Reprieve calls on Lithuania to re-open ‘torture site’ inquiry after discovering suspicious flight into Vilnius

Notes to Editors:

The role of European states in facilitating secret prison operations by the CIA was first revealed in 2005. Poland and Romania were named at this time as countries where the US had maintained secret prisons, while a third European country remained unidentified. In 2009, US-based ABC news published a series of articles which described a detention site in Lithuania, outside Vilnius, according to the testimony of former CIA officials.

Lithuania responded to these allegations with a short parliamentary inquiry, completed 22 Dec. 2009, and a longer pre-trial investigation (terminated unexpectedly on 14 Jan. 2011). The parliamentary inquiry concluded that, although it could not determine whether or not the CIA had held prisoners in Lithuania between 2004 and 2006, “conditions existed” for them to have done so. The pre-trial investigation, having restricted its remit to investigating “abuse of authority” by Lithuanian officials, concluded that the statute of limitations for such abuse had already expired, and that no further action was therefore appropriate.

In September 2010, Reprieve wrote to the Lithuanian Prosecutor General, stating that it had received information that Abu Zubaydah (a “high value detainee” previously alleged by the US to have been a high-ranking member of Al Qaeda) had been held in Lithuania after a period of imprisonment in Morocco. Reprieve followed this with another letter, in November 2010, outlining some possible investigative avenues that could be relevant. No sign was given that the Prosecutor was following these avenues, however, and further communications from Reprieve to the Prosecutor went unanswered.

Since the start of 2011, Reprieve has been working to build up data relating to the movements of aircraft linked to the CIA renditions program. On 1 Sept. 2011, Reprieve released details of a large cache of documents, outlining in detail the movements of one plane involved in the program, N85VM. At the same time, Reprieve is continuing to research the movements of other planes in Europe and around the world.

Access Info Europe is a human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and protecting the right of access to information in Europe as a tool for defending civil liberties and human rights, for facilitating public participation in decision making and for holding governments accountable. Access Info’s mission is that the right of access to information be enshrined in law and work in practice. Access Info Europe is based in Madrid.

A copy of the Freedom of Information disclosure received from Lithuania can be found on Access Info’s website here. It was obtained under the Lithuanian Law on Provision of Information to the Public. July 2, 1996 No. I-1418 (as amended by June 20, 2002 No. IX – 972), equivalent to Freedom of Information and Access to Information legislation in force elsewhere in Europe and internationally.

Research with Reprieve forms part of Access Info’s wider work on access to information for human rights. Access Info is this year launching the Europe-wide Access for Rights project with Statewatch which will focus on access to information for human rights NGOs.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.

Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, working on behalf of prisoners facing the death penalty, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Reprieve is a charitable company limited by guarantee; Registered Charity No. 1114900 Registered Company No. 5777831 (England) Registered Office 2-6 Cannon Street London EC4M 6YH; Patrons: Alan Bennett, Julie Christie, Martha Lane Fox, Gordon Roddick, Richard Rogers, Ruth Rogers, Jon Snow, Marina Warner, Vivienne Westwood

The photo used in the main release is by xlibber and has a creative commons licence.