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European Governments Aided in CIA Abductions, Says Report

DW staff (jb)
June 7, 2006

A new report released Wednesday by Europe's top human rights body provides more details about European aid to the US in transporting terrorism suspects and the existence of secret prisons in eastern Europe.

Flight data obtained by investigators confirm secret flightsImage: AP

Some countries provided staging help with extraordinary rendition, in which the CIA secretly flew terror suspects through Europe to countries where they could have been tortured. Others passed on information about their citizens. And two are said to have hosted "black sites," or secret prisons for terrorism suspects.

According to a report by Council of Europe investigator Dick Marty, a Swiss lawmaker, released Wednesday, 14 European governments collaborated with the US in the transport of terror suspects in "a spider's web" crisscrossing Europe to third countries, some of which practice torture.

An advance copy of the report released to news media also said that Romania and Poland -- the former a candidate for EU membership and the latter an EU member -- hosted secret prisons for terror suspects. Both countries have denied the accusations.

Marty concluded that the US practices were based on an "utterly alien" legal approach which violated human rights law. He also accused the US of trying to "develop new legal concepts" when "neither conventional judicial instruments nor those established under the framework of the laws of war could effectively counter the new forms of international terrorism."

Didn't want to know

Since the allegations of secret flights and prisons first emerged late last year, most European governments have either denied or played down their roles. Some, including Germany, Sweden and Italy, have launched investigations into the activities of their governments.

Dick Marty im Europarat
Marty calls US actions illegal under international human rights lawImage: AP

But instead of such flights occurring without the knowledge of European governments, they happened with "the intentional or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners," Marty wrote.

"Whilst hard evidence, at least according to the strict meaning of the word, is still not forthcoming, a number of coherent and converging elements indicate that secret detention centers have indeed existed and unlawful inter-state transfers have taken place in Europe," the report said. "It is now clear -- although we are still far from having established the truth -- that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities. Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know."

Differing degrees of aid

The report said that some countries, such as Spain, Turkey, Germany and Cyprus, provided "staging posts" for rendition operations, while Portugal, Ireland, Greece and Britain were stop-off points for CIA flights. Britain allegedly passed on information to the CIA about its citizens or residents, who then faced rendition and possibly torture.

In one case, the report noted that a former London student, Benyam Mohammed, was allegedly ill-treated in Moroccan custody, where he was taken after his arrest in Pakistan. Prisoners had also been allegedly abducted in Italy, Sweden, Bosnia-Herzegovina and Macedonia, according to the report. Macedonia was accused of covering up its involvement in the rendition of a German national, Khaled el-Masri, to Afghanistan in January 2004.

Khaled el Masri wurde von der CIA entführt
El-Masri's account of his alleged abduction matches flight dataImage: AP

But Marty's most serious charges were said to be against Poland and Romania, where there was now reportedly enough concrete evidence to support suspicions that the governments there allowed CIA secret prisons on their soil.

Focus on Poland

Marty's evidence was based on flight plans filed with European air traffic controllers. Thousands of pages of data by EuroControl, the air traffic agency, showed a "clear pattern" of "rendition circuits," or specific missions for the transfer of prisoners. Trips were logged not only to Romania but from Afghanistan to Poland. And some matched accounts by prisoners of their abductions.

The report details the cases of 18 terror suspects who were moved around Europe. And in a few cases, flights flew into Romania and Poland from Kabul in what Marty wrote could only be drop-off points for prisoners.

In the case of Poland, EuroControl detailed a series of flights into Szmany air base near Warsaw. Marty has accused Poland of failing to cooperate; Polish officials have said they have no record of the visit. "Poland cannot be considered to be outside the rendition circuits simply because it has failed to furnish information corroborating my data from other source," the report said.