EU report alleges complicity with CIA

Lawmakers criticize 14 member nations

February 15, 2007|By Tom Hundley | Tom Hundley,Chicago Tribune

WARSAW, Poland -- A contentious report that accuses 14 European nations of being complicit in more than 1,200 CIA flights that were used to shuttle terrorist suspects to secret prisons around the world was adopted yesterday by the European Parliament.

The vote in Strasbourg, France, was 382-256, with 74 abstentions.

Parliamentarians who supported the resolution said the report exposed how European governments had turned a blind eye to human rights violations. Many of those who voted against it said the 76-page report was short on hard evidence and seemed to display an anti-American bias.

The report, which was published last month, criticized Britain, Germany, Ireland and Portugal for allowing CIA "extraordinary rendition" flights to use their airspace and airport facilities. The report also singled out Poland and one of the EU's newest members, Romania, for apparently allowing the CIA to operate secret detention facilities on their territory, although the report conceded that it had no direct proof of such facilities.

At the insistence of parliamentary conservatives, the language in the report was softened to acknowledge the lack of hard evidence of CIA detention facilities in Poland. Specific criticism of Britain and Germany also was deleted, but the report ripped member states for their lack of cooperation in the investigation.

It pointed out Poland's "contradictory statements and confusion about flight logs ... which were first said not to have been retained, then said to have been faxed and destroyed, and finally said to have been saved in an unspecified place."

In Warsaw, the Polish government officially ignored yesterday's criticism.

Despite stonewalling by EU member governments, aviation records and witness testimonies gathered by the investigating committee offer strong circumstantial evidence of European complicity in the CIA's program of abducting terror suspects and taking them to "black sites" in Middle Eastern and Central Asian countries where they allegedly faced torture.

"This is a report that doesn't allow anyone to look the other way. We must be vigilant that what has been happening in the past five years may never happen again," said the report's author, Giovanni Fava, an Italian Socialist member of the European Parliament.

In yesterday's resolution, which does not carry the weight of law, the European Parliament "condemns extraordinary rendition as an illegal instrument used by the United States in the fight against terrorism ... [and] condemns, further, the acceptance and concealing of the practice, on several occasions, by the secret services and governmental authorities of certain European countries."

President Bush acknowledged the existence of the CIA's rendition program in September but rejected claims that it was illegal or that detainees were taken to places where they were tortured.

In a related development, Switzerland, which is not a member of the EU, approved an investigation of an alleged CIA flight that reportedly carried an Egyptian Muslim cleric kidnapped in Italy across Swiss airspace. The Swiss Cabinet said yesterday that "the use of Swiss airspace for an abduction cannot be tolerated."

The flights allegedly took Osama Moustafa Hassan Nasr, known as Abu Omar, from Aviano Air Base in Italy, across Switzerland to Ramstein Air Base in Germany and then to Cairo, Egypt, on Feb. 17, 2003.

Nasr was allegedly tortured during the four years he was imprisoned in Egypt. An Egyptian court found his detention to have been unfounded and ordered his release Sunday.

Tom Hundley writes for the Chicago Tribune.

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