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EU nations knew of secret CIA flights
January 25, 2006

ISN SECURITY WATCH (25/01/06) – Swiss senator Dick Mary, a European investigator of human rights, has alleged that the capitals of European nations had known about the use of their country's territory and airspace for the CIA's illegal rendition flights.

Marty, a former public prosecutor and member of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (CoE), earlier this week said it was highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the "rendition" of more than 100 allegedly illegally detained terror suspects on their territories.

Presenting his interim report to the members of the CoE assembly, Marty said that based on statements made by US and other official, there was "a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of "relocation" or "outsourcing" of "torture" in Europe.

"It has been proved - and in fact never denied - that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty, and transported […] in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered […] torture," Marty said in his report.

Marty said hundreds of CIA-chartered flights had passed through numerous European countries in recent years.

However, Marty's report contained no direct evidence of CIA-run facilities on European soil.

"At this stage, there was no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centers in Romania, Poland, or any other country," Marty said.

The report represents a serious public embarrassment for EU governments and leaders.

Earlier in January, CoE investigators criticized European leaders for "passivity" on the issue, which was first brought to the public's attention in early November by the New York-based Human Rights Watch and the US daily Washington Post.

The Washington Post did not mention any countries by name, however Human Rights Watch expressly accused Poland and Romania of housing secret CIA detention centers.

In December, officials in Romania, Poland, and even Latvia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Armenia, and Bulgaria denied they were housing secret CIA detention centers.

So far, EU member states have denied any knowledge that the CIA was using their territory for secret rendition flights or that secret CIA detention centers existed on their soil.

Marty said that during his investigation he discovered there were "countries that have collaborated actively [with the CIA], and there are others who have tolerated. Others have simply looked the other way".

Marty said that in two countries, Italy and Germany, judicial investigations had begun into the abduction of people subsequently transported to the US military prison camp at Guantanamo, Cuba, Afghanistan, and other detention centers by means of aircraft belonging to entities with hidden direct or indirect links to the CIA.

Italian prosecutors have even issued arrest warrants for CIA agents accused of the abduction of a Muslim cleric, Abu Omar, in Milan in February 2003.

In addition, a Spanish judge is enquiring into whether the CIA used Son Sant Joan airport in Majorca as a base to transport Muslim terror suspects, as alleged by Spanish Interior Minister José Antonio Alonso in November.

"‘Rendition' of prisoners must be carried out in accordance with legal procedure, so that the prisoner is afforded all the legal guarantees to which he or she is entitled, including a fair trial within a reasonable time. In no case should it be made possible for a person to be returned or transferred ‘in reliance' on ‘diplomatic assurances' from countries known to engage in the systematic practice of torture and […] unless the absence of a risk of ill-treatment is firmly established," Marty said.

Matjaz Gruden, a spokesman for CoE Secretary General Terry Davis, told ISN Security Watch that Davis viewed the report as "a very important compilation of information available and found so far".

Marty's preliminary report comes just a week after the European Parliament established a 46-member committee to investigate the alleged CIA activities in Europe.

European Commissioner in charge of justice and interior affaires, Franco Frattini, welcomed the report, describing it as "a very rich note containing much relevant, and to certain extent new, information".

"It is now for the Member States of the Council of Europe to clarify their position in this regard," he said.

Amnesty International assessed Marty's report as "a step towards uncovering the truth about the extent to which US agents are carrying out renditions and related practices in Europe".

"European countries have the duty to fully collaborate in the investigations of gross human rights violations committed in their own territory. Not cooperating with those investigations is tantamount to collaborating with the abuses," AI said in a statement.

The CoE's Venice Commission is expected to adopt a decision on the issue of the use of EU territory for secret CIA rendition flights and possible detention centers on 17-18 March.
(By Ekrem Krasniqi in Brussels)