Wednesday

22nd Nov 2017

MEPs press Lithuania to re-launch CIA rendition probe

MEPs are pressing Lithuania's prosecutor general to re-launch an investigation into two alleged CIA rendition sites in the country.

"Too many unanswered questions remain,” British Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford told EUobserver on Monday (30 April).

Thank you for reading EUobserver!

Subscribe now for a 30 day free trial.

  1. €150 per year
  2. or €15 per month
  3. Cancel anytime

EUobserver is an independent, not-for-profit news organization that publishes daily news reports, analysis, and investigations from Brussels and the EU member states. We are an indispensable news source for anyone who wants to know what is going on in the EU.

We are mainly funded by advertising and subscription revenues. As advertising revenues are falling fast, we depend on subscription revenues to support our journalism.

For group, corporate or student subscriptions, please contact us. See also our full Terms of Use.

If you already have an account click here to login.

  • Chart of CIA flights in Europe. MEPs are pressing Lithuania's prosecutor general to relaunch the investigation into secret CIA rendition centre (Photo: Council of Europe)

Ludford was one of six MEPs from the European Parliament's justice and home affairs committee who visited Lithuania last week.

The delegation was on a three-day fact finding mission to determine whether a new probe into the alleged prisons should be launched.

A joint investigation by NGOs Amnesty International and Reprieve in September 2011 found that al-Qaida suspect Abu Zubaydah, who is currently imprisoned at the US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, was most likely sent to Lithuania from Morocco in 2005.

The MEPs visited one of the detention centres in Antaviliai, located some 20km outside Vilnius last Thursday. It is believed Zubaydah may have been taken to the site.

Subjects of CIA renditions claim they were hooded on the flights to Europe and then subjected to torture, such as water-boarding while in transit. Over 1,000 CIA-operated flights using European airspace took place from 2001 to 2005.

Ludford said the site in Antaviliai, a former horse riding stable, is now being used as training ground by Lithuania's secret service. "It’s a metal box within a metal box. All American-equipped," she noted, citing as an example the still visible US-branded heavy pad locks.

The stables had been purchased in 2004 by Elite LLC, a company incorporated in Washington DC and Panama, before being sold to the Lithuanian secret service three years later. Residents in the vicinity recall seeing vehicles with tinted windows while the Americans were building a large warehouse at the stables.

Following press reports and a European Parliament inquiry in 2007, Lithuania in 2009 finally admitted hosting the two detention centres widely believed to have hosted suspected terrorists on transit to the United States. The first centre was built in 2002. The second constructed in 2004.

Lithuania subsequently launched a parliamentary pre-trial investigation into the allegation in 2010, but closed the whole case down a year later.

The Lithuanian prosecutor general said that while the sites existed, there was no evidence to support allegations that they had ever contained any prisoners. The prosecutor maintains the centres were operational but refuses to disclose for what purpose on the grounds that it is a state secret.

"They admitted to having flights and the centres but stopped short of saying that any prisoners were there. They closed the investigation with virtually no justification at all," Julia Hall, an expert on counter-terrorism and human rights in Europe at Amnesty International, told EUobserver from New York.

Amnesty International and Reprieve presented the prosecutor general with flight data in September 2011 that appears to link Lithuania with Abu Zubaydah.

Both claim a Boeing 727 flew from from Morocco to Vilnius via Amman, Jordan, arriving in Vilnius International Airport on the evening of 17 February 2005. The Boeing then took off to the United States before returning again.

The flight coincides with that of another plane - serial number N787WH - which landed in Lithuania on 18 February 2005, coming from Bucharest. The NGO investigators say these flights coincide with the transfer of Zubaydah from Morocco to Lithuania. Their requests for Lithuania's prosecutor general to relaunch the investigation, in light of the new information, were denied.

The MEP delegation spoke to various Lithuanian officials last week but none would reveal the exact purpose of the Antaviliai facility prior to it becoming a training centre for the secret service.

"Americans can answer all these unanswered questions. Why did they build it? What was it for?" said Ludford.

Germany, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark, Turkey, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (FYROM), Bosnia and Romania were all allegedly involved in illegal rendition or CIA flight cases.

The parliament, in its 2007 inquiry, also criticised the national governments of Austria, Italy, Poland, Portugal and Britain for their lack co-operation into their investigation.

The former Polish secret service cief and interior minister, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, was charged in relation to alleged CIA detainees held in Poland in March.

Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes

The former Bosnian Serb warlord was sentenced to life in prison for committing genocide and war crimes in Srebrenica and Sarajevo. Mladic is still regarded as a 'hero' among some Bosnian Serbs, in a country undergoing resurgent nationalism.

MEPs point finger at Malta

The European Parliament debated shady deals and rule of law in Malta after the murder of Daphne Caruana Galizia, while the Commission wanted to avoid a "political fight".

Austrian privacy case against Facebook hits legal snag

Austrian privacy campaigner Max Schrems may sue Facebook Ireland in an Austrian court but won't be able to pursue a class action suit in Austria, according to a non-binding opinion by a top EU court advisor.

MEP switches vote on 'private expenses' transparency

A small group of MEPs are looking into how members of the European Parliament spend the monthly €4,300 'private expenses' funded by taxpayer money. Last month, MEPs voted on transparency amendments on the funds.

News in Brief

  1. December euro summit still on, Tusk confirms
  2. EU calls for end to Kenya election crisis
  3. Report: Israeli PM invited to meet EU ministers
  4. French banks close Le Pen accounts
  5. Commission relaxes rules on labelling free range eggs
  6. Commission issues €34m fine over car equipment cartel
  7. Estonian presidency 'delighted' with emissions trading vote
  8. Mladic found guilty of genocide and war crimes

Stakeholders' Highlights

  1. Idealist Quarterly"Dear Politics, Time to Meet Creativity!" Afterwork Discussion & Networking
  2. Mission of China to the EUAmbassador Zhang Ming Received by Tusk; Bright Future for EU-China Relations
  3. EU2017EEEstonia, With the ECHAlliance, Introduces the Digital Health Society Declaration
  4. ILGA EuropeFreedom of Movement For All Families? Same Sex Couple Ask EU Court for Recognition
  5. European Jewish CongressEJC to French President Macron: We Oppose All Contact With Far-Right & Far-Left
  6. EPSUWith EU Pillar of Social Rights in Place, Time Is Ticking for Commission to Deliver
  7. ILGA EuropeBan on LGBTI Events in Ankara Must Be Overturned
  8. Bio-Based IndustriesBio-Based Industries: European Growth is in Our Nature!
  9. Dialogue PlatformErdogan's Most Vulnerable Victims: Women and Children
  10. UNICEFEuropean Parliament Marks World Children's Day by Launching Dialogue With Children
  11. European Jewish CongressAntisemitism in Europe Today: Is It Still a Threat to Free and Open Society?
  12. Counter BalanceNew Report: Juncker Plan Backs Billions in Fossil Fuels and Carbon-Heavy Infrastructure

Latest News

  1. Mali blames West for chaos in Libya
  2. Orban stokes up his voters with anti-Soros 'consultation'
  3. Commission warns Italy over high debt level
  4. Mladic found guilty for Bosnia genocide and war crimes
  5. Uber may face fines in EU for keeping data breach secret
  6. EU counter-propaganda 'harms' relations, Russia says
  7. The EU's half-hearted Ostpolitik
  8. Glyphosate: 1.3 million EU citizens call for ban