MEPs: EU should apologise for CIA rendition involvement
by Daniel Mason
European Union countries have failed to properly investigate alleged human rights abuses related to the United States Central Intelligence Agency's rendition and secret detention programme within the EU, and should collectively apologise for their involvement, MEPs have said. A report backed by the European Parliament's civil liberties committee suggests that as EU countries have not taken sufficient action, investigations should be held within a framework monitored by the European Commission.
The document, by Green MEP Hélène Flautre, was supported by 50 committee members – with two voting against and five abstaining. It will now be put to a vote in the full parliament at its September Strasbourg plenary session. The CIA's rendition programme, which saw terrorism suspects transferred by plane to foreign detention centres, was one of the most controversial aspects of the so-called 'war on terror' amid allegations of torture.
It comes five years after MEPs completed a special inquiry into the issue based on two years of investigations. Flautre said: "The parliament has again shone the spotlight on serious human rights abuses by the CIA and delivered a rebuke to those EU member states complicit in these abuses." She said MEPs had come under "considerable pressure" from those "seeking to keep a lid on these allegations".
The report "urges member states to establish the truth concerning their involvement in the CIA programme and meet their obligation to investigate human rights violations by conducting independent and effective inquiries, taking into account all the new evidence that has come to light". In particular it calls on Romania to open an investigation into alleged secret CIA detention sites in the country, and suggests Lithuania re-open a criminal investigation in the light of evidence of flight connections with Romania. Meanwhile Poland should similarly persevere with a criminal investigation into secret detention. The report adds that countries including Finland, Denmark and Portugal should disclose all the information they have on suspect flights associated with the CIA.
Alliance of Liberals and Democrats MEP Sophie in't Veld branded EU governments a "disgrace" for their silence and refusal to investigate. "Europe loses credibility and moral authority and moral authority unless it comes clean about its own role in the CIA renditions and black site programme," she said. "Europe has collectively decided to support the CIA programme, so there must be collective accountability." She said the report was not about finding new proof but instead calls on the EU to take responsibility and issue a collective apology for its involvement. The EU Council is expected "to finally issue a declaration acknowledging and apologising for member states' involvement in the CIA programme", the report says.
The report demands that member states carry out full inquiries monitored by the commission and follow them with clear action. Sarah Ludford, also an ALDE member, said there had so far been "little progress" in national investigations. "Those that have taken place have been far from full and independent. While investigations may only be capable of completion once the US fully cooperates in disclosing information on rendition practices, member states must not invoke spurious claims of 'state secrecy' to keep transgressions hidden."
She said upholding human rights should be central to future discussion about intelligence sharing with third countries. "Where there is a risk of torture, unenforceable diplomatic assurances cannot be relied on as a basis for deportation. If we don't uphold these principles then a torture-free world will remain out of reach." Flautre added: "Revelations of extraordinary renditions, illegal detention centres and torture are shocking and cannot simply be brushed under the carpet." At a public hearing organised by the civil liberties committee in March she said EU countries were observing a "law of silence" over the issue.
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'