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Europe: Complicit governments must act in wake of US Senate torture report

    Secret sites existed in Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.© Christian Schmidt/Corbis
    Secret sites existed in Lithuania, Poland, and Romania.© Christian Schmidt/Corbis
    January 19, 2015

    Posted at 0001hrs GMT 20 January 2015

    European governments that cooperated with the CIA’s secret detention, interrogation, and torture operations as part of the USA’s global “war on terror” must act urgently to bring those responsible to justice following a US Senate report containing new details said Amnesty International in a new briefing paper today.

    Breaking the conspiracy of silence: USA's European 'partners in crime’ must act after Senate torture report” links details in the Senate report to open source information regarding allegations that secret sites existed in Lithuania, Poland, and Romania. Other governments that are alleged in open sources to have facilitated these operations include Germany, the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia and the UK. In some cases, these governments colluded with the CIA in exchange for millions of US dollars.

    This briefing also highlights the inadequate responses of the respective governments to carry out full and effective investigations.

    “Without European help, the USA would not have been able to secretly detain and torture people for so many years. The Senate report makes it abundantly clear that foreign governments were essential to the ‘success’ of the CIA operations -- and evidence that has been mounting for nearly a decade points to key European allies,” said Julia Hall, Amnesty International’s expert on counter-terrorism and human rights.

    “The time for denials and cover-ups is over. Governments can no longer rely on unsubstantiated ‘national security’ grounds and claims of state secrecy to hide the truth about their roles in the torture and disappearance of people. It’s time for justice for all those who have suffered the gruesome practices -- including waterboarding, sexual assault, and mock executions -- that characterized these illegal counter-terrorism operations.”

    “The USA’s staggering departure from the rule of law after the 11 September 2001 attacks provides a cautionary tale for all governments grappling with such violent crimes. Dispensing with human rights and civil liberties is morally and legally wrong, it alienates certain communities, and it sends a dangerous signal to other governments inclined to violate people’s rights under the cover of ‘national security’,” said Julia Hall.

    “All counter-terrorism laws, policies, and practices must uphold human rights and the basic dignity of all persons. This is a particularly important principle at this sensitive moment in Europe, when the French and other governments are coming to terms with the horrific attacks in Paris,” said Julia Hall.

    The Senate report triggered a range of responses from former and current European officials, including key admissions of involvement in the CIA operations. The Senate report itself does not explicitly name European countries but credible public information and information sourced by Amnesty International clearly and often precisely correlates with the details of the secret detention centres and torture carried out by the USA with the help of its foreign government partners, including:

    Poland

    Following the release of the Senate report, two former Polish officials finally admitted that Poland had hosted a secret CIA detention site. The Senate report refers to “Detention Site Blue” and includes details of the site that correlate with public information about a secret CIA site in Poland. This followed two European Court of Human Rights rulings in July 2014 that found Poland complicit in the USA’s rendition and secret detention program. The interrogation techniques that one or both of the men were subjected to included waterboarding, mock execution with an unloaded gun, revving a drill near the head of one of the detainees, and threats of sexual assault against the mother of one of the men, among other so-called “enhanced interrogation techniques.” The criminal investigation in Poland that commenced in 2008 has been repeatedly delayed and is on-going. One Polish official told Amnesty International that the US government has ignored a number of requests for information required for the investigation.

    Romania

    After years of denials, the former head of the Romanian Intelligence Service and national security advisor to the President at that time, recently admitted that the Romanian intelligence agency had allowed the US to open one or two detention centres in the country. He attributed this cooperation to Romania’s bid for membership in the North Atlantic Treaty Organization. The Senate report refers to “Detention Site Black”, the details of which closely conform to public information about a secret CIA site in Romania. It has been reported that Romania received millions of dollars from the US government. Romanian authorities have stated that they have launched an inquiry and are requesting a full, unredacted version of the Senate report.

    Lithuania

    Following the release of the Senate report, a key parliamentarian previously responsible for investigating allegations of a secret site acknowledged that the information in the Senate report indicated that detainees were held in Lithuania. The Senate report refers to “Detention Site Violet” and includes details – including of the secret detention of a Saudi national – that align with open source information about a secret CIA site in Lithuania. A group of Lithuanian MPs lodged a motion in parliament to establish a new commission of enquiry into Lithuanian involvement in CIA secret detention operations.

    United Kingdom

    The UK was arguably the US’s most important ally in the CIA’s global counter-terrorism operations. The Senate report contains one reference to possible UK involvement in secret detention and interrogation operations: the torture of former Guantanamo Bay detainee Binyam Mohamed.

    It has been reported that the UK had desperately lobbied for the document to be cleaned of any references that might lead back to the UK. The Senate report does not address whether Diego Garcia (a British territory in the Indian Ocean) was used as a transit point and/or detention site in the context of renditions, although Amnesty International has long called for transparency in the US and the UK with respect to the possible use of Diego Garcia.

    Prime Minister David Cameron has claimed that the UK is investigating allegations that its agents were involved in the torture and ill-treatment of foreign detainees overseas, often in collusion with the USA, but this claim does not hold up to scrutiny. Amnesty International and other human rights organizations have argued that the current inquiry by the parliamentary Intelligence and Security Committee is not independent and will be undermined by the fact that the government has absolute discretion to withhold information based on national security considerations.

    Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia/Germany

    The Senate report provided further information about the rendition to torture and enforced disappearance of German citizen Khaled el-Masri while in US custody, which was the subject of a European Court of Human Rights ruling in 2012. The Macedonian Government did not comment on the report and has yet to implement the European Court judgement. The German government has failed to effectively investigate its role in the CIA operations or to request the extradition from the USA of thirteen former CIA employees believed to have been involved in el-Masri’s rendition.

    “European governments implicated in CIA counter-terrorism operations must urgently conduct an effective, broad-based investigation and reform the laws, policies, and practices that allowed such grisly and illegal practices to take place,” said Julia Hall. “All those responsible for torture and enforced disappearances on the territories of European states should be criminally charged and held accountable after fair trials; and justice must be served for the victims of torture.”

    Briefing  “Breaking the conspiracy of silence: USA's European 'partners in crime’ must act after Senate torture report"