EU countries 'law of silence' over CIA detention
by Daniel Mason
Some European Union countries have refused to cooperate with MEPs over allegations that they were complicit in secret Central Intelligence Agency detention programmes within the EU's borders, and are observing a 'law of silence' by refusing to discuss the issue, it has been claimed.
At a public hearing organised by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee yesterday, Green MEP Hélène Flautre commented that officials conducting internal inquiries in Denmark, Lithuania, Poland and Romania had "each explained, meticulously, why it was impossible for them to attend". She said there was a "law of silence" among governments despite "new information" about secret detention sites run by the United States in Europe. The committee said it would produce a fresh report looking into the controversy.
Addressing the hearing, Amnesty International counter-terrorism and human rights expert Julia Hall said: "Many new elements have emerged since 2007 and especially in the last two years." She argued that member states were wrong to claim that because information was classified secret they could not discuss it, because state secrecy "should be invoked only to protect a vital national interest, which is not the case here".
Meanwhile Poland – which opened an investigation in 2010 – today won praise from the campaign group Reprieve, after a newspaper reported that one of its former spy chiefs, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, was being charged for criminal complicity in helping set up a secret CIA prison where terror suspects were allegedly tortured. "Poland deserves credit for this step, as the first European state to begin to deal with CIA torture on its own soil," said Reprieve legal director Cori Crider. "There is much still to be done, of course, and all eyes will be on the new prosecutors to see what they do next." She said Romania and Bulgaria had done "far less to grapple with their own CIA black sites" and "would do well to follow Poland's lead".
Reprieve investigator Crofton Black told the public hearing yesterday that two so-called black sites in Lithuania and Romania had been identified as secret prisons, and analysis of flight data linked them with rendition. "Flights to Lithuania were disguised with references to Sweden, the planes were not checked after landing and landing documents were signed by employees of the airport not the pilots," he said, adding that "parliament should scrutinise the behaviour of national governments and their actions".
An inquiry was first set up by MEPs in in 2005 when allegations of illegal CIA activities in Europe surfaced in the media. But its 2007 report criticised EU countries for their lack of cooperation and called for an independent investigation. Yesterday, European People's Party MEP Michèle Striffler said that if the new follow-up report finds that member states were actively complicit, the EU should take "necessary measures". Europe has a collective responsibility to address the issue, said Sophie In't Veld MEP, a member of the Alliance of Liberals and Democrats. And Ana Gomes MEP, speaking for the Socialists and Democrats, went further, saying there was a "clear complicity" of the authorities. Portugal, for example, was "either been incompetent, and had been derided, or had been in league" with the CIA, she said.
However, Romanian MEP Ioan Enciu said that inquiries by members of parliament and independent media in his country had "contributed no clarifications, only presumptions". And Polish MEP Miroslaw Piotrowski, of the European Conservatives and Reformists, warned that an investigation would have to "divulge details of our struggle against terrorism, which saves lives".
Investigate Europe's role in CIA rendition, MEPs urge
European Union member states have been accused of putting obstacles in the way of investigations into alleged collusion with United States' secret renditions programme and urged to end what one campaign group has called their 'evasion of responsibility'