Saturday, December 10, 2005

Watchdog gets in a muddle

It appears that Human Rights Watch – the NGO that ‘exposed’ Poland as the site of gulags and torture – can’t quite make its up about the quality of its evidence.

Times Argus reports:

Poland's Gazeta Wyborcza newspaper caused a stir when it published an interview with Marc Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the rights organization, saying his group had documents corroborating that Poland was the chief CIA detention site in Europe in a system of clandestine prisons for interrogating al-Qaida suspects.

"Poland was the main base of interrogating prisoners and Romania was more of a hub," Garlasco was quoted as telling the newspaper. "This is what our sources from the CIA tell us and what is shown from the documents we gathered."

But Human Rights Watch quickly distanced itself from those remarks, with one of their reseearlier this week, archers, John Sifton, saying they "had left a misleading impression with some people" that the group has more evidence than it in fact does.

So, that’s nice and clear then. I bet handbags are being thrown at HRW HQ.

On Tuesday, ABC News in America said that Polish sources had confirmed that 11 al-Qaeda suspects had been held at a camp in Poland as recently as last month, when HRW made their initial statement. The detainees had then been rushed out of the country to somewhere in Africa, ahead of the visit of Condoleeza Rice to Europe this week.

All of a sudden, Prime Minister Marcinkiewicz has leapt into action. He’s announced that he’s going to be having a bit of an enquiry into the whole matter. It’s only taken him a month to get around to it. Must be a busy man, bless him.

His excuse for not getting around to investigating the matter previously - ‘if there is no evidence then what do we investigate?’ - was a supple intellectual gambit that evaded most of us. But is he now starting to think that, maybe, there is a bit of evidence? Both Gazeta Wyborcza and Rzeczpospolita are now claiming that five planes have landed in Szymany airstip since 2002. An eye witness one time said that nobody got out of the aircraft, which was surrounded by vans from Kiejkuty, the site of a Polish secret service school.

Or is the belated investigation by the Polish government because virtually every other nation that has CIA planes landing at one of its airports is having an enquiry, and Marcinkiewicz is starting to feel lonely? Or has the speculation - fed by HRW and its vague evidence - got so out of hand that he has to be seen to be doing something, anything?

Don’t miss the next installment of Human Rights Watch and the Polish gulags from hell – at a blog near you.

Good post on this from Jakub Wrzesniewski at WorldAndUS

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