EU states must re-open CIA rendition cases, MEPs say
By Benjamin Fox
Lithuania, Romania and Poland should re-launch independent inquiries into allegations that their governments were complicit with CIA rendition and secret detention centres, according to a report backed Tuesday (11 September) by MEPs in Strasbourg.
In the report by French Green MEP Helene Flautre, MEPs accused EU governments of failing to investigate "highly credible allegations" of illegal detention and rendition.
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While a number of member states have instigated parliamentary inquiries into the allegations, politicians and campaigners have come up against numerous barriers, including restrictions on access to documents, narrow remits for investigation and political pressure.
The report attacked the terms of Poland's current criminal investigation into secret detention, stating that it "deplores the lack of official communication on the scope, conduct and state of play in the investigation."
Meanwhile, probes into claims that the Lithuanian government hosted two detention sites are still on-going, with an MEP delegation from the EU parliament's civil liberties committee visiting the country in April.
The report, which is not legally binding, comes five years after MEPs completed their first special enquiry on the matter, led by former Italian Socialist MEP Claudio Fava.
Allegations that EU countries hosted secret detention sites and known of rendition flights were first disclosed in 2005.
A total of 12 EU countries have faced allegations of involvement in rendition and other black operations programmes over the past decade.
The CIA programme, which formed part of US anti-terror policies following 9/11 attacks, saw suspects transferred clandestinely by plane to secret detention centres for interrogation in violation of international law.
Speaking after the vote in Strasbourg on Tuesday, Flautre said she has "evidence of extraordinary renditions, illegal detention centres, torture and other abuses" which "cannot simply be brushed under the carpet."
She called on EU governments to "openly acknowledge that these abuses took place and take measures to address them."
Her view was echoed by British Liberal MEP Sarah Ludford, who called on EU institutions to "have the guts and self-respect to enforce accountability for its own members' involvement in human rights abuses."
She added that the bloc's credibility in promoting human rights was "badly undermined by the justified suspicion that some of our member states rode roughshod over international law and civil liberties."
French centre-right EU deputy Michele Striffler noted that "secret imprisonment with no trial should be impossible on European territory."
During a combative debate on Monday night ahead of the vote, MEPs from Poland and the UK said investigations should only be carried out at national level.
British conservative Timothy Kirkhope, whose political group includes a sizeable Polish delegation, argued that the new CIA report made accusations without any "real proof."
"Until we have an opportunity to draw a line under the accusations and provide real proof one way or the other, reports such as this are actually feeding terrorists and extremist propaganda," he said.
For her part, EU justice commissioner Viviane Reding said the commission monitors human rights in member states and holds "regular dialogue with the US on human rights and counter-terrorism issues."
Under the EU treaties there is no common mandate to deal with human rights violations, but the implementation of EU laws on judicial co-operation must be consistent with the Charter of Fundamental Rights.