War crimes : CIA prisons : EU is stirred up


Richard Moore


 Analysis: Row over CIA Camps Heats Up in Europe 
By Gareth Harding 
United Press International 

Tuesday 15 November 2005 

Brussels - Just when the United States thought the
transatlantic row over possible Central Intelligence
Agency terrorist detention camps in Europe had blown over,
the European Parliament followed the Council of Europe's
decision to launch an investigation into the allegations
by holding a rowdy debate on the issue Monday.

Washington-based advocacy group Human Rights Watch caused
a diplomatic storm earlier this month by publishing flight
records showing that a CIA-commissioned Boeing 737
transported suspected al-Qaida terrorists from Afghanistan
and Iraq to Poland and Romania in 2002 and 2003. The
allegations were corroborated by a Washington Post story
that revealed details of eight "black sites" - as the
covert prisons are referred to in classified White House
and CIA documents - in South Asia, the Middle East and
Eastern Europe.

Fresh allegations are putting more pressure on the
Pentagon - and EU governments - to come clean about the
affair. The New York Times reported Monday that Spanish
police have opened a criminal investigation into reports
that Majorca was used as a stopover for CIA planes
transporting terrorist suspects to internment camps. And
according to Swedish news agency TT, at least two
airplanes hired by the agency have landed at Swedish

Members of the European Parliament have been itching for a
debate on the issue ever since the allegations were first
made. On Monday, they got their chance at a meeting of the
EU assembly in Strasbourg, France. As expected, they
ripped into the US administration's handling of the war on
terror and lambasted the European Commission for failing
to investigate the matter.

"We all feel solidarity with the victims of terrorism,"
said Portuguese center-right deputy Carlos Coelho, "But
every step must be taken in respect to fundamental human
rights and the rule of law." Baroness Sarah Ludford, a
Liberal legislator from Britain, launched a scathing
attack on the American government, saying it had made
"disappearances a US tactic." The war on terror, Ludford
stated, had opened the "blackest of black holes."

Responding on behalf of the European Commission,
Vice-President Franco Frattini said there was no evidence
to prove that the US intelligence agency had been hiding
terror suspects at secret bases. He also said the
commission had no powers to launch an investigation into
the affair.

"We are in a position to put questions, but can we seize
classified files of the CIA? No, sorry, that is not

However, the EU's homeland security chief warned that if
the allegations were found to be true, there could be the
severest consequences. "Were these events to have
occurred, then clearly this would constitute a grave
infringement of the values and rules of the European
Union," he told lawmakers. "Such a serious breach, where
it is proven, may lead to serious political sanctions
being taken against a member state of the European Union."

Under Article 6 of the European Union's rulebook, any
state found to be violating fundamental human rights - and
the existence of secret detention centers flouting
international law would constitute such a breach - could
find itself stripped of voting rights.

Frattini's reply, although blunt, failed to satisfy
Euro-deputies. Italian communist Vittorio Agnoletto said
the commissioner's statement reminded him of the "three
monkeys - hear nothing, see nothing, say nothing."

Ludford, like many center-left and green members of the
EU's only directly-elected body, expressed their
frustration at the commission's passive stance on the
issue. "The commissioner said there is no evidence. But
what has he done to find out? I am left with a sense of
unease and residual doubt."

Members of the European Parliament, who have few formal
powers in the foreign policy field, can take some comfort
from the fact that the Council of Europe - the continent's
top human rights - opened an investigation into the issue
earlier this month.

If it finds evidence that Poland, an E.U. member, and
Rumania - which is expected to join the bloc in 2007 -
allowed the Central Intelligence Agency to set up prison
camps on their territories, the 25-state club could be
plunged into a deep crisis. At the very least, Warsaw
would get a sharp dressing down. At worst, it could find
itself temporarily suspended from EU decision making for
violating basic human rights. Rumania, which is still a
candidate to join the EU, could find its route to
membership barred.

But whichever way the Council of Europe rules, the real
loser will be the United States. Anger at the way
intelligence was misused in the run up to the Iraq war, at
the way prisoners have been treated in Iraq, Afghanistan
and Guantanamo Bay and at the way hard-fought-for rights
have been trampled on in the war on terror is deeply felt
in Europe. Washington is also blamed for refusing to deny
the prison camp claims - tantamount to an admission of
guilt in many Europeans' eyes.

Allegations of secret CIA camps on European soil confirm
many people's worst suspicions about US tactics in the
struggle against global terrorism. If the claims are
confirmed, the impact on transatlantic relations could be


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