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Europe should do more to prevent human rights abuses, the study saidImage: dpa

Soft on Torture?

DW staff (ncy)
April 12, 2007

The German Institute for Human Rights has called on Germany and Europe to avoid going soft on the ban on torture in their efforts to combat terrorism.

Foreign terror suspects should no longer be deported or extradited to countries in which they could be tortured, stressed Wolfgang Heinz, the author of a study by the institute called "Combating Terrorism and Protecting Human Rights in Europe," which was released on Thursday.

To that end, Germany should not participate in attempts to establish an international mechanism that would allow exceptions when "diplomatic assurances" are given that a suspect won't be tortured, the study said.

"Often people are then tortured, despite the diplomatic assurances," Heinz said at a press conference in Berlin.

The German Institute for Human Rights also called for the member states of the Council of Europe, the continent's top human rights watchdog, to better control the actions of foreign intelligence services on their territories.

More accountability

The study recommended the German government and parliament establish an independent body to improve control of the country's secret services as well as their cooperation with foreign services. It would be tasked both with investigating human rights abuses as well as preventing them in the future.

The institute also called on Germany to stop sending its officials abroad to interrogate prisoners who were being held "in a torture context or in a situation without rights."
Mohammed Haydar Zammar
Zammar is serving time in SyriaImage: AP

The study referred to the case of Mohammed Haydar Zammar, who was allegedly in contact with the terrorists who carried out the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.

12-year sentence

Zammar was sentenced in February to 12 years in jail in Syria. The German citizen was arrested during a visit to Morocco in 2001 and taken to Syria. Investigators from Germany's BKA federal intelligence service interrogated him there.

The institute also called on Germany to be stricter in adhering laws to control civil aviation to prevent the kidnapping of terror suspects such as in the case of the CIA's practice of extraordinary rendition.

The German Institute for Human Rights was established in 2001 by Germany's parliament. It is mainly funded by the German government. Its self-described aim is to "contribute to the prevention of human rights violations and to the promotion and protection of human rights."
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