Mustafa al hawsawi

Lithuanian court prevents secret detention and rendition victim from participating in investigation into CIA secret prisons in Lithuania

Vilnius Regional Court has issued its final rejection of REDRESS’ application for victim status for Mustafa al-Hawsawi in a pre-trial criminal investigation into CIA secret prisons (also known as black sites) in Lithuania.

This status would have allowed Mr. al-Hawsawi to participate in the ongoing investigation, including to request access to pre-trial investigation material and to make requests to expand the investigation’s scope.

Mr. al-Hawsawi was captured in Pakistan in 2003 and was held in secret detention in the CIA’s rendition, detention, and interrogation programme until September 2006.

During this time he was severely tortured and now suffers from a number of serious medical conditions, including rectal prolapse, anal fissures, and Hepatitis C, a condition he did not have previously.

The United States Senate Torture Report – the most comprehensive examination of the CIA’s Torture programme – indicates that while Mr. al-Hawsawi was held in Lithuania he required emergency medical care, which was delayed because he was denied access to a local hospital.

Throughout his three and a half years’ secret detention– including the time he was detained in Lithuania – Mr. al-Hawsawi was not allowed access to a lawyer or to independent monitors (such as the International Committee of the Red Cross).

He was tortured and detained outside the protection of the law in conditions that amounted to enforced disappearance.

The Regional Court’s decision is the result of more than two years of litigation in a case brought by REDRESS in London, and the Human Rights Monitoring Institute (HRMI) in Vilnius. In September 2013, REDRESS and HRMI submitted a complaint calling for the Lithuanian General Prosecutor to investigate allegations that Mr. al-Hawsawi was illegally transferred to – and secretly detained in – Lithuania as part of the CIA-led programme.

Despite the Prosecutor’s initial refusal, an investigation was opened in February 2014, following a decision by the Regional Court. This investigation remains ongoing, and in early 2015, it was combined with an earlier investigation into abuse of office, which had been terminated by the Prosecutor in 2011.

On 26 August 2015, REDRESS, through attorney Ingrida Botyrienė, filed a request to grant Mr. al-Hawsawi victim status in the investigation. This request was rejected by the Prosecutor – at first informally in September 2015 and, following a number of appeals, in a procedural decision reiterating this refusal in November 2015.

This year, we have appealed this decision – first to the Higher Prosecutor, to the District Court, and now to the Regional Court in Vilnius. The Regional Court’s decision is the final rejection of our efforts to obtain victim status – no other avenues remain open for us to appeal this decision in Lithuania.

“It is undisputed that a CIA black site operated on Lithuania’s territory and the U.S. Senate Torture Report and other sources indicate that Mustafa al-Hawsawi was held there, tortured there, and subjected to extraordinary rendition from there, violating the most basic of human rights protections.

To deny him access to the investigative procedure contravenes Lithuania’s own laws on victims’ rights, and suggests that it is not really interested in getting to the bottom of what happened; that its investigation is ‘for show’ only.

Access to the truth and accountability is vital, not only for Mr. al-Hawsawi, but so that these types of events are not repeated. If it had not been for the cooperation of countries like Lithuania, the CIA would not have been able to carry out its programme of secret detentions and interrogations.” said Carla Ferstman, Director of REDRESS.

Lithuania has missed this opportunity to comply with its obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights by conducting a prompt, thorough and effective investigation that allows victims to participate.

On 8 June 2016, the European Parliament reiterated its call on Lithuania “to conduct, as a matter of urgency, transparent, thorough and effective criminal investigations into CIA secret detention facilities…[and] to bring perpetrators of human rights violations to justice…”[1] A case regarding CIA operations in Lithuania is already pending before the European Court of Human Rights.

Another Guantánamo detainee, Abu Zubaydah, brought a case before the European Court of Human Rights in 2011 alleging that he was held in Lithuania and subjected to torture, secret detention and enforced disappearance. A hearing before the European Court of Human Rights took place in Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania on 29 June 2016.

Mr. al-Hawsawi remains in detention in Guantánamo Bay, Cuba where he has been held since 2006, following the years of secret detention by the CIA. The UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention has found that Mr. al-Hawsawi’s ongoing detention is arbitrary and in contravention of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.[2]

In July 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights ordered precautionary measures regarding Mr. al-Hawsawi, requesting the US to urgently provide him with the medical care he needs to treat injuries sustained during his detention and torture by the CIA.[3] To date, the U.S. Government has failed to implement these decisions.

[1] Read more about Mr. al-Hawsawi’s case here

[2] UN Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD), Communication addressed to the Government of the
United States of America on 25 August 2014 and to the Government of Cuba on 15 September 2014,
Concerning Mustafa al Hawsawi, UN Doc. A/HRC/WGAD/2014, 23 January 2015. Available here.

[3] Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Resolution 24/2015, Precautionary Measure No. 422-14,
Matter of Mustafa Adam Al-Hawsawi regarding the United States of America, July 7, 2015. Available here.

For more information or to request an interview please contact REDRESS office on +44 20 7793 1777 or [email protected].