EU states' complicity confirmed in CIA secret prisons
The US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) secretly operated illegal prisons for terrorism suspects in multiple locations in Poland and Romania from 2003 to 2005, according to a report released by the Council of Europe.
Senator Marty's report concludes that there is "now enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA did exist in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania". It also finds that prisoners in these facilities were subjected to "interrogation techniques tantamount to torture."
The report further suggests that President Aleksander Kwasniewski of Poland and former president Ion Iliescu of Romania authorized the secret detentions.
The Council of Europe report castigates the US and several European countries for these abuses. It also deplores what it terms "obstruction" by many of the governments implicated in the abuses, who "have done everything to disguise the true nature and extent of their activities and are persistent in their unco-operative attitude". In this respect, the report singles out the United States, Poland, Romania, Macedonia, Italy and Germany for criticism.
The report provides new information – including from cross-referenced testimonies of more than 30 current and former members of intelligence services in the US and Europe – about how the secret programme operated in Poland and Romania. It contains details from civil aviation records about CIA-operated airplanes used for detainee transfers, showing airplanes in the period 2003 through 2005 landing at remote airstrips in Poland and Romania. It also describes how flights to Poland – including one that may have carried terrorism suspect Khalid Sheikh Mohammed from Kabul to Szymany on March 7, 2003 – were deliberately disguised using fake flight plans.
CIA detainees were held in Poland until late 2005. They are believed to have been transferred out of the region after the Washington Post reported in November 2005 that the CIA was using detention sites in Eastern Europe and Human Rights Watch released information showing that Poland and Romania were likely among the sites used. ABC News, relying on sources within the CIA, reported in December 2005 that the detainees were flown to Morocco.
In September 2006, US President George W. Bush publicly acknowledged the existence of the secret CIA detention system, and announced that 14 prisoners in secret CIA custody had been transferred to the US military detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. In status hearings earlier this year, at least four of these 14 prisoners claimed that they had been tortured while in US custody.
Many detainees who are believed to have been held in CIA custody remain missing. Human Rights Watch has done extensive research on detainees believed to have been held by the CIA, and earlier this week issued an updated list of missing detainees jointly with five other human rights groups. The list named 39 persons whose fate and whereabouts are unknown.
However, the CIA dismissed the Council of Europe report - a CIA spokesman told the BBC that it was biased and distorted, and that the agency had operated lawfully.
Senator Marty's charge, that secret CIA prisons "did exist in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania", was also denied by both Polish and Romanian officials.
Polish former president Aleksander Kwasniewski, who served from 1995 to 2005, said on 8 June: "There were no secret prisons in Poland."
Romanian senator Norica Nicolai, who headed an investigation into the allegations, also denied his country's involvement.
"All statements made by Dick Marty are totally groundless," he said.
An investigation was initiated in November 2005 by the council's Parliamentary Assembly under the leadership of assembly member and Swiss senator Dick Marty, to provide evidence concerning allegations first made by Human Rights Watch in 2005 that locations in Poland and Romania were among sites used by the CIA for secret detention.
The European Commission confirmed that it received on Friday 8 June the second report of 'Secret detentions and illegal transfers of detainees involving Council of Europe member states', which was adopted by the Council of Europe's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, and will now be discussed by Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe. However, it declined to comment further, stating its wish "not to interfere" with the Committee and Assembly's work.
"Today's report confirms that Poland and Romania helped the CIA operate illegal detention sites on their territory in violation of international law," said Joanne Mariner, terrorism and counterterrorism director at Human Rights Watch. "It is now clear that US officials illegally conspired with intelligence officials in several European countries to 'disappear', interrogate and illegally transfer terrorism suspects, flouting basic human rights norms."
UK Liberal Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford, vice-president of the former committee of enquiry on CIA activities in the Parliament said: "The new Marty report confirms what had been found by the Council of Europe and the European Parliament. Any new evidence confirming that CIA prisons existed, as we alleged, in Europe, would be damning and shameful. As MEPs demanded, we must expose the secret agreements between US intelligence services and some European governments. These illegal, undemocratic and unacceptable actions must be accounted for and punished."
Catalonian MEP Ignasi Guardans, former ALDE coordinator in the CIA committee, declared: "The release of this new report by the Council of Europe rapporteur will help to maintain the spotlight on what happened in the name of the 'war on terror'. The EP too must maintain its scrutiny of this rendition practice in the coming months and continue to push the Member States to reveal the true facts of the matter."
"I don't know which is more shocking: that European governments have been complicit in these activities, violating their legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights, or that they have used anti-democratic methods to conceal their actions and frustrate parliamentary and judicial investigations," said Parliamentary Assembly Council of Europe (PACE) President René van der Linden.
"Senator Marty's report provides unprecedented detail of the unlawful activities of certain European governments in connection with CIA rendition flights and secret prisons and their disgraceful efforts to conceal their wrong-doing from scrutiny," van der Linden added. "His revelations underline the essential role of the Council of Europe in ensuring respect for the international rule of law across the continent."