Europeans should come clean on CIA torture | Europe| News and current affairs from around the continent | DW | 20.01.2015
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Europeans should come clean on CIA torture

Nearly 10 years ago, allegations were raised against some European states for colluding with the CIA in post-9/11 anti-terror measures. Amnesty International is now calling on these nations to come clean.

Amnesty International published a paper on Tuesday, January 20, calling for European countries that allegedly helped set up secret prisons for rendered terror suspects to disclose the full details of their collusion with the United States Central Intelligence Agency.

Amnesty's call comes a month after a damning report released by the US Senate documented CIA torture practices, including the transfer of terror suspects to third countries, a practice known legally as extraordinary rendition.

"Without European help, the US would not have been able to secretly detain and torture people for so many years. The [US Senate report released in December] makes it abundantly clear that foreign governments were essential to the success of the CIA operations - and evidence that has been mounting for nearly a decade points to key European allies," Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counterterrorism and human rights, said.

The Senate report made no mention of names with regard to where the secret prisons were located, but Amnesty singled out three nations: Poland, Lithuania and Romania.

"The time for denials and cover-ups is over," Hall implored. "Governments can no longer rely on unsubstantiated 'national security' grounds and claims of state secrecy to hide the truth about their roles in the torture and disappearance of people. It's time for justice for all those who have suffered the gruesome practices - including waterboarding, sexual assault, and mock executions - that characterized these illegal counter-terrorism operations."

CIA Folter in Reithalle in Litauen

This is the location of one of the alleged 'black sites' in Lithuania

Legal action first on national level

The Senate report, compiled by the Committee for Intelligence, said at least 119 prisoners had been subjected to "coercive interrogation techniques, in some cases amounting to torture," at secret prisons - "black sites" - in Guantanamo Bay and a number of allied nations.

In addition to calling on the accused European nations to come clean, Amnesty also called for criminal investigations to take place and for "justice to be done," but it did not mention against whom or what form that justice could take.

"There is now a heightened call for domestic prosecutors in [Poland, Lithuania, and Romania] to institute criminal charges against anybody who was involved, including high-level politicians, intelligence and military intelligence officials," explained Martin Scheinin, Professor of International Law and Human Rights at the European University Institute.

Scheinin, who was the UN's first Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, told DW that, apart from domestic legal procedures, "international human rights mechanisms and ultimately international criminal trials" could also take place.

"For a long time, European states have argued that they are not able to reveal any information because they have promised full confidentiality to the US," said Manfred Nowak, another former UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism, after the Senate report was released in December. "Since these 500 pages have been released, this argument no longer holds true."

Symbolbild - Guantanamo

The UK faces allegations for participating in torture at Guantanamo

Britain, Macedonia, Berlin

The allegations of collusion leveled by Amnesty in its paper also refer to three other European nations: Great Britain, Macedonia, and Germany.

With reference to the Senate report, Amnesty called on Great Britain to disclose information regarding its role in the alleged torture of Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed. Although the Senate report made no mention of direct CIA detention, Amnesty also demanded that the British government address claims that it detained terror suspects in secret on the island territory of Diego Garcia, the site of a strategic US military and naval base in the Indian Ocean.

EU Deutschland Menschenrechte Erfolg für El Masri vor Menschenrechtsgerichtshof

El-Masri won his case at the European Court of Human Rights in 2012

Germany and Macedonia were implicated in the Amnesty paper and the Senate report in connection with the arrest and transfer of German citizen Khaled el-Masri, who was tortured at a black site in Afghanistan. The European Court of Human Rights has already found that Macedonia violated el-Masri's human rights by rendering him to the CIA, but the role that Germany played in that process remains unclear.

"What is missing is whether Germany had any involvement," said Scheinin. "And that is what [Amnesty] is ultimately asking for. Even if there was an investigation in Germany, Amnesty's grievance is that the government didn't cooperate fully."