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Rights group welcomes Lithuania ruling allowing secret prison investigation

Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website] on Wednesday applauded [press release] the Lithuanian Vilnius Regional Court [official website] ruling that Saudi Arabian national Mustafa al-Hawsawi has a right to investigate his alleged torture in a secret Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] detention center. AI called the decision a victory for accountability and stated that the court had set an example for European countries and the US by recognizing that victims have a right to a thorough investigation. The rights group urged the Lithuanian government to open a full investigation into al-Hawsawi's claims. The court ruled that al-Hawsawi's claims involved violations under the Lithuanian Constitution [text] and international agreements and added that the Lithuanian Prosecutor General's [official website] prior refusal to investigate had been groundless. Al-Hawawsi was apprehended in 2003 and handed over to US custody and claims that between 2004 and 2006, he was illegally transferred to Lithuania and tortured in a secret CIA rendition facility. Al-Hawsawi is currently held in Guantanamo Bay [JURIST backgrounder] and faces charges [JURIST report] for his alleged role as a financier of the 9/11 terrorist attacks [JURIST backgrounder] in the US.

Last September Amnesty International UK [advocacy website] urged Lithuania to reopen its investigation [JURIST report] into the country's involvement in the US-led rendition and secret detention programs after a victim came forward with new information. AI had previously urged Lithuania to reopen its investigation [JURIST report] into secret CIA prisons in 2011. In January 2011 human rights groups also pressed for Lithuania's investigation to be reopened, calling the decision to stop the investigation premature [JURIST report]. Lithuanian Lawmakers demanded the investigation [JURIST report] in 2009 after ABC News reported that former CIA officials said that Lithuania provided the CIA with facilities for a secret prison for high-value al Qaeda [JURIST news archive] suspects in order to improve relations with the US. The parliamentary committee concluded that the Lithuanian State Security Department provided the CIA with two secret facilities, but it was unclear whether either facility was used to interrogate detainees.

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