The Council of Europe will investigate claims that the CIA is operating secret prisons on European soil as Romania and Slovakian leaders have said no such jails exist in their countries.
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The chairman of the council's legal affairs committee, Dick Marty, will head the inquiry, "with a view to a possible urgent debate" at the next standing committee meeting in Bucharest on Nov. 25.
The committee also authorized Marty "to visit certain member states if need be" and reminded those states that a Council of Europe resolution obliged them "to ensure that their territory and facilities are not used in connection with practices of secret detention."
European Council members at their last meeting in May in Warsaw
The Council is made up of 46 member states, including all of Europe except Belarus, which remains a candidate for membership.
The president of the council's Parliamentary Assembly (PACE), Rene van der Linden, had told member states last week that they were legally bound to respect clauses in the European Convention of Human Rights relating to the prevention of torture.
A right to k n ow the truth
On Sunday UN Special Rapporteur on Torture Manfred Nowak had urged both the EU and the Council of Europe to conduct "high-level" investigations into the secret prison claims, saying "the world and civil society, and in particular the victims and the families, have the right to know the truth about what is happening."
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The inquiry comes after The Washi n gto n Post reported last week that the US intelligence agency was holding Al-Qaeda suspects in prisons in eight countries including Thailand, Afghanistan and "several democracies in eastern Europe," in the wake of the Sept.11, 2001 attacks.
US-based independent watchdog Human Rights Watch (HRW) said it was "practically convinced" that such detention centers existed, at least in Poland and Romania.
No CIA Jails i n Roma n ia , Slovakia ?
Romanian president Traian Basescu meanwhile said Tuesday in Bratislava that his country received no request from the United States to site a secret CIA prison on its territory.
"Romania did not receive such a request from the United States," the Romanian head of state said in response to a question during a news conference.
Basescu, on an official visit to Slovakia, made no other comment on the subject.
His Slovak counterpart, Ivan Gasparovic, also said he had "received no request," echoing the comments of several Slovak ministers last week.
"We would not accept anything of this nature" on Slovak territory, he added.