The CIA paid Romania “millions of dollars” to host secret prisons, a rights lawyer said Wednesday as the European Court of Human Rights heard accusations that Romania allowed the agency to torture terrorism suspects in a secret renditions program under President George W. Bush.
Attorney Amrit Singh told the court on the opening day of the case that CIA prisons were in Romania from 2003-2005 with the government’s “acquiescence and connivance,” something authorities have denied.
Romanian government representative Catrinel Brumar countered that it takes more than “hints and speculation to establish the state’s responsibilities.” She said an investigation was ongoing.
The court said it would rule in a few months on whether Romania knowingly allowed CIA secret prisons where torture occurred, and whether it failed to prevent the torture of Singh’s client.
The alleged presence of CIA secret prisons remains a sensitive subject in Romania, a strong U.S. ally which at the time was seeking support from Washington to join NATO, something it did in 2004.
Singh said by telephone that Romania was “obfuscating and in denial” in its arguments.
Singh said her client, Saudi Arabian national Abd al Rahim al Nashiri, was shackled, sleep-deprived, subjected to loud noise and bright lights, slapped and given forced rectal feeding at a Bucharest CIA prison in 2004. He is currently in U.S. custody at Guantánamo Bay, charged in death-penalty proceedings as the alleged mastermind of al-Qaida’s suicide bombing of the USS Cole warship off Yemen in October 2000. Seventeen U.S. service members died in that attack.
Singh also said that his alleged mistreatment had not yielded useful information.
The U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA torture was completed in 2014. It detailed the torture of prisoners and how government oversight was prevented. The report did not directly mention Romania.
Amnesty International called Wednesday’s hearing a “milestone in accountability.”