MPs defend criticism in CIA investigation

23rd January 2007, Comments 0 comments

23 January 2007, Brussels (dpa) - European Union lawmakers on Tuesday ended a year- long investigation into alleged CIA activities in Europe, rejecting attempts by conservative EU deputies to soften criticism of the United States and senior European officials. A special European Parliament committee scrutinizing charges that EU countries helped the US with secret CIA flights and the alleged abductions of terror suspects in Europe adopted its final report with 28 in favour, 17 against and 3 abstentions. The

23 January 2007

Brussels (dpa) - European Union lawmakers on Tuesday ended a year- long investigation into alleged CIA activities in Europe, rejecting attempts by conservative EU deputies to soften criticism of the United States and senior European officials.

A special European Parliament committee scrutinizing charges that EU countries helped the US with secret CIA flights and the alleged abductions of terror suspects in Europe adopted its final report with 28 in favour, 17 against and 3 abstentions.

The document says that Britain, Poland, Italy, Germany and seven other EU countries were aware of the secret flights and the US detention programme and slams them for failing to fulfil "the European obligations, such as the respect of human rights."

Euro MPs rejected attempts by conservative deputies to water down some of that criticism. Centre-right Euro MPs had argued that although the CIA flights have been secret, evidence gathered was not sufficient to prove that EU human rights laws have been violated.

They were also unsuccessful in trying to soften charges against EU top officials, including the bloc's foreign policy and security chief Javier Solana. The report says that Solana did not cooperate with the investigation and did not reveal his knowledge about the detention programme.

Singling out Poland, which is suspected of having hosted secret CIA camps, EU deputies stressed that European countries are also breaching human rights laws if they fail to carry out independent investigations into the allegations of such violations.

In addition, Euro MPs called on the bloc to monitor more strictly data transfer to non-EU countries and the use of European airspace. They also demanded more EU competencies in the area of combating international terrorism.

Human Rights Watch criticized the report for a weak criticism of so-called "diplomatic assurances," the practice of returning terrorism suspects to risky places on promises of humane treatment.

"European governments have used these empty promises as a fig leaf to justify sending people to places where they risk being tortured," said HRW's Europe director Holly Cartner.

The committee's final conclusions also accuse the former German Socialist-Green government of a failure to work for the release of a Turkish-German former Guantanamo prisoner.

Murat Kurnaz spent four-and-a-half years in the US prison camp Guantanamo on Cuba after his arrest as a suspected al-Qaeda supporter in Pakistan, shortly after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the US.

"According to confidential institutional information, the German government did not accept the US offer, made in 2002, to release Murat Kurnaz from Guantanamo," EU lawmakers pointed out.

German Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier is under growing pressure to explain his role in the prolonged detention of Kurnaz.

Kurnaz was not freed until August 2006 on the intervention of the present government led by Chancellor Angela Merkel.

At least 1,245 CIA-operated flights flew over European airspace or stopped over at airports in Europe, the report stressed.

EU lawmakers bashed European governments' denials of involvement in so-called extraordinary renditions of terrorism suspects, which would be illegal under EU law.

US President George W Bush last September for the first time acknowledged that the CIA was running secret prisons for holding and interrogating high-level al-Qaeda figures that had been captured since the September 11, 2001 attacks.

However, Bush did not give in to European calls to make the location of the camps public.

Clandestine detention centres, secret flights via or from Europe to countries where suspects could face torture, or extraordinary renditions would all breach the continent's human-rights conventions.

Allegations that CIA agents shipped prisoners through European airports to secret detention centres, including compounds in Eastern Europe, were first reported in November 2005.

The special European Parliament committee started its probe in January 2006. Its final report will be voted on by the 785-member plenary next month.

DPA

Subject: German news

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