European Rights Watchdog Urges Legislation to Control Spies | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 01.03.2006
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European Rights Watchdog Urges Legislation to Control Spies

Europe's leading human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, said on Wednesday that the continent is a "happy hunting ground" for foreign secret services. The body called for new laws to control spies.


Europe should be more aware of its airspace, the report said

In a report examining the possible role of European countries in the alleged illegal CIA transfer of terrorist suspects and secret detentions, the Council of Europe criticized its member states for a lack of legislative control of foreign secret services operating on their territory.

"It would appear that most of Europe is a happy hunting ground for foreign security services," Secretary General Terry Davis told a news conference after the report's release at the body's headquarters in the French city of Strasbourg. "Hardly any country has any legal provisions to ensure an effective oversight over the activities of foreign security services on their territory."

The report did not produce evidence that the US had run secret jails in Europe. However, it called for better oversight and regulation by national parliaments and judicial bodies when human rights abuses were suspected and better controls of foreign intelligence services.

"Europe's skies appear to be excessively open," Davis said. "Very few countries seem to have adopted an adequate and effective way to monitor who and what is transiting through their airports and airspace. Indeed, no member state appears to have established any kind of procedure in order to assess whether civil aircraft are used for purposes which would be incompatible with internationally recognized human rights standards."

EU Erweiterung Ungarn Parlament in Budapest

In Europe, only Hungary has effective laws to monitor foreign secret services, Davis said

"This is alarming because the explanations provided on the specific point of controls over aircraft allegedly used for rendition show that existing procedures do not provide adequate safeguards against abuse," he said.

Lack of cooperation

Davis also criticized four of the council's 46 members -- Italy, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, and Poland -- for their inadequate response to the body's investigation into CIA renditions. He said he would continue probing those countries.

He praised Germany, saying that of the four countries whose responses he had been most concerned to receive due to possible events there, it was the only one that had responded expansively to the questionnaire sent to the member states.

Davis' is one of two investigations into the issue of CIA rendition and secret jails that the council is carrying out. Swiss senator Dick Marty presented preliminary results last week in which he also criticized governments for not cooperating adequately.

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