German government knew since 2003
May 23, 2006
Alleged terror suspects have been kidnapped in the European
Union (EU) by the CIA and taken to third countries where they
have been subjected to torture. The European governments knew
of these illegal actions and were even involved in them.
This is the conclusion reached in the first interim report
of the subcommittee of the European parliament examining the illegal
activities of the CIA within Europe. Dick Marty, the special investigator
of the Council of Europe, reached a similar conclusion in February.
Forty-six European states belong to the Council of Europe; the
European parliament includes representatives of the EU’s
25 member states.
The European parliament has been examining the extent of possible
CIA abductions and transportation to secret prisons for four months
and now has evidence of more than a thousand unregistered flights
that the CIA has carried out in Europe since 2001.
The interim report arrives at the conclusion, "In several
cases, the CIA was clearly responsible for the illegal abduction
and imprisonment of supposed terrorists within the territory of
the member states, as well as extraordinary transfers, and that
in some cases this involved European citizens."
These extraordinary transfers, or "renditions," are
characterised as clearly breaching international law. As the report
notes, they are aimed at ensuring "that suspects are not
submitted to legal proceedings." The CIA has "secretly
kidnapped, imprisoned and transferred terror suspects," the
report finds. They were despatched to other countries (including
Egypt, Jordan, Syria and Afghanistan), "which, as the government
of the United States admits, practice torture."
The author of the report, the Italian Giovanni Fava (a member
of the PSE social democratic parliamentary grouping in the European
parliament), commented that it was not a few "individual
cases, but a widespread practice involving the majority of the
European states." Among the issues raised, he referred to
the fact that, remarkably, it was always the same agents who sat
in the CIA airplanes and that the circuitous routes flown by the
planes alone should have aroused suspicion.
In convoluted formulations, the report acknowledges the participation
and connivance of the European governments. Fava regards it as
"improbable, within the framework of the extraordinary transfers,
that some European governments did not have any knowledge of the
activities that took place on their territory and in their air
space or at their airports."
In particular, the Swedish government is criticised for handing
over the Egyptian citizens Mohammad Al Zary and Ahmed Agiza to
CIA agents, although "it knew the risks of tortures and cruel,
inhuman or degrading treatments" that threatened the two
According to the report, the abduction of the Egyptian citizen
Abu Omar by CIA agents in Milan in February 2003 could hardly
have been organised and carried out "without the previous
knowledge of the Italian authorities or security agencies."
The report also mentions the detainment of six Bosnian men
of Algerian origin, who were handed over to the CIA in January
2002 by the Bosnian authorities, and who since that time have
been held in Guantánamo. This case also highlights the
role of the UN occupation force SFOR, which is under NATO command,
and reveals the early collusion of the German government.
According to a statement by the US attorney Stephen Olesky,
who represents the six Algerians, they were arrested by Bosnian
security forces in October 2001 as terror suspects. In January
2002, Bosnia Herzegovina’s highest court of justice acquitted
them for lack of evidence, and the judges ordered their release.
However, on the night of January 17, the six were transferred
to US soldiers belonging to SFOR, although the court had expressly
forbidden that four of those acquitted be handed over to the US
Acting illegally and arbitrarily, the Bosnian authorities rescinded
the men’s nationality, in order to hand them over to the
US security forces. The now-stateless men were portrayed as suspects
who were allegedly planning an attack on US facilities in Bosnia
The illegal transfer to the US security forces obviously happened
under massive pressure from the Bush administration. Olesky told
the committee hearing: "US officials informed the Bosnian
government that American assistance for Bosnia would be withdrawn
if the six men were not arrested." Olesky is convinced that
the transfer, illegal under Bosnian and international law, was
ordered at the highest levels in the Bosnian government.
What remains unclear, however, is the role the SFOR troops
played in the transfer. It is worth noting that Paddy Ashdown,
since 2002 the EU High Representative in Bosnia Herzegovina, did
nothing to prevent the illegal transfer and has not responded
to the efforts of the lawyers of the six men to raise the case.
Six months later, in summer 2003, German Bundeswehr (armed
forces) troops stationed in Bosnia became involved in the case.
Against regulations, German soldiers disguised themselves as journalists
in order to gather intelligence. They visited family members of
the six men and were given access to court documents.
Although the German press has reported the subterfuge employed
by the Bundeswehr, the explosive results of their investigations
has received scant mention. A far greater scandal is that this
elicited no reaction from the German government.
A Bundeswehr captain wrote a report on the detainment of the
six men, which was obtained by the ARD television station. According
to this report, the investigation confirmed the suspicion "that
at least some of the 'six’ suffered an injustice."
Their "possibly unjustified arrest" and "highly
dubious deportation" means the information gained should
"be submitted to the appropriate specialists at the German
The report was eventually presented to the Ministry of Defence
in Berlin, which means that the government already knew in July
2003, six months before the abduction of Khaled Al Masri, who
has German and Lebanese citizenship, of the illegal activities
of the US in Europe.
Al Masri had been kidnapped by the CIA in Macedonia at the
end of 2003 and transferred to Afghanistan, where he was tortured.
The Social Democratic Party-Green Party coalition government then
in power claimed that it only found out about this afterwards.
Now the Ministry of Defence is denying knowledge of the report
by the German SFOR troops about the case of the six Algerians.
The ministry told the press that it could not find the report
in the archives.
In the meantime, some photos contained in the report have emerged,
but the important associated documentation is still said to have
disappeared. In the parliamentary defence subcommittee, where
the case has also been discussed, the undersecretary of state
responsible, Friedbert Pflüger (Christian Democratic Union),
held back important documents for more than one month, only handing
them over when this was demanded.
The government is behaving so nervously because the six men
were flown to Guantánamo via the US military base in Ramstein,
Germany. The recent exposures show ever more clearly that the
German government had early knowledge of the illegal CIA activities
and is now seeking to sweep its complicity in these human rights
violations under the carpet.
British government denials
The British government is also trying to deceive the public.
Confronted with the European parliament’s interim report,
the recently demoted British foreign minister Jack Straw told
the Guardian he had no proof that the US had used British
air space or airports to transport prisoners. He says he is convinced
that Washington would have informed him about such plans.
However, the former British ambassador to Uzbekistan, Craig
Murray, has provided the committee with proof that the British
secret service MI6 has cooperated closely with the CIA for years
and that a constant information exchange takes place. He also
submitted a document by Straw’s former legal advisor, Michael
Wood, advocating the view that information obtained under torture
could legally be used, as long as the British had not carried
out the torture but merely received the information via a third
party. This position was then adopted by the British government,
in order to utilise confessions that had been extracted in Uzbekistan
The extensive material submitted so far by the committee permits
only one conclusion: not only did the US systematically breach
international human rights conventions, but the European governments
were likewise guilty of serious offences against the United Nations
anti-torture convention and the European human rights convention,
either for keeping quiet, for doing nothing or through their open
complicity with the CIA.
In the next months, the committee wants to investigate whether
secret CIA prisons also exist in Europe. Giovanni Fava told the
press conference: "If we take into account the number of
CIA flights, the conclusion could be drawn that it was also about
transferring people to prisons within Europe."
This view is also supported by a report in the news magazine
Stern at the beginning of April, according to which the
CIA has been questioning alleged terror suspects at a place near
the Polish town of Kiejkuty. The facility is thought to be a training
centre for the Polish secret service, which is shared by the US.
There is said to be a special zone within the camp, to which the
Polish secret service does not have access. Stern writes,
"Small vehicles with darkened windows were parked on the
base—the identical models which workers at Szymany airport
had already reported being seen when CIA planes landed."
The special committee of the European parliament is a toothless
paper tiger within the Brussels bureaucracy. The European governments
face no direct consequences as a result of the report. The committee
can neither force governments to hand over files for its inspection
nor demand government or secret service staff appear to answer
questions. The European parliament can only recommend sanctions
be taken against individual member states, since only the European
Union Commission or at least one third of member countries can
initiate action against individual governments.
Both the EU anti-terror coordinator, Gijs de Vries, and Javier
Solana, high representative for the common foreign and security
policy, made certain placatory noises following publication of
the interim report.
De Vries saw "no proof" of the illegal transportation
of prisoner by the CIA in Europe. Asked about the connivance of
European governments, he answered, "I believe that is not
yet proven." He did admit that the European intelligence
services and the CIA enjoyed "mutually beneficial cooperation,"
but this was not within the competence of the European Union.
Javier Solana, who came before the committee on May 2, took
a similar position. He said, "I have no information whatsoever
that tells me with certainty that any of the accusations, allegations,
rumours that have taken place in the last period of time are true.
Also, I have no authority to ask the [member] countries how they
deal with these questions, and they have no obligation to answer
While the Brussels authorities are quite willing to interfere
in "domestic affairs" in order to defend the interests
of the international financial investors, corporations and banks,
they claim to have no authority when it comes to human rights.
This feigned disinterest is glaringly contradicted by the fact
that the field of justice and internal affairs is one of the areas
where the European Union member states are constantly extending