Lithuania must come clean on CIA prisons
(Brussels, 19 May 2011) A report published today by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) has criticised Lithuania’s Prosecutor General for failing to investigate fully whether CIA detainees were held and ill-treated in secret detention facilities on Lithuanian soil. The Committee has also criticised Lithuania for using state secrecy as an excuse for refusing to release information. In January this year the Prosecutor General halted the pre-trial investigation, claiming the deadline for criminal charges had expired and no evidence of wrong-doing had been presented.
“Many pieces of the puzzle are there, including the actual prison sites”, said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights in Europe. “What’s missing is the political will properly to investigate the disappearances and torture which may have occurred in those prisons. It’s a disgrace that so much information has led to a sham investigation and zero accountability.”
Amnesty International has condemned the investigation’s premature closure and has sent the Prosecutor General details of several critical lines of enquiry it believes were not pursued, plus the names of people willing to talk. But calls to Lithuania to re-open the investigation have gone unheeded. The government’s response to the CPT report reiterates that information on the investigation cannot be shared, even with the CPT, on the grounds of state secrecy. The government also says no information was presented which proves that detainees were held at the secret sites.
“The prosecutor’s job is to seek evidence aggressively and independently,” said Hall. “The government’s response indicates prosecutors were passive. The Prosecutor General must now hold a full, effective, and impartial investigation, which is what we and the CPT expected in the first place. We count on the EU to press the Lithuanian Government to act appropriately.”
A Lithuanian parliamentary enquiry concluded in December 2009 that CIA secret prisons existed in the country, but stopped short of claiming detainees were actually held there. In January 2010, the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s office opened a criminal investigation into intelligence officials’ alleged involvement in establishing and operating the sites. A CPT delegation visited the two secret sites in June 2010. The visit marked the first time an independent monitoring body had visited a secret prison set up by the CIA in Europe under the US Government’s global counter-terrorism operations and made the visit public. The Lithuanian criminal investigation was closed down on 14 January this year. Amnesty International has urged the Lithuanian authorities urgently to re-open the investigation.
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