The CIA appears to have abducted people in Europe and illegally transferred them to other countries, according to the initial results of a Council of Europe investigation released on Tuesday.
"Legal proceedings under way in certain countries appear to show that individuals were abducted and transferred to other countries without respect for any legal assistance procedures," Council of Europe rapporteur Dick Marty told a meeting of the body's human rights committee in Paris.
The Swiss senator said the results of his investigation lent credibility to reports that the CIA flew terrorist suspects to and from secret prisons in Europe. Marty added that he believed the United States was no longer holding prisoners clandestinely in Europe. It is suspected that the prisoners were moved to North Africa in early November, when reports about secret US prisons first emerged in The Washi n gto n Post.
"The elements we have gathered so far tend to reinforce the credibility of the allegations concerning the transport and temporary detention of detainees -- outside all judicial procedure in European countries," he said in an official statement, the first initial findings from the investigation into alleged CIA flights and abductions in Europe.
The rapporteur "demands immediately that all member governments fully commit to uncovering the truth about flights and overflights on their territory in recent years, by aircraft transporting people arrested and detained outside of any legal procedure."
Fear of legal "black hole" i n the heart of Europe
Reports of CIA prisons, like this one in Kosovo, have raised concerns further.
The idea of a clandestine operation by the CIA, possibly aided and abetted by unknown European states, is of particular concern to the investigators. Tony Lloyd, a member of the Council of Europe committee, said: "The really difficult thing is the idea is that there is a kind of legal black hole in the middle of Europe."
Marty also criticized the United States for failing to provide information to the Council of Europe's investigators and added that the US has never formally denied the allegations brought against the CIA.
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice failed to rebut the CIA prison and torture allegations during her recent visit to Europe despite being repeatedly questioned about the affair, saying only that American interrogators were bound by a UN treaty banning the use of torture, regardless of whether they were working in the US or abroad.
Marty bemoa n s lack of tra n spare n cy from Rice
Condoleezza Rice failed to address the allegations fully, Marty said.
"The rapporteur ... deplores the fact that no information or explanation had been provided on this point by Ms. Rice during her visit to Europe," Marty said.
Claims have been mounting that the United States has been illegally using European airports and airspace to transport terror suspects as part of what the US Central Intelligence Agency calls "extraordinary renditions." Reports suggest that torture of suspects could have happened on flights in European airspace or at secret CIA prisons on European soil.
Marty had words for European states that may have been involved in the transportation or internment of suspects on the CIA's behalf. European states faced accusations of a serious breach of their human rights obligations if they had cooperated with the underground network, he said.
Complicit Europea n states face harsh co n seque n ces
Suspected CIA flights, like this one leaving Frankfurt, have raised suspicions of European complicity.
"While it was still too early to assert that there had been any involvement or complicity of member states in illegal actions, the seriousness of the allegations and the consistency of the information gathered to date justified the continuation of an in-depth inquiry," he said. "If the allegations proved correct the member states would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe."