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17th Apr 2021

Alleged CIA detention camp in eastern Europe sparks MEPs' outrage

A media report alleging the CIA runs a secret camp in eastern Europe where it interrogates al Qaeda suspects has caused strong concern in Europe, with MEPs calling for an EU investigation into the matter.

According to an article in leading US newspaper the Washington Post on Wednesday (2 November), the US intelligence branch, the CIA, has detained top Al Qaeda suspects at a compound dating back to the Soviet era and located somewhere in eastern Europe.

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The newspaper does not say if the camp is located on existing EU territory or in Romania or Bulgaria, for example.

It is also unclear if there is more than one camp, with the paper sometimes referring to the "eastern European countries" concerned in the plural, adding that US officials advised against publication of the countries' names for fear of terrorist reprisals.

Senior intelligence sources told the Washington Post that the al Qaeda prisoners are held in complete isolation from the outside world, have no recognised legal rights, and are probably subject to the CIA's controversial "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques".

European Commission and EU diplomats on Wednesday (2 November) declined to comment on the report.

"This is an issue between the US and any member states concerned", a commission spokeswoman said.

The spokeswoman for EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana indicated that "this has nothing to do with the European Union".

MEPs want Brussels to take action

But MEPs have called for an urgent EU investigation into the matter.

UK liberal MEP and member of the parliament’s civil liberties committee baroness Sarah Ludford said "I will be asking commissioner Frattini to check out urgently this suggestion that EU member states may be implicated in the most barbaric practices of the misguided US 'war on terror'".

She added that if EU member states were involved "this has the most devastating implications for the EU's credibility in upholding human rights and the rule of law".

Dutch green MEP Kathalijne Buitenweg, also a member of the civil liberties committee as well as of the EU-US parliamentary delegation said that "Mr Solana should clarify with the Americans what exactly is going on".

"If human rights are violated in an EU country, or in a candidate member state, than this is an EU issue", she added.

Ms Buitenweg indicated the parliament’s civil liberties and foreign affairs committees should discuss ways for the European Parliament to further research the issue itself.

The member announced she would personally raise the question at an EU-US parliamentary meeting in December.

Trauma from Soviet times

The matter looks set to cause outrage in eastern Europe, which is traditionally strongly allied with the US but which also experienced grave human rights violations in the past by former communist secret services.

Slovak centre-right MEP Miroslav Mikolasik said these memories made him "convinced" that the CIA camp cannot possibly be located in his own country.

"We had too painful experiences from the Soviet time with the conditions under which political prisoners were held", he said, adding "We hate these kinds of procedures".

The Wahington Post notes that CIA interrogators abroad are permitted to use the CIA's "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques".

The techniques, prohibited under the US' own military law as well as under UN rules, include tactics such as "waterboarding," in which a prisoner is made to believe he or she is drowning.

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