Dr Charles Tannock

Member of the European Parliament for London

MEPs condemn rendition flights

Financial Times - 14 February 2007

By Andrew Bounds in Strasbourg

European governments “turned a blind eye” to the illegal transportation of alleged terrorists through their countries by the Central Intelligence Agency, a hard-hitting European parliament report concluded on Wednesday.

After a fierce debate, the Strasbourg assembly voted to “condemn extraordinary rendition as an illegal instrument used by the US in the fight against terrorism; condemn the acceptance and concealing of the practice…by the secret services and governmental authorities of certain European countries”.

However, the starkest criticism of the UK, Ireland and Poland was watered down after fierce lobbying by national capitals.

The existence of a secret detention facility at a Polish airbase, reported in the press, could neither be confirmed or denied, it said. It said there was some evidence that there was such a camp in Romania.

Parliament called on the EU’s 27 member states to investigate further and consider whether any country should lose its voting rights in collective decision making for a breach of human rights.

Claudio Fava, the report’s author, said that it would not allow anyone to “look the other way”. “The testimonies we received [from torture victims are facts…and the facts speak for themselves.”

The report, approved by 382 votes to 256 with 74 abstentions, said that 1,245 CIA operated flights stopped over at EU airports between the start of the “war on terror” at the end of 2001 and the end of 2005.

It said the UK, Germany, Portugal, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Spain and Ireland allowed CIA flights to stop over without proper controls. Austria, Italy and Sweden failed to protect residents who were seized at US insistence, from torture. Judges are investigating in Germany, Sweden and Spain while Portugal has also begun an inquiry into the use of bases in the Azores, though Jose Socrates, prime minister, this week said no laws were broken.

The report is the fruit of more than a year’s work by a temporary committee that travelled the world taking evidence. Many on the right condemned it as anti-American.

Charles Tannock, a British Conservative, said it duplicated an earlier report by the Council of Europe, the human rights watch dog. “It has produced nothing substantially new which was not already in the public domain. It is heavy on allegations and accusations, but light on conclusive proof. Inevitably some mistakes and excesses may have occurred but in my opinion there was no systematic US policy for extraordinary renditions to illegally torture abductees in third countries or any proof of the existence of CIA detention camps in Romania or Poland.”

Franco Frattini, the justice commissioner, said it was for local courts to judge the information in the report. “It is clear that the US and the US authorities are not in the dock, it is the terrorists that are in the dock,” he said.

© The Financial Times Ltd 2007