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25th Jan 2021

EU nations face mounting pressure over CIA black sites

Pressure is mounting on those member states accused of hosting CIA rendition and torture camps to be held accountable for their role.

MEPs and the European Commission in Strasbourg on Wednesday (17 December) roundly condemned the torture of Al-Qaeda suspects carried out by CIA operatives on EU soil in the wake of 9-11, praised the US for exposing the abuse, and called upon Washington to shut down Guantanamo Bay.

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  • A handful of EU member states are accused of helping the CIA run its rendition and prison programmes (Photo: Wikipedia)

“All concerned member states should conduct independent and impartial investigations to establish the facts with regard to CIA activities,” said EU home affairs commissioner Dimitris Avramopoulus.

“One hundred and thirty-six detainees still remain in the Guantanamo detention facility, including detainees who have neither been brought to trial nor have yet been cleared for release.”

German centre-right MEP Monika Hohlmeier said the US' image had been tarnished. "To use torture and brutal interrogation techniques in order to guarantee security is not something that can be defended."

"Those responsible should be held accountable. We demand a full investigation and clear answers from EU member states," said centre-left Slovenia deputy Tanja Fajon.

But Benedetto Della Vedova, a top official in Italy’s ministry of foreign affairs, and speaking on the behalf of the Italian EU presidency, said the US is an important partner in the fight against terrorism.

He also noted that intelligence issues lie beyond EU powers and that it may not launch an inquiry into a member states "presumed" involvement in the CIA programme.

“The security of each member state is the competence of the member state, that means that the intelligence agencies in member states and their work fall outside the scope of the EU and its institutions,” he said.

The CIA-led torture scandal re-erupted following the partial release of a US Senate report last week seen as the first official admission of events that occurred between late 2001 and January 2009.

At least 54 governments reportedly participated in the CIA’s secret detention and extraordinary rendition programme.

Among them those said to be involved are Cyprus, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Lithuania, Portugal, Poland, Romania, Spain, and the UK.

Lithuania, Romania, and Poland are accused of hosting the US sponsored detention centers where detainees underwent so-called enhanced interrogation techniques in order to extract intelligence information.

"To their eternal shame, we know that all member states were to some extent involved, some more, some less, but all were aware of the main elements of the programme,” said Dutch liberal Sophia In’t Veld.

All have denied the allegations or launched non-conclusive investigations over the years despite evidence provided by human rights groups, European Parliament-led inquiries, and damning judgements handed out by the European Court of Human Rights.

In July, the Strasbourg-based court “found that Poland had cooperated in the preparation and execution of the CIA rendition” after two former detainees provided convincing arguments on allegations of torture and ill-treatment at a Polish CIA black site.

But it is publication of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence that has since seen former top national officials in Poland and Romania come forward.

Poland's former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, after the report’s publication, said his country had hosted a secret CIA prison under his leadership.

"The Americans conducted their activities in such secrecy, that it raised our concern. Polish authorities acted to end these activities and they were stopped under pressure from Poland,” he told Polish media.

His admission was followed a day later by Ioan Talpes, who headed Romania’s Foreign Intelligence Service from 2000 to 2004.

The report’s publication also coincided with the shut down of US-run prison in Afghanistan and the release of two detainees who had been held captive since 2002 without a trial.

Talps said discussions had indeed taken place with Americans on where the CIA agents could operate but said they were unaware that people were being detained.

International law prohibits torture in all circumstances with the Americans having prosecuted Japanese interrogators for “waterboarding” US prisoners during World War II.

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