On August 20, 2021, CJA filed an amicus brief in the Supreme Court of the United States in support of Zayn al-Abidin Muhammad Husayn. Mr. Husayn, also known as Abu Zubaydah, was one of the first detainees subjected to the CIA’s extraordinary rendition and torture programs in the US “war on terror” following the attacks of September 11, 2001. After his capture by US forces in Pakistan in March 2002, Abu Zubaydah was held at CIA black sites around the world, where he was interrogated and tortured. As detailed by the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Report on the CIA’s Detention and Interrogation Program and by the European Court of Human Rights, Abu Zubaydah was held for almost a year at a black site reportedly in Stare Kiejkuty, Poland.
A criminal investigation into Abu Zubaydah’s treatment at this facility is now pending in Poland. The United States has invoked the state secrets privilege to quash discovery requested to aid in Polish proceedings on the basis that the information would endanger national security by potentially identifying its foreign intelligence partners and the location of former CIA black sites.
CJA argues that the state secrets privilege should not be wielded as a means of covering up information the government would rather not subject to public scrutiny, particularly if it involves illegal or rights violating conduct by the government. Drawing on CJA’s decades of experience litigating cases involving security sector abuses around the world, we illustrated for the Court the consequences of secrecy when it comes to human rights violations committed in the name of national security. Examples from Chile, El Salvador, and Peru show how refusal to come to terms with human rights violations committed by state security actors can inflict lasting damage to societies, erode the rule of law, and ultimately do little to protect the nation’s security. As our cases show, accountability, discovery of the truth, and the development of a shared and complete historical record are critical for building secure and open societies.