Amnesty International challenges EU: “Pursue justice for CIA renditions and detention victims”

© Nancy Ross / iStockphoto

Amnesty International challenges EU: “Pursue justice for CIA renditions and detention victims”

In the week before the European Union-US summit, Amnesty International has called on the EU and its member states’ governments to deliver justice for the victims of the CIA’s unlawful rendition and secret detention programmes. “The EU has utterly failed to hold member states accountable for the abuses they’ve committed,” said Nicolas Beger, Director of Amnesty International’s European Institutions Office.

“The Council of the EU hasn’t even acknowledged that the Union itself bears collective responsibility for governments’ complicity in torture, unlawful detention and enforced disappearances,” said Beger. “These abuses occurred on European soil. We simply can’t allow Europe to join the US in becoming an ‘accountability-free’ zone.”

Amnesty International’s report, published today, Open secret: Mounting evidence of Europe’s complicity in rendition and secret detention, assesses the latest details in the growing body of proof that European countries were complicit in the CIA programme, part of the fight against terrorism which followed the 11 September 2001 attacks in the USA. The report focuses on key developments in eight European countries. It also highlights new reports and sources which may advance the project which aims to hold complicit countries and individuals accountable.

EU governments’ involvement in the US rendition and secret detention programmes is well documented. The body of public information clearly points to governments’ complicity. Amnesty International believes that the EU must support independent investigations and press member states to deliver justice to victims of the programmes.

Which countries did what

Germany was complicit in the detention of Muhammad Zammar, interrogated by German agents while in secret detention in Syria in November 2002. German officials acknowledged that torture occurred in Syria. He has yet to receive justice despite a German parliamentary enquiry into his and others’ claims of abuse.

Italy has convicted US and Italian agents for their involvement in Abu Omar’s abduction in Milan in February 2003. He was unlawfully sent to Egypt where he was held in secret and allegedly tortured. Cases against senior US and Italian officials were dismissed on grounds of state secrecy and diplomatic immunity. Italian claims of the need to protect ‘state secrets’ continue to obstruct justice. Appeal proceedings in Abu Omar’s case began in October 2010.

Lithuania has admitted that two secret prisons existed. A delegation from the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture visited them in June 2010, the first publicised visit by an independent monitoring body to a secret CIA prison in Europe. Ongoing criminal investigations must ensure that those responsible are held accountable.

Macedonia allegedly assisted in the unlawful detention and subsequent CIA-led rendition to Afghanistan of German national Khaled el-Masri, who has accused Macedonia at the European Court of Human Rights: probably the first time this court will consider a case involving a Council of Europe country’s alleged complicity in the CIA programmes. Macedonia continues to deny that its agents acted unlawfully.

Poland’s Border Guard Office in July 2010 revealed that seven planes operating the CIA’s rendition programme landed at the Polish airport at Szmany. In September, the prosecutor’s office confirmed it was investigating claims by Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri, that he was held in secret in Poland. He was granted ‘victim’ status in October 2010, the first time a rendition victim’s claims have been acknowledged in this context.

Romania is alleged to have hosted a secret CIA prison. It denies responsibility despite fresh evidence of its Involvement in the rendition programme.

Sweden is charged with failing to investigate fully the rendition at the hands of the CIA in December 2001 of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari to Egypt, where the men reported they were tortured. Sweden has failed to provide the men with full and effective redress.

The UK announced in July 2010 that it would establish an enquiry into the involvement of British officials in the alleged mistreatment of individuals detained abroad by foreign intelligence services. The Government has also acknowledged that the USA used British territory for rendition flights.