-Nashiri v Poland and Abu Zubaydah v Poland.[3] In both cases the Court found violations of Articles 3, 5, 6, 8 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court found a further violation of Article 2 of the Convention, guaranteeing the right to life, in the case Al-Nashiri v Poland, since Al-Nashiri is facing the death penalty in the US. Abu Zubaydah was awarded 130 000 EUR in compensation, Al-Nashiri – 100 000 EUR.

The European Court of Human Rights is still examining Abu Zubaydah's complaint against Lithuania. The government of Lithuania submitted its position on the case in May 2013. According to the government, Lithuania did everything that it could to clear any suspicion regarding the transportation, detention and torture of persons detained by the CIA on Lithuanian soil.[4]

In September 2013, HRMI together with REDRESS, a London-based organization, requested the Prosecutor General to initiate an investigation into the alleged unlawful detention of Mustafa al-Hawsawi – another victim of the CIA programme – in Lithuania.[5] The European Parliament also urged investigating these new allegations – in October 2013, it adopted a resolution urging Lithuania to conduct an effective investigation to establish whether Mustafa al-Hawsawi was held in Lithuania.[6]

Unfortunately, the pre-trial investigation was not started on the grounds that the previous investigation conducted by the Prosecutor's Office cleared all suspicions regarding the operation of the CIA programme in Lithuania; this decision was later endorsed by the Vilnius City District Court. The Vilnius Regional Court, following an examination of the appeal submitted by non-governmental organizations, on 28 January 2014 quashed the decisions of the prosecutor and the court of first instance.[7] This ruling is final and not subject to appeal.

The Court emphasized that, prior to reaching categorical conclusions on the absence of criminal activity, the prosecutor should have checked the information contained in the application – namely, referring to the US authorities for access to information and making use of the opportunity to interview the alleged victim and his representative. With reference to the ruling, the General Prosecutor's Office in February 2014 launched an investigation into the alleged illegal transportation of persons across Lithuanian borders.

Findings and Recommendations 

  • To ensure that the pre-trial investigation of the Prosecutor General's Office is comprehensive, effective and transparent, so that it complies with the standards emanating from the European Convention on Human Rights.
  • To expand the scope of the pre-trial investigation by including other suspected criminal activities committed during the operation of the programme, such as conduct prohibited by international law, unlawful imprisonment and abuse of authority.
  • To keep the public regularly and fully informed on the progress and results of the investigation.

[1] US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, "Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency's Detention and Interrogation Program", 3 December 2012, http://www.intelligence.senate.gov/study2014.html

[2] Indrė Bungardaitė, Liepa Želnienė, "Senate report: CIA closed its secret prison in Lithuania in 2006, after a suspected terrorist was not given medical aid", 10 December 2014,  http://www.15min.lt/naujiena/aktualu/lietuva/senato-ataskaita-czv-kalejima-lietuvoje-uzdare-2006-m-kai-itariamam-teroristui-nebuvo-suteikta-medicinos-pagalba-56-472127

[3] 24 July 2014 ECtHR  judgment in the case of Husayn Abu Zubaydah v Poland, application No. 7511/13, 24 July 2014 ECtHR judgment in the case of Al Nashiri v Poland, application No. 28761/11

[4] Human Rights Monitoring Institute, "Lithuanian Government does not care about the fate of Abu Zubaydah", 3 July 2013, http://www.hrmi.lt/naujiena/857/

[5] Human Rights Monitoring Institute, "Prosecutor General's Office receives a request to start an investigation concerning another victim of the CIA program", 13 September 2013, http://www.hrmi.lt/naujiena/874/

[6] European Parliament resolution of 10 October 2013 on alleged transportation and illegal detention of prisoners in European countries by the CIA (2013/2702(RSP), http://www.europarl.europa.eu/sides/getDoc.do?pubRef=-//EP//TEXT+TA+P7-TA-2013-0418+0+DOC+XML+V0//EN

[7] Human Rights Monitoring Institute, "A new development in the CIA prisons case", 20 February 2014, http://www.hrmi.lt/naujiena/919/