A European Parliament committee investigating allegations that the CIA had secret prisons in Europe will contact senior CIA and Bush administration officials in the next few days – and ask them to testify on the matter, an official said Tuesday.
Italian Socialist deputy Giovanni Claudio Fava said the committee will start its work by questioning non-governmental and human rights organizations such as the New-York based Human Rights watch, which said it has circumstantial evidence indicating that the CIA transported suspected terrorists captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania.
Fava said EU lawmakers would then seek to speak to high-ranking CIA officials, including director Porter Goss, probably by mid-April, before drafting a preliminary report on their findings.
Other people on the list include former CIA director George Tenet, U.S. Senator John Kerry and U.S. Senator John McCain. Previously, EU deputies suggested U.S. Vice President Dick Cheney, Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice could be asked to testify.
“We’re planning to organize a hearing in Brussels or Washington, or question these people in a videoconference, if they can’t come to us,” Favas said.
The European Parliament has no legal power to subpoena U.S. officials, and Fava acknowledged that he had received no indication whether they would be willing to speak to the European Parliament.
Fava also said EU lawmakers would travel to Romania and possibly other countries as part of the inquiry.
Allegations that the CIA hid and interrogated key al-Qaida suspects at Soviet-era compounds in eastern Europe first were reported Nov. 2 by The Washington Post.
The 732-member EU legislature since has agreed to launch an inquiry into the reports. A separate inquiry also is being conducted by the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights watchdog.
There also are claims that the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency transited through European territory while transporting terror suspects to countries where they faced harsh interrogation methods and possibly torture – a practice known as “extraordinary rendition.”
Such actions would breach the human rights treaties that all 25 EU countries have signed.
The probe by the 46-member EU parliament committee, launched last month, is the first inquiry conducted by the EU. Several EU countries also have started their own investigations.
The European Parliament committee was given the mandate to find out whether the CIA or other U.S. agencies or other countries carried out abductions, extraordinary rendition, detention at secret sites or tortured prisoners in EU countries, or have used EU countries to transfer prisoners.
A preliminary report by the Council of Europe, drafted by Swiss Senator Dick Marty, accused European governments of turning a blind eye to breaches of human rights. But the report failed to uncover tangible evidence proving clandestine detention centers existed in Romania or Poland.
Marty said that more than 100 suspects may have been transferred in recent years by U.S. agents to countries where they faced torture or ill treatment.