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Investigator links Europe's spy agencies to CIA flights

Jon Henley in Paris and Richard Norton-Taylor, The Guardian

Wednesday December 14, 2005

CIA prisoners in Europe were apparently abducted and moved between countries illegally, possibly with the aid of national secret services who did not tell their governments, according to the first official report on the so-called "renditions" scandal. Dick Marty, a Swiss senator investigating allegations of secret CIA prisons for the Council of Europe, said that he did not think the US was still holding prisoners in Europe, but had probably moved them to north Africa last month.

Mr Marty said in a statement after a Paris meeting of the council that his information so far "reinforces the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals, without any judicial involvement, in European countries". The council has set its 46 members a three-month deadline to reveal what they know about the transfers. Mr Marty said that if it was proved that European governments knew the renditions process, involving flying terrorist suspects to secret interrogation centres, was going on, they "would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe".

The senator acted as British MPs and peers were told by an international lawyer that their government would break the law if it did not investigate allegations that the CIA transferred terrorist suspects via Britain to secret camps where they may have been tortured. "Credible information suggesting that foreign nationals are being transported by officials of another state, via the United Kingdom, to detention facilities for interrogation under torture, would imply a breach of the [UN torture ] convention and must be investigated," James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge University, told the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition.

Yesterday in his interim report the Swiss senator criticised the US secretary of state, Condoleezza Rice, for refusing to confirm or deny allegations, first published in the Washington Post last month, that the CIA maintained secret prisons in Europe, "The rapporteur ... deplores the fact that no information or explanation had been provided on this point by Ms Rice during her visit to Europe," he said.

The US state department said Ms Rice had no specific response to Mr Marty. A spokesman, Justin Higgins, said: "The secretary has made numerous statements on this issue and on these allegations starting when she departed for Europe on December 5 and on her various stops in Ukraine, Romania, Germany and Belgium, and she's said all she wants to say on this subject for the time being."

Human Rights Watch, a New York-based watchdog, claimed that Poland and Romania may have been sites for possible CIA prisons, but both countries have denied the allegations. Mr Marty has demanded air traffic log books, and satellite pictures of an airport in Poland and an air base in Romania.

The senator said he believed European secret services had collaborated over the flights well beyond exchanges of information. "I think it would have been difficult for these actions to have taken place without a degree of collaboration," he said. "But it is possible that secret services did not inform their governments."

The Foreign Office had no immediate comment on Mr Marty's statement.




:: Article nr. 18689 sent on 14-dec-2005 12:06 ECT

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Link: www.guardian.co.uk/frontpage/story/0,16518,1666925,00.html



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