EU report finds members complicit in secret CIA flights
Globe and Mail (South Africa) - 15 February 2007
More than a dozen European governments were complicit in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency's covert program of “extraordinary” renditions and secret detention of alleged terrorist suspects, the European Parliament found yesterday.
It passed a resolution approving a controversial parliamentary report that says “European countries have been relinquishing their control over their airspace and airports by turning a blind eye or admitting flights operated by the CIA,” some of which were being used to illegally transport prisoners.
The resolution passed by 382 votes to 256 with 74 abstentions.
The report calls on European countries to begin independent inquiries into all stopovers by civilian aircraft used by the CIA and demands the immediate closing of the U.S. detention centre at Guantanamo Bay.
According to the report, more than 1,245 CIA flights were operated through European airspace between 2001 and 2005. It documents the cases of 21 people who were resident in a European state at the time of their abduction or were transferred through a European country. Human Rights Watch says the report shows that Europe's hands are not clean.
British parliamentarian Charles Tannock, a Conservative, took issue with the report, saying that “it is heavy on allegations and accusations, but light on conclusive proof.”
The report defines extraordinary rendition as a case in which “an individual suspected of involvement in terrorism is illegally abducted, arrested and/or transferred into the custody of U.S. officials and/or transported to another country, for interrogation which, in the majority of cases, involves incommunicado detention and torture.”
The U.S. administration was forced to acknowledge in September that the CIA was operating a secret detention program outside the United States. Britain's government later said it had known “in general terms” about a secret CIA network.
The report notes that the 21 renditions investigated by the committee “in the majority of cases involved incommunicado detention and torture” during interrogations.
Former British ambassador to Uzbekistan Craig Murray had testified that the exchange of intelligence obtained under torture by third countries' secret services to the British services was a practice known and tolerated by the British government.
The governments specifically criticized for unwillingness to co-operate with the parliament's investigations were those of Austria, Britain, Italy, Poland and Portugal. The report also gives detailed evidence of investigations of illegal rendition or CIA flight cases involving Germany, Sweden, Spain, Ireland, Greece, Cyprus, Denmark, Turkey, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Bosnia and Romania.
“This is a report that doesn't allow anyone to look the other way. We must be vigilant that what has been happening in the past five years may never happen again,” said Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava, who drafted the report.
The 76-page report is based on information from confidential sources — including records of meetings between senior officials at the EU, NATO and U.S. State Department — as well as testimony by individuals who said they were kidnapped by U.S. agents in Europe and transferred to secret prisons.
It also includes data from the EU's air-safety agency, which has recorded more than 1,200 undeclared CIA flights through European airspace since Sept. 11, 2001, flights the committee said violated international air-traffic rules.