Council of Europe investigation confirms European countries aided CIA's subcontracting of torture
“It's simply unlikely that European governments, or at least their secret services, would not have been in the know.” It would be difficult to be any clearer. The words are taken from the report by Swiss senator Dick Marty, commissioned by the Council of Europe to enquire into the affair of the “extraordinary renditions” (the euphemism employed by the US administration to denote the kidnapping and sending into detention and torture of presumed terrorists), conducted from within Europe by the CIA, to “accommodating” destinations. Senator Marty has no doubt that European leaders must have known. Their countries must therefore have aided the United States in “externalising” torture.
True, there is as yet nothing which would pass muster as proof in a court of law. But, the Swiss senator explains, “there exists such an accumulation of indicators which tally and which constantly back each other up, that there is sufficient material to justify action, a situation which justifies the continuation of investigation as well as the mobilisation of European states in order to establish the truth.” All the more because the Americans themselves do not deny anything: touring Europe last December, Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice did not even go to the trouble of denying the existence of such operations. Questioned before her arrival in Europe concerning CIA detention centres outside the United States, notably in eastern Europe, she limited herself to denying accusations of the use of torture, then slid effortlessly into claims that through its actions against terrorism, the United States actively participates in the defence of the security of Europe's territory. For Dick Marty, it could not be clearer: by their allusions and remarks, the Americans are simply saying to the Europeans: “Don't be hypocrites: do you truly want us to say what really happened?”
But what was the extent of these illegal transfers of persons, and what does Dick Marty know? Based on data gathered by human rights NGOs, on testimonies (notably from active and retired intelligence personnel) originating in the US itself via that country's media, as well as a number of pieces of information assembled by German parliamentarians or by European legal services (in Milan), Dick Marty considers that “renditions involving Europe appear to concern more than a hundred persons in the course of the last few years. Hundreds of flights chartered by the CIA have passed through numerous European countries.” This is not to mention the allegations, if not the evidence, that the Americans may have established detention and interrogation camps in several countries and regions of eastern Europe.
A document sent by fax from the Egyptian foreign office to its services in London and intercepted by the Swiss intelligence service (a document judged authentic by specialists and by Dick Marty himself and which was leaked to the Swiss press), alleged the existence of secret CIA detention camps in Romania, Bulgaria, Ukraine, Macedonia and Kosovo. As for the famous – and, as far as European law is concerned, scandalous - “renditions”, two cases have taken on an exemplary dimension: that of the German citizen of Lebanese origin, Khaled Al Masri, who was kidnapped by mistake in Macedonia and reappeared several months later after being held for interrogation in a prison in Afghanistan; and that concerning the seizure of the Egyptian Islamicist Abou Omar, kidnapped in broad daylight during a major CIA operation in Milan in February 2003 and dispatched to Egypt (the ideal place to have someone disappear, according to one ex-CIA agent) after having been flown all over Europe, touching down at the military airports of Aviano, in Italy, and Ramstein (a US military base in Germany).
These cases have been exposed thanks to the testimony of the victim of the first, who is now demanding compensation, and to the investigations into the second affair by Italian courts. The Italians are, moreover, congratulated for their rigour by Dick Marty, who is himself the long-serving public prosecutor of the Italian-speaking region of Switzerland. The Milan affair is all the more regrettable because, according to the Italian investigators, the kidnapping ruined months of work by their security services on the trail of an Islamicist network in the peninsula.
In announcing his interim conclusions this week in Strasbourg in front of the Council of Europe, Dick Marty did not hide the fact that his action was aimed in essence “at increasing pressure on the Council's member states, members of an institution which defends the principles which certain states seem ready to abandon with no great scruples.” At the same time he declared that he was not casting stones only at European countries but that he found it “regrettable that states such as Great Britain or Germany apply the brakes with all their force when it comes to revealing the truth, by invoking state secrecy or questions of security.”
The courageous Swiss parliamentarian's enquiry has therefore the merit of showing how much Europe and several major capitals are implicated in this affair, which represents a submission to America's “reasons of State”, and shows the threat offered to human rights in “old Europe” when European governments give themselves over, de facto, to the arguments of a Bush administration which invokes an exception clause in order to “treat and interrogate as it wishes” persons suspected of complicity with terrorism, in contempt for the most elementary rules of law.
This report is translated and edited from an article written by Ramine Abadie for the French left daily L’Humanité