Secret prisons in Europe are abuse of human rights

8 June 2007

Secret prisons in Europe are abuse of human rights

'I don't know what is more shocking, the cooperation of European countries in the violation of the European Convention on Human Rights or the fact that these were kept secret from their parliaments'. This was the reaction of CDA (Dutch Christian Democrat) Senator René van der Linden, Chair of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) to the report commissioned by the Assembly which concluded that the CIA, in cooperation with NATO and European states had set up secret prisons in which people were illegally confined, interrogated and tortured. SP Senator Tiny Kox, Chair of the United European Left group in PACE, argues that all European governments must now come completely clean over the issue. “This game of hide-and- seek has gone on long enough,” he says.

The report, drawn up by the Swiss Senator Dick Marty on PACE's behalf, concludes that large numbers of people have been kidnapped by the CIA in recent years. They have then been transported, and from every corner of the world, to countries known to be less than particular about human rights in general and the rights of prisoners in particular. They were illegally imprisoned, interrogated and tortured, including in secret prisons in Europe. Poland and Romania were two of the countries involved. There was absolutely no legal supervision and the prisoners were not given the right or opportunity to defend themselves. This happened with the full knowledge of the then heads of government of Poland and Romania and on the basis of agreements between the CIA, NATO and the European countries in question. After earlier denying the existence of the prisons, President Bush has since admitted that people suspected of terrorism have indeed been interrogated in secret locations. The governments of Poland and Romania continue, however, to deny involvement, despite the fact that Senator Marty based his report on a large amount of testimony from present and former personnel of the secret prisons.

The cooperation offered by these governments to the enquiry has, to say the least, been limited. Senator Kox describes as “shameful” the fact that countries which have ratified the European Convention on Human Rights have put obstacles in the way of the investigation, rather than aiding it. “The game of hide-and-seek should stop,” he says, “as must the sloppy or non-existent cooperation with the enquiry and the dismissal out of hand of inconvenient facts. I hope that the Dutch government will put pressure on other European governments to exhibit complete openness in order to bring these scandalous practices into the light and in so doing prevent any repeat of them.”

PACE will debate this disturbing report at its plenary session on Wednesday 27th June in Strasbourg. The complete text can be downloaded from the website of the Council of Europe.

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