EU members urged to admit to CIA renditions

From The Guardian (June 28, 2006)

‘ States under pressure to come clean on complicity

‘ Rights watchdog proposes new national security laws

More than a dozen European governments yesterday came under severe pressure to own up to their secret services’ role in handing over suspected terrorists to US intelligence after Franco Frattini, the EU justice commissioner, admitted for the first time that European territory had been used for “extraordinary renditions”.

As the Council of Europe, Europe’s leading human rights watchdog, voted to continue its inquiry into CIA secret flights, Terry Davis, the secretary general, proposed laws to control national security services and revised safeguards on the use of civil and military aircraft.

Mr Frattini’s intervention came as parliamentarians voted overwhelmingly to approve a report by Liberal Swiss senator Dick Marty that “named and shamed” 14 European states, including Britain, Germany and Sweden, and watched a video containing direct testimony on secret detention and torture from two survivors.

He said in Strasbourg it was a “fact” that incidents of “extraordinary rendition” had taken place on European territory since the 9/11 terrorist attacks on the US, but insisted it was unclear whether governments were aware of them or had cooperated, and whether the flights were legal.

Urging national governments to investigate alleged CIA activities on their territories, he said: “It’s extremely premature to draw consequences from the elements so far available. What we must do is make sure that national authorities understand that they not only have the power but the duty to carry out judicial investigations.”

He added: “They have the duty to establish national committees. I am determined to encourage, to put political pressure if necessary, on the home affairs ministers so that we get the results [of the inquiries].” Mr Marty said collaboration with the CIA was “proven” and Mr Frattini said his report had shown “facts”.

Mr Davis told parliamentarians Mr Marty’s conclusions were contested by some governments but he did not think blanket denials were an adequate response. “The most effective way to refute allegations is through prompt, thorough and transparent official investigations. Those individuals who believe their rights have been violated through an action or an omission to act by a Council of Europe member state should seek redress and compensation.”

Lady Ludford, a Liberal Democrat MEP, said Mr Marty had “uncovered evidence going way beyond speculation of a pattern of human rights abuses through kidnappings, unlawful imprisonment, disappearances, maltreatment and torture”.

She said: “European governments can no longer get away with scoffing at the allegations or fobbing us off … The UK government must accept that, with their denials of complicity in extraordinary rendition wearing ever thinner, the case is pressing for a formal inquiry into whether MI5 tipoffs led to British citizens being incarcerated in Guant?namo and whether CIA planes have rendered people to torture through British airports.”

MEPs are, separately, demanding an EU inquiry into alleged transfers and abuses of financial data concerning European citizens from Swift, the Brussels-based international banking body, to the US authorities in the fight against terrorism.