EU governments 'ignored evidence of CIA flights'

24th February 2006, Comments 0 comments

24 February 2006, BRUSSELS - The European Union's top investigator into alleged secret CIA flights and prisons in Europe said Thursday European governments had obviously ignored evidence of clandestine US secret service activities on the continent.

24 February 2006

BRUSSELS - The European Union's top investigator into alleged secret CIA flights and prisons in Europe said Thursday European governments had obviously ignored evidence of clandestine US secret service activities on the continent.

Speaking to a European Parliament committee probing claims of CIA abductions in Europe, the Council of Europe's investigator Dick Marty asked: "Is it feasible that all this could have happened without the knowledge of our secret services? If none of them knew, does that not worry? Does that not question their efficiency?"

Marty said that while some European governments might not have known about alleged secret CIA actions, "there remains the question of how and if their secret services informed them."

The Swiss senator, who started investigations on behalf of the Council of Europe last November, also stressed that national governments had not protested against abductions.

European governments never asked specific questions to the US administration, Marty said. This behaviour was a proof of passivity, showing "a lack of response towards what our (American) partners decided to do to fight terrorism."

Taking terrorism suspects to other countries for interrogation - the so-called practice of rendition - not only violated European countries' laws but also European culture and heritage, Marty said.

"We have to decide whether our diplomatic interests...or our fundamental values are more important to us," he underlined.

Marty said last month that there was evidence that the US was "outsourcing" torture to European countries, but he offered no formal evidence for the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania or Poland.

The Council of Europe earlier this week complained about many European authorities' failure to answer queries about CIA activities.

But the Strasbourg-based body, which is conducting its own CIA probe, said on Thursday that Belgium, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Italy and Georgia had finally sent their replies. An analysis of the answers will be made public on March 1, it added.

Italian prosecutor Armando Spataro, who is investigating an alleged CIA abduction in Italy, told the cross-party Parliament's committee that the US had yet not allowed him to interrogate the suspects.

But he said under Italian law a trial could be held even in their absence. "The decision to allow us to question the suspects solely lies in the hands of the US authorities," the prosecutor said.

Spataro heads the first national European investigation into alleged US secret services' activities on the continent.

He said the US had not yet answered a request sent in January to interrogate 22 CIA agents accused of snatching Egyptian imam Abu Omar 2003 in Milan.

But regardless of Washington's response, the inquiry will be concluded by the end of next month, Spataro added.

Presenting detailed findings of his investigations in the Abu Omar case, Spataro said that the evidence included telephone calls as well as travel routes of the accused CIA agents.

Several of the suspects were known as CIA representatives in Italy, he added. "But we have not established any evidence that would allow us to say that there has been any kind of complicity on the side of the Italian government," he told Euro MPs.

The European Parliament's committee also heard human rights organizations who claimed that European governments were not providing information on alleged secret CIA prisons and flights in Europe, thereby obstructing investigations into the US intelligence service's actions on the continent.

Washington has denied any wrongdoing but the human rights watchdogs said the US Congress must follow the EU Parliament and launching an inquiry into the issue.

"European governments have little interest in revealing these (CIA) activities that are covert," said Joanne Mariner, a terrorism expert at the New York-based Human Rights Watch. The agency last October was the first to make allegations about covert CIA operations in Europe.

Mariner said national governments must be queried about any formal agreements they may have struck with Washington on US intelligence service activities in Europe.

"There is no doubt that the US held and tortured detainees," she said, adding: "The only doubt is whether these detainees were being held on European soil."

Amnesty International representative Anne Fitzgerald urged national governments to ask for passenger lists and itineraries of flights going from the US via Europe to countries such as Libya, Jordan and Egypt.

"It is impossible to not know that some of these flights have been used for rendition," she said, adding: "If European governments can do anything to prevent torture and abuse on their territory, they have to prevent the US practice of rendition."

Amnesty estimates that the CIA carried out 800 flights in Europe, of which four carried detainees and six landed at European airports for refuelling.

"The content and the result of any kind of cooperation between the US and European governments is not known," Fitzgerald said. Amnesty also has no hard evidence of any detention centres - the so-called "black sites" - on European territory, she added. Investigations were still ongoing.

Human Rights Watch said Polish authorities were not providing European investigators with information about the country's involvement in alleged CIA actions although there was clear, compelling evidence that planes had flown from Kabul via Poland to Guantanamo Bay.

The European Parliament's committee was set up a month ago. It is working in cooperation with the Council of Europe inquiry and wants to present a first report of its findings by June. However, the committee has no power to sanction European governments.

Meanwhile, Munich state prosecutors have launched an investigation to determine whether Germany secretly helped the CIA in the abduction of one of its citizens. Lebanese-born Khaled al-Masri was kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia and was hold captive in Afghanistan as a terrorism suspect in 2004.

The former German government, which strongly opposed the US invasion of Iraq, has denied complicity in the case. Al-Masri claimed that a German interrogator had questioned him at a US prison in Kabul.


Subject: German news

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