Former Polish leaders could face war crime charges over CIA prisons

Polish prosecutors are considering bringing charges of war crimes against the country’s former prime minister and former president over allegations of secret CIA prisons.

Former president Aleksander Kwasniewski and former prime minister Leszek Miller, who held office between 2001 and 2004, may stand trial before the State Tribunal, a court specifically designed to try Poland’s top officials, Polish daily Gazeta Wyborcza reported on Wednesday 4 August. Krzysztof Janik, the former head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs and Administration, could also be charged, and Rzeczpospolita reported that the charges could also extend to Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former head of Polish Intelligence Agency.

Under Polish law, senior officials, including the President and the Prime Minister, cannot be tried before a regular court for alleged crimes committed while in office, and can only be tried via the State Tribunal

The court’s prosecutor wants to ask the speaker of parliament to initiate the criminal procedure against the two men. The case would first have to go to a parliamentary committee and then to the lower house of parliament, which would decide whether or not to press charges, the news report says.

Mr Kwasniewski told Gazeta Wyborcza that Poland co-operated with the US’ Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) when he was in office, allowing it to use the regional Szymany airport for flights, but he denied that it operated a secret detention facility there.

“There was no prison,” he said. “I have no information about Americans torturing prisoners in Poland.”

A former junior minister responsible for international affairs in Mr Miller’s cabinet, Tadeusz Iwinski, now a centre-left MP, told a press conference that the CIA did in fact run a detention center in the north of Poland, however.

It is “well known” that there was a detention centre for terror suspects in Kiejkuty, near the Szymany airfield, he said.

People from countries such as Morocco or Afghanistan were brought to Poland “and were detained in a prison-like place,” he explained. But Polish intelligence chiefs at the time “never mentioned that the CIA violated human rights in Poland.”

Later the same day he denied that a prison existed, saying in another interview that the CIA merely co-operated with a Polish intelligence training centre.

“I said only that, from what I know, there was a Polish intelligence training centre and that it was beyond doubt in co-operation with CIA planes that landed. I do not deny that under the agreement, interview areas had been set aside for CIA agents. And it cannot be excluded that in the context of that co-operation, passengers from aircraft arriving from Afghanistan or from Morocco may have remained for some time at these centres,” he told TOK FM radio.

In 2008, Poland launched an internal probe into allegations that it hosted a secret prison used by the CIA, after reports about the existence of the secret prison programme appeared in 2005 in the Washington Post.

In 2007 a Council of Europe investigation said it had “factually established that secret detention centers operated by the CIA have existed for some years in Poland and Romania.”

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