9th Dec 2023

Secret CIA flight allegations credible, says human rights watchdog

A Council of Europe report has reinforced suspicions that the US intelligence agency the CIA has detained suspected Islamic terrorists without proper judicial procedure, and violated sovereignty laws in Europe.

Meeting in Paris on Tuesday (13 December) representatives of the 46 member strong human rights watchdog Council of Europe (CoE) studied progress of an inquiry into alleged American secret detention centres and clandestine prison transport.

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"The elements we have gathered until today strengthen the credibility of the allegations concerning transport and temporary detention of persons outside all judiciary procedures in Europe", Dick Marty, the CoE's rapporteur on the matter, said in a statement.

The Swiss liberal politician was appointed last month to examine the existence of alleged secret American detention centres for terror suspects.

Mr Marty urged all governments to commit themselves fully to establishing the truth about flights over their territories in recent years by aeroplanes carrying individuals arrested and detained without any judicial involvement.

EU vice-commissioner Franco Frattini told MEPs on Monday that he had asked for flight logs from the Brussels-based air safety organisation Eurocontrol and satellite images over air bases in north-eastern Poland and eastern Romania from the EU's main satellite centre in Spain, to help the investigation.

MEPs step in

Meanwhile, the European Parliament is planning to set up its own temporary committee to deal with the allegations of secret jails and CIA flights in Europe.

The conference of parliamentary group presidents will debate the issue on Wednesday, with most group leaders supporting the idea of a special body to add to the investigations spearheaded by the Council of Europe.

The Socialist leader Martin Schultz told journalists on Tuesday that the parliament's role was to find out to what extent the EU bodies or member states have been involved in the activities which allegedly resulted in infringements of human rights.

Several European countries have monitored CIA flights over their territories, while a US paper and a leading human rights NGO reported the presence of secret prisons located in eastern Europe.

"It is obvious that if these allegations are confirmed, the candidate countries involved in such activities would face consequences relating to their accession process", said Mr Schultz.

He explained that the issue relates to the basic political conditions, the so- called "Copenhagen criteria", laid out for countries that wish to join the EU.

Without naming specific countries, Mr Schultz was clearly referring to Romania, which, along with Poland, had previously been earmarked by the Human Rights Watch group as a potential location of secret CIA prisons.

Against the tide

Despite secretary of state Condoleezza Rice’s assurances in Brussels last week that the US does not condone inhumane acts or torture, an increasing number of EU member states are trying to find out whether the CIA has been violating sovereignty and anti-torture laws in Europe.

Polish prime minister Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz announced this weekend that his country would look into whether it had been the European centre of a secret CIA prison network.

EU justice commissioner Franco Frattini told MEPs on Monday that he had received an official reply from the Romanian prime minister, denying accusations that his country was host to secret prisons.

"I have no reason or intention to put any doubt on the statements" of both Romania and Poland, Mr Frattini said.

The commissioner also suggested that he prefers that EU institutions co-operate with the Council of Europe, rather than launch their own investigation.

"There's a high risk of overlapping and even undermining the inquiry of the Council of Europe", he warned.

Parliament's own legal service has also questioned the idea of a special parliamentary 'inquiry committee', arguing that, as there is currently no indication of a breech of EU law, there is no legal base for such a committee.

However, as several MEPs expressed their wish to be more pro-active on the matter, the political group leaders are this week likely to agree on establishing a temporary committee, albeit with less investigative powers.

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