Poland and Romania hosted CIA secret prisons

BFP Magazine

CIA Secret Prisons

Poland and Romania hosted CIA secret prisons

By Dr. Ludwig De Braeckeleer

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

A report released on Friday by the Council of Europe factually establishes the existence of secret prisons run by the CIA in Poland and Romania.

The 72 pages report, prepared by the Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, accuses the two countries of hosting CIA prisons since 2003.

According to Dick Marty, a Swiss lawyer and Rapporteur of the report, detainees were subjected to degrading treatments and even tortures, which the CIA prefers to call "enhanced interrogation techniques".

Human Rights Watch has long suspected that the two countries participated in the CIA program known as "Extraordinary Rendition". Poland and Romania have repeatedly denied the allegations.

In November 2005, the Washington Postrevealed the existence of secret prisons in “several democracies in Eastern Europe”. However, the Post did not name the countries even though they had been identified by multiple sources of the author of the article.

"The Washington Post is not publishing the names of the Eastern European countries involved in the covert program, at the request of senior U.S. officials. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and could make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation," wrote Dana Priest.

At the end of December 2005, another Post writer revealed that the editors had been explicitly requested not to publish the information by US officials in a White House meeting.

Even though the Council of Europe is the human rights watchdog of the continent, the organization has no means to enforce the rules. However, on a proposal of the European Parliament or by the Commission, the European Council could sanctions Poland and Romania as both countries are now Members States of the Union.

Article 6 2 of the European Treaty states that "The Union shall respect fundamental rights, as guaranteed by the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms signed in Rome on 4 November 1950 and as they result from the constitutional traditions common to the Member States, as general principles of Community law."

If a Member State is found in breach of these fundamental rights, the Council, according to Article 7 3 of the Treaty, may decide to suspend the voting rights of the representative of the government of that Member State in the Council.

Although it is very likely that the European Parliament will initiate the process, it is far from certain the needed majority could be obtained by the Council as other Member States may want to avoid further investigations in this matter.

Marty suspects that other European countries have hosted secret CIA prisons. The US, as well as several European countries such Germany and Italy, has refused to collaborate with his investigation.

On Friday, the same day the Council of Europe released his report, the trials of 25 CIA operatives opened in Milan. They are accused of having abducted an imam, known as Abu Omar, while he was walking to his mosque on February 17th 2003. Then, the CIA flew him to Cairo where he was detained and tortured.

All of them have returned to the US and senior officials have said that they would never be extradited. The Military Commissions Act 2006 insulates US service personnel from prosecution for violations of Common Article 3 of the four Geneva Conventions.

Seven Italians, including Nicolo Pollari the former chief of Military Intelligence, are also indicted in the case. The defence lawyer of Mr. Pollari has listed both Berlusconi and Prodi as witnesses for her client.

It already appears that Mr. Prodi is attempting to derail the trial as he alleges that the prosecutor has obtained illegally the evidence he wishes to use. The issue will have to be addressed by the Constitutional Court before the trial can resume.

The European report ends with a very harsh conclusion regarding the so-called war on terror. "It is my sincere hope that my report this year will catalyse a renewed appreciation of the legal and moral quagmire into which we have collectively sunk as a result of the US-led war on terror," Marty wrote.

"Almost six years in, we seem no closer to pulling ourselves out of this quagmire, partly because of the absence of factual clarity – perpetuated by secrecy, cover-up and dishonesty – about the exact practices in which the US and its allies have engaged, and partly because a lack of urgency and political will on both sides of the Atlantic to unite around consensus solutions," he added.

Dr. Ludwig De Braeckeleer has worked for the Department of Energy, taught at Duke University and Washington University in Seattle. He has a PhD in Science (Nuclear Physics) and currently teaches in Bogota, Colombia.
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