On July 24, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg pronounced a verdict on the treatment of two former prisoners of the clandestine and illegal prison established in the years 2002-2003 on Polish territory by CIA with the permission of the Polish authorities of that time. The Court evaluates the circumstances of the situation accurately and justly, as well as points out violations of national and international laws committed by Polish authorities back then.
We may easily criticise the verdict and many people do so. First of all, the USA did not appear before the Court, notwithstanding the fact that this is the country to be blamed the most and which should be hold responsible and shall face the most severe repercussions. Secondly, the understandable source of the irritation is the fact that the judges conceded the point of the somewhat suspicious individuals, who most certainly were and still are involved in terrorist criminal acts. At last, Polish patriotism has suffered as the verdict of the Court has ashamed our country and puts Poland in a really unfavourable light.
On the other hand, however: firstly, the USA did not force us or blackmailed us into making the infrastructure of Stare Kiejkuty available to their services and thus to enable the illegal proceedings. Poland has agreed to do it aware of the fact – let’s phrase it mildly – that the methods of the US services in the times of republican administration were somewhat controversial. Polish institutions must have asked themselves why Americans want to keep those people in Poland and not in the United States. Therefore, they must have also established that the illegal – in the light of the US justice system – character of the planned actions was the motive. And if something is illegal in the USA, it is usually illegal for a good reason. Such a good reason that also in Poland it shall be deemed illegal or – as in this particular case – it already is. Secondly, I am nearly the last person to say something positive about Islamic fanatics, not to mention terrorists. However, the protection related to the human rights guaranteed to every individual is not accidental. Protecting even the worst sort of a man from inhumane treatment means that the so-called average citizen feels twice as safe. It is also the question of standards. In the abovementioned time of our liberal-democratic civilization based on the premise of inviolability of human dignity, the war (ideological as well) was proclaimed by the people proudly disregarding these fundamental, in our opinion, values. Resignation from these values for the sake of efficiency of fighting against them means that we may win the war in the classical sense of the term. However, they would be the winners on the ideological level as they would expose the weakness of pillars of our civilization as well as our fragile characters. Finally, we shall bear in mind that not only the actions taken by the Americans in Stare Kiejkuty were illegal in the light of Polish law. We may argue here that Poles had no idea what was going on out there. However, such argumentation leads automatically to another point: making a part of Polish territory available to foreign institutions for their actions at the same time resigning from the control over those actions is illegal as well. This means that Polish authorities have significantly violated the law in one way or another and thus this decision is the pre-source of the shame falling on our today’s patriotism. Therefore, the government of that time is responsible for the damaged image of our country and not the European Court of Human Rights.
To put things crudely: Poland had it coming. We may still observe Polish problem with dealing with law which in the best-case-scenario might be described as treated unfairly. It is visible in all sorts of affairs, starting from local clerks and ending with 2010 Polish Air Force Tu-154 crash affair. Once I have described this as a syndrome of come-what-may (I did not, however, coined the phrase myself) and I shall remind it once again. During those times, the “war against terrorism” continues, we still do not know that the president of the USA of that time is an antithesis of King Midas, we are new to NATO and we feel we are being tested, and we want to be helpful and to prove our value. In these circumstances, the come-what-may strategy brings about the situation in which the government disregards the constitution and the international law. Because who may find out about it? Whatever, “law is law and life is life”. Furthermore: the verdict of the European Court is now pronounced without any adequate justification from Poland as there are still on-going clandestine proceedings of public prosecutor’s office. For how many years has it been conducted? How many times did we hear that the disastrous prolixity of proceedings of Polish justice system is extremely damaging? This time, the state came to a bad end and it is the state that is facing the consequences of the neverending procedures. Usually, citizens and companies are the ones facing consequences. Maybe this is the reason why politicians for years lack the energy to try and solve the problem. After all, theoretically, instead of a dawdling public prosecutor’s office, the politics could have dealt with this case within the confines of a committee of inquiry. However, also in this case the approach towards law stands in the way. As it is obvious from the start that law is law but our political class is not going to harm themselves, it will not point out the ones to be blamed, it will not prosecute anyone.
So we have a verdict of the highly respected European Court. And there is Poland in which Leszek Miller accuses this Court of siding with terrorists and who is brandishing his little sabre. How not to be ashamed?
Translation: Olga Łabendowicz