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EU20060124Jdoc032006E.pdf (file size: 260 KB, MIME type: application/pdf)
Alleged secret detentions in Council of Europe member states
Information Memorandum II - 22 January 2006
- First of all, it is necessary to set this work in context in terms of both facts and chronology (the latter being of some significance in this affair). I would stress that the allegations that are now receiving media coverage worldwide were already known and were condemned by the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly in a report on the “Lawfulness of detentions by the United States in Guantánamo Bay” presented by my colleague Kevin McNamara, to which I shall refer in this memorandum1. In his report he condemned the illegal practice of “extraordinary rendition” and recommended that Council of Europe member states “ensure that their territory and facilities [were] not used in connection with practices of secret detention or rendition in possible violation of international human rights law”.
- At the time, the issue did not elicit the same media coverage as it is now receiving. We may well ask why it is only now that the allegations concerning secret detention centres in Europe are triggering a proper debate and public shock and indignation at the reports of illtreatment and even torture in this connection. In countries that pride themselves in being long-standing democracies that protect human rights, the revelation of these allegations should have sparked off reactions and categorical condemnation several months ago, and yet this was not the case, with a few exceptions, such as the article by the writer and journalist Stephen Grey ("United States: trade in torture", Le Monde diplomatique, April 2005) and the articles by Guido Olimpio in the Corriere della Sera and his book Operazione Hotel California (Feltrinelli, October 2005).
- I am particularly struck by the fact that it is in the United States that the discussions first really took off. Following an article in The Washington Post and a report by Human Rights Watch (HRW) published in early November, the international media have reported allegations that the CIA is or was running a system of secret prisons, including prisons in certain “central and east European democracies”. Numerous aircraft chartered by the CIA allegedly flew over, to and from European territory (benefiting, therefore, from airport facilities in Council of Europe member states) in order to transport suspects, completely illegally, to these secret centres.
- Whereas The Washington Post did not mention any countries by name (further to an agreement entered into with the United States Government, which, to my mind, suggests that the reports are true), HRW expressly mentioned Poland and Romania. The press reports also quote denials by officials from Poland3 and Romania, but also Latvia, the Czech Republic, Georgia, Armenia and Bulgaria.
- Since then, recent further information has extended the list of countries allegedly concerned by the existence of secret detention centres. According to a fax from the Egyptian Ministry of European Affairs to the Egyptian Embassy in London, intercepted by the Swiss intelligence services, such centres existed in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo and Ukraine.
- On 5 December 2005 ABC reported, in turn, the existence of secret prisons in Poland and Romania that had apparently been closed following The Washington Post’s revelations. According to ABC, eleven suspects detained in these centres were then transferred to CIA facilities in North Africa. They were allegedly submitted to the harshest interrogation techniques (so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques”). I would point out that the ABC article confirming the use of secret detention camps in Poland and Romania by the CIA was available on the Internet for only a very short time before being withdrawn. This strikes me as a telling indication of the pressure put on the media in this affair (in this particular case, the pressure was apparently brought to bear direct by the CIA).
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