Lithuanian president regrets country named as CIA prison collaborator

25.08.09 @ 17:44

  1. By Leigh Phillips

BRUSSELS - Lithuania's new president and the European Union's outgoing budget commissioner, Dalia Grybauskaite, on Tuesday (25 August) said she "regrets" that her country has been described by US intelligence officials as having been host to a secret CIA prison and announced that the government will investigate the allegations.

  • Ms Grybauskaite, in Brussels for talks with her former boss, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso (Photo: European Commission)

On Thursday (20 August) ABC News, an American television news programme, quoted Central Intelligence Agency officials that said that Lithuania provided facilities for the US to detain and interrogate prisoners captured as part of the War on Terror.

The report makes Lithuania the third European country after Poland and Romania to be 'outed' as having been home to the so-called black sites.

Ms Grybauskaite, in Brussels for talks on energy security and the economy with her former boss, European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso, told reporters: "I do not have at this point any confirmation of [the presence of a secret prison]."

"Lithuania will be investigating it and parliament has already declared a special committee which will be investigating the case."

She added however: "It is regretful that my country's name is on the list."

"It will be for us to prove if it is true of not."

According to the intelligence officials quoted in the ABC report, the CIA kept as many as eight prisoners in a unit on the outskirts of the capital, Vilnius, for up to a year until late 2005, when the secret prison network was shut down upon exposure.

The former head of state, Valdas Adamkus, who was president throughout the period in which the United States employed such black sites in Europe and elsewhere, has denied the reports, as have other Lithuanian officials.

The Lithuanian president heads the country's mixed presidential/parliamentary system of government and is responsible for foreign affairs.

President Barroso, speaking at the same press conference, said EU member states should investigate similar allegations.

"We have repeatedly stressed the need for member states to start or continue in-depth, independent, impartial investigations to establish the truth of such claims," he said.

Total 14 European states listed

Polish prosecutors are currently investigating allegations by unnamed CIA officials quoted in a 2008 New York Times article who said that the "most important" of its black sites was located in Szymany, some 160km north of Warsaw.

Allegations of CIA prisons in Romania were first reported by the Washington Post in November 2005. Bucharest has repeatedly denied the report, with a special parliamentary commission in 2006 finding the allegations to be without merit.

A total of 14 European states, both within the EU and beyond, were listed in a June 2006 Council of Europe report as having collaborated with the related process of illegal inter-state transfers of prisoners, in which individuals are kidnapped and sent to countries with weaker protections against torture than Western states.

The report, authored by Swiss senator Dick Marty, alleges that Bosnia, Britain, Cyprus, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Republic of Macedonia, Spain, Sweden, Turkey, Portugal, Romania and Poland all participated in 'extraordinary rendition' as it is termed by the US, or 'torture by proxy' as it is called by critics.