Comparatively little is known about the fate and whereabouts of the ‘High-Value Detainees’ (HVDs) who were known or suspected to have been held in CIA black sites in Europe between December 2002 and March 2006. Fourteen HVDs were transferred out of secret detention in September 2006, and moved to military detention at Guantánamo Bay where they are still being held. Everything they say to their legal teams is presumptively classified as 'top secret', meaning that they cannot give an account of their fate and whereabouts in secret detention.
There is some information on their whereabouts up until 2005, where they were held in secret prisons in Thailand, Poland, Morocco, Guantanamo Bay and Romania. Those detainees held in the CIA black site in Romania during 2005 – a list which is likely to include Ramzi bin al-Shibh, Khaled Sheikh Mohammed, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, Walid bin Attash, Janat Gul, Abu Faraj al-Libi and possibly Hambali – would have been moved on to further detention sites in the lead-up to the black site being closed in November 2005.
Flight data collated and analysed by The Rendition Project and Reprieve identifies four possible detainee transfers out of Romania throughout 2005. Detainees held in Romania during that time were likely to have been moved onboard one of these flights, the last of which corresponds with the first public revelations of the CIA prison in the country. Therefore, using collated flight data as a guide, it is likely that they were transferred to either Lithuania or Afghanistan during 2005. Click on the links below to read our analysis of the data and associated documentation with each of these flights:
- February 2005: Romania-Lithuania (N787WH)
- July 2005: Romania-Egypt, and then possibly on to Afghanistan (N308AB)
- October 2005: Romania-Lithuania, via a swap in Albania (N308AB and N787WH)
- November 2005: Romania-Afghanistan, via a swap in Jordan (N248AB and N1HC)
Some or all of those that were taken from Romania to the CIA’s black site in Lithuania were likely to have been held alongside others, given that the prison is thought likely to have been operational from September 2004. In particular, Abu Zubaydah is thought to have been transferred from Morocco to Lithuania in February 2005, on a flight by the Boeing 727 with registration number N724CL which flew between the two countries stopping over at Jordan on the way (click here for our analysis of this possible rendition of HVDs – including Abu Zubaydah – into Lithuania).
Some or all of the detainees held in Lithuania were then likely to have been moved to Egypt or Afghanistan in March 2006, onboard the one possible rendition circuit out of the country identified thus far. This circuit involved two privately-owned aircraft, contracted by the CIA through its prime contract with DynCorp for support services for the renditions programme.
The first of these aircraft, the Boeing 737 with registration number N733MA, flew from Lithuania to Egypt, where it met for under an hour with the second aircraft, another Boeing 737 with registration number N740EH. This second aircraft then flew from Egypt to Afghanistan, completing a possible disguised detainee transfer, Lithuania-Afghanistan. Click here to access our analysis of the flight data and associated documentation relating to this possible rendition of ‘High-Value Detainees’ between Lithuania, Egypt and Afghanistan in March 2006.
The whereabouts of the HVDs during their last six months in secret detention is unclear. One of the only concrete pieces of evidence in this regard comes from another detainee, Khaled al-Maqtari, who has testified that during his secret detention in CIA black site in 2006 he was given a blanket by the guards on which was written: ‘To Cuba, to Morocco, to Romania and to this place – Abu Ubeidah al-Hadrami’. This name is a known alias of Ramzi bin al-Shibh, an HVD who had been held in Romania in 2004-2005, and who presumably had then been transferred to the same site as al-Maqtari.
There are conflicting accounts of the location of the site where al-Maqtari was held between April 2004 and September 2006, and therefore where any HVDs held alongside him were detained. Some other (non-HVD) detainees who are known to have been held at this site with al-Maqtari, and who were moved there from detention in other facilities in Pakistan or Afghanistan, recall flight times of between one and eight hours, leading to a high degree of uncertainty as to location. Some are certain that it was in Afghanistan or a neighbouring country, and there is speculation that others were flown in circles in order to disguise their final destination. The claim that the site was in Afghanistan is corroborated by flight data relating to detainee transfers out of the site in 2004, although some of the other relevant flight data is contradictory.