Romania is listed as a location of CIA “black sites” in a new highly critical report on the US government’s action following the September 11 terrorist attacks. Romania was one of the few places that hosted secret detention centers in which prisoners were tortured, according to The Open Society Justice Initiative. The current and the former presidents of Romania Traian Basescu and Ion Iliescu “knew about, authorized and stand accountable for Romania’s role in the CIA’s operation.”
The document presents a mass of evidence of the existence of a secret detention center in Romania, as well as involvement in the movement of prisoners. The Romanian authorities have consistently denied all involvement in the CIA programs, but evidence including flight plans, reports from European authorities, investigations by journalists and the testimonies of detainees contradict the government’s official position. The secret prison was in downtown Bucharest , code named Bright Light, in the basement of a government building used as the National Registry Office for Classified Information, according to the report.
The government of Romania, and 53 other countries in the report “failed to protect detainees from secret detention and extraordinary rendition on their territories and to conduct effective investigations into agencies and officials who participated in these operations.” Torture was a “hallmark” of both the secret detention and the extraordinary rendition programs, according to the Globalizing Torture report.
Although courts in the US have stopped legal appeals from the detainees of the two program on the grounds of “sensitive national security and foreign policy questions,” legal proceedings have begun at the European Court of Human Rights against countries, including Romania, over the apparent breaches of human rights.
Romania was one of the seven places where the CIA held prisoners in secret, along with Afghanistan, Lithuania, Morocco, Poland, Thailand, and Guantánamo Bay. The report lists a number of prisoners allegedly held in secret CIA prisons in Romania. They include Waleed Mohammed bin Attash, Riduan Isamuddin, the man who allegedly planned the September 11 attacks Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Abd al Rahim al Nashiri.
According to former US President George W Bush, around 100 detainees were held at the secret prisons and about a third of them were subjected to the infamous “enhanced interrogation techniques.” These techniques included abusive methods such as “walling” – quickly pulling the detainee forward and then thrusting him against a flexible false wall, “water dousing,” “stress positions”, water boarding, “wall standing” – forcing the detainee to remain standing with his arms outstretched in front of him so that his fingers touch a wall four to five feet away and support his entire body weight, sleep deprivation while being vertically shackled, and dietary manipulation, among others mentioned in the report.
A 2007 Council of Europe report deemed the existence of a secret detention center in Romania to be “factually established” and said that former President of Romania, Ion Iliescu, the current President of Romania, Traian Basescu, Presidential Advisor on National Security, Ioan Talpes, the Minister of National Defence Ioan Mircea Pascu, and the Head of Directorate for Military Intelligence, Sergiu Tudor Medar all “knew about, authorized and stand accountable for Romania’s role in the CIA’s operation of ‘out-of-theatre’ secret detention facilities on Romanian territory, from 2003 to 2005.”
The Open Justice Society Initiative has filed a case against Romania for one of the alleged detainees held in the country Abd al Rahim al Nashiri at the European Court of Human Rights.
The report was produced by NGO The Open Society Justice Initiative . The organization aims to use law to protect and empower people around the world and is involved in litigation, advocacy, research, and technical assistance. Its staff are based in Abuja, Amsterdam, Bishkek, Brussels, Budapest, Freetown, The Hague, London, Mexico City, New York, Paris, Phnom Penh, Santo Domingo and Washington, D.C.
Liam Lever, [email protected]
(photo source: CIA)