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25th Sep 2022

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.

European courts may challenge US terror renditions

Three European countries are considering judicial inquiries into potential criminal offences related to CIA operations in Europe. Members of the European Parliament are set to discuss the issue in Strasbourg later today.

'No decision expected' for EU decision on unanimous decisions

Swedish minister for European affairs Hans Dahlgren told EUobserver no decision can be expected on majority vote next year. Mikuláš Bek, the Czech minister for European affairs, said enlargement and changes to the decision-making are politically interlinked.

'Cosmetic changes' not enough on EU funds, Hungary warned

Critics point out that Hungary will continue to receive substantial inflows of EU funds since the proposed suspension applies only to around 22 percent of total EU subsidies earmarked for Hungary in the bloc's current budget for 2021-2027.

EU Commission proposes freezing 65% of funds to Hungary

The freezing, the first time in the EU's history using the conditionality mechanism linking EU subsidies to the respect of the rule of law, would suspend money from the bloc's cohesion funds under the 2021-27 long-term budget.

New EU media bill seeks to curtail government meddling

The proposal for a so-called European Media Freedom Act announced on Friday by the European Commission is part of wider efforts to tackle the erosion of rule of law in EU states like Poland and Hungary.

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