Skip navigation
× You have 2 more free articles available this month. Subscribe today.

CIA Slammed for Torture Abuses at Secret Lithuanian Prisons

Despite a lawsuit filed in the European Court of Human Rights by Saudi-born alleged terrorist Abu Zubaydah, Lithuanian prosecutors have declined to pursue charges related to two CIA-operated prisons located in that country. Human rights groups Amnesty International and Reprieve have claimed, according to the Associated Press, that Zubaydah was secretly flown by the CIA from Morocco to Lithuania in 2005.

Zubaydah had been arrested in Pakistan as a suspected high-level al-Qaeda operative who was involved in the 9/11 attacks. He said he spent about a year in the Lithuanian CIA prison before being moved to Afghanistan; he is currently being held in U.S. military custody in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba.

Zubaydah’s attorney filed a complaint with the European court alleging that Zubaydah was a victim of torture and secret imprisonment, and was subjected to simulated drowning and other torture techniques that included forced nudity, confinement in small boxes and sleep deprivation.

Amnesty International and Reprieve said they had provided “sufficient evidence” to the Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office to proceed with a probe into the existence of the secret CIA prisons. ABC television ran a story in 2009 that claimed Lithuanian officials had supplied the CIA with a building in the capital of Vilnius in 2004-2006, where eight suspected al-Qaeda members were held and interrogated.

The two prisons – the second was at a former horseback riding school north of Vilnius – were reportedly established with the assistance of the Lithuanian security service. The riding school was acquired by a company called Elite LLC, which was registered in Delaware and Panama; according to news reports, the purchase of the riding school was arranged by the U.S. embassy in Vilnius.

An investigation by a committee of the Lithuanian parliament determined that the CIA prisons had existed and that secret CIA flights had arrived in the country without being subject to usual customs or border checks. However, the committee failed to determine whether any CIA prisoners had been brought into the country and held at the prisons.

According to the Associated Press, “During the last decade, hundreds of covert ‘extraordinary rendition’ flights shut-tled prisoners between CIA-run overseas prisons and the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay. The Central Intelligence Agency has never acknowledged specific locations, but prisons overseen by U.S. officials reportedly operated in Lithuania, Poland, Romania, Thailand, and Afghanistan.”

In fact, secret CIA “black site” prisons have been confirmed in Poland, Thailand and Romania in addition to Lithuania, and CIA officials have been accused of torturing detainees at the Bagram Air Base in Afghanistan. [See: PLN, June 2010, p.12; Oct. 2009, p.14].

The Lithuanian Prosecutor General’s Office launched an investigation into allegations concerning the secret CIA prisons and found a “disciplinary offense” by some Lithuanian State Security Department officials, but the matter was dropped due to statute of limitations issues.

The director of the Human Rights Monitoring Institute, located in Vilnius, criticized the decision not to prosecute, stating, “Prosecutors should not assume the functions of court and shouldn’t decide whether prisons of the CIA were in Lithuania or not. They should investigate and then provide information for the court. Prosecutors are showing they are not independent and not professional.”

In April 2012, five members of the European Parliament toured the former CIA prison at the riding school in Lithuania during discussions as to whether another investigation should be conducted. The Parliamentary members urged Lithuanian authorities to continue investigating the matter, but Lithuanian officials said the U.S. had refused to cooperate.

It is ironic that with the collapse of the Soviet Union many countries of the former Warsaw Pact quickly joined the European Union and NATO, and just as quickly set up clandestine torture camps for international kidnapping victims.

Sources: Washington Post, The Guardian, Fox News,, Associated Press,

As a digital subscriber to Prison Legal News, you can access full text and downloads for this and other premium content.

Subscribe today

Already a subscriber? Login