EU Parliament Report: Some Nations Turned Blind Eye To Secret CIA Prisons

Wednesday, February 14th 2007, 10:41 am
By: News On 6

STRASBOURG, France (AP) _ The European Parliament on Wednesday approved a controversial report accusing Britain, Germany, Italy and other European nations of turning a blind eye to CIA flights transporting terrorism suspects to secret prisons in an apparent breach of EU human rights standards.

The report, concluding a yearlong high-profile investigation into CIA activities in Europe, gives no direct proof that the intelligence agency ran secret prisons in Europe _ an allegation that prompted the inquiry in November 2005 _ but accuses some governments of complicity in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program.

The report passed by a tighter-than-expected 382-256 majority, with 74 abstentions, after the lawmakers clashed over its tone and content.

Socialist and Liberal lawmakers argued the report, based on the findings of a special parliamentary committee, has exposed a string of alleged abductions by U.S. agents and insufficient parliamentary oversight of European security services.

``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 Italian Socialist Giovanni Fava, who drafted the report.

But center-right lawmakers warned the report accuses governments of colluding with the CIA detention program without sufficient proof and demanded significant changes to the wording. Some of the criticism contained in the original draft was toned down, but that wasn't enough to win unequivocal cross-party support.

``The report strongly implies that countries in Europe have been massively involved in extraordinary rendition activities and illegal detention. That is ... not a faithful interpretation of fact,'' said Jas Gawronski, Italian conservative of the European People's Party, which largely voted against it.

Criticism of Britain for allegedly not cooperating with the investigation was removed from the report at the insistence of British Labour Party deputies, and the final wording is also softer on the German government, largely thanks to pressure from German Social Democrats.

But objections to testimony by Javier Solana, the EU's foreign policy chief, remained, with the Parliament accusing him of making ``omissions'' in his statement to the committee.

Germany, which holds the EU's six-month rotating presidency, insisted the Council of EU Ministers _ the EU's decision-making body _ had cooperated well with the inquiry.

``I have to reject attacks on Solana out of hand because we have offered cooperation that was within his means,'' German Deputy Foreign Minister Guenther Gloser said on behalf of the 27 EU member states.

Legislators dropped demands for sanctions against EU nations found to have violated civil liberties by housing a secret jail or helping to secretly transfer terror suspects to countries where they could face torture.

But the legislators demanded inquiries in the 14 EU countries implicated in the report. Some of those nations have already launched or completed investigations into CIA activities.

The Swiss government, meanwhile, approved an investigation of an alleged CIA flight that reportedly carried an Egyptian Muslim preacher kidnapped in Italy across Swiss airspace. The Swiss cabinet said that ``the use of Swiss airspace for an abduction cannot be tolerated.''

The flights allegedly took Osama Hassan Mustafa 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. He was ordered released Sunday by an Egyptian court, which found his detention to have been unfounded.

The 76-page EU parliamentary report is based on information from confidential sources _ including records of meetings between senior officials at the EU, NATO and State Department _ as well a testimony by individuals who said they were kidnapped by U.S. agents in Europe and transferred to secret prisons.

It also includes data from Eurocontrol, the EU's air safety agency, which has recorded more than 1,200 undeclared CIA flights through European airspace since Sept. 11, 2001 _ flights the committee said violated international air traffic rules.

The report offers circumstantial evidence indicating terror suspects were on some of those flights.

No EU governments have admitted that the alleged anti-terror operations were carried out on their soil. Human Rights Watch identified Poland and Romania as possible locations of secret prisons, but both countries denied involvement.

In September, President Bush acknowledged that terrorism suspects have been held in CIA-run prisons overseas, but did not say where. Britain's government later said it had known ``in general terms'' about a secret CIA prison network.