It has been long since Lithuania received so much global media attention. We were heard of, but it was inglorious. We were made famous by the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruling that a secret CIA jail operated in Lithuania, where tortures were performed. A specific case regarding Saudi-born Palestinian Abu Zubaydah born in 1971. The ruling states that from February 2005 to March 2006 he was incarcerated in Antaviliai near Vilnius, Ramūnas Bogdanas writes on lrt.lt.
A Seimas commission headed by Arvydas Anušauskas in 2009 performed its own investigation and concluded that the premises existed, however found no proof of anyone being imprisoned there. Later Lithuania presented an expanded version that the Antaviliai premises were intended for putting together classified American equipment. 110V voltage was installed there to prevent wiretapping, instead of the local 220V.
Valdas Adamkus, who was president during Abu Zubaidah’s incarceration also amended his testimony. Initially he denied knowledge of the jail and later stated he had been there and assured that there were no cells there.
If the jail was established, it was likely discussed in 2003-2005 during the presidency of Rolandas Paksas. He also denied any knowledge of the jail. The then State Security Department (VSD) head Mečys Laurinkus stated he gave a rough mention of this question to the president. The college of judges in Strasbourg noted that no one in Lithuania took the effort to review the mismatch between these two testimonies. There were no amendments, no further questioning to uncover the truth.
R. Paksas was keen on receiving an invitation to Washington already since 2003. Discussions on his potential visit were already started, but it did not proceed when the US started reversing, with matters proceeding toward the president’s impeachment. The premise is possible that during discussions on the visit, R. Paksas was a convenient talking partner for Americans, who wanted something. Lithuania not investigating and setting aside ambiguities contributed to the unfavourable ECHR ruling.
Another important detail, which was ignored in Lithuania was the statement published in a 2014 US Senate intelligence committee report that for favourable views on the establishment of the “violet” jail in country x, x million US dollars were paid. The code word “violet” was linked to the premises in Antaviliai by the court. The sum was redacted, however from the black square, one could guess that it is a single digit number. In other words, someone in Lithuania was paid one to nine million US dollars.
The recipients of this money are identified as the “authorities” in the report. This word can be viewed as any state institution or as specific state officials. The Seimas commission worked before the publication of the US Senate report and after its appearance Lithuania showed no intent to uncover, where the seven-figure sum landed, even if large sums leave traces.
The ECHR ruling does not mean that we can just forget the story after paying up the 130 thousand euro fine. The case will now be overseen by a European Council committee. Now Russia’s representative will smugly point toward the poles in the committee at every convenient occasion, asking what they did with the question of a lost analogous case. Lithuania has yet to arrive on the bench, where we can constantly be grilled.
We could answer at least one question to ourselves: did we arrive in such a situation because we were taking care of entry into NATO and performed a request by a strategic ally or did we breach international law solely because someone was banally tempted by a sum in the millions?