European report raps US over rendition flights

By Daniel Dombey in Strasbourg
Published: January 24 2006 08:49 | Last updated: January 24 2006 10:57

An international investigation into alleged CIA prisons in Europe said on Tuesday that the US had broken the law but failed to provide hard evidence that European governments had hosted illegal detention centres on their soil.

Dick Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian heading a Council of Europe investigation into the claims, said in an interim report that US activities had been both illegal and counter productive.

“No cogent evidence has yet emerged of the existence in Europe of detention camps like the one at Guantanamo Bay“ he said.

“On the other hand it has been proved (and in fact never denied) that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and all rights and transported to different destinations in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture.”

Claude Moraes, a British Labour MEP and member of the European Parliament inquiry which opens on Thursday, said: ‘‘This report by Mr Marty establishes that there is a case for European governments to answer.

‘‘It may not be conclusive so far, but there clearly is an issue to resolve on rendition flights, although on the question of secret prisons in Europe and torture there is far more work to be done.’’

Mr Moraes said the report gave strong momentum to the European’s Parliament’s own inquiry.

Mr Marty based much of his investigation on press reports, rather than official documents but said that he had received satellite pictures and flight records from official European agencies this week and would now analyse them to see if they provided more information about CIA flights.

He spoke in his report of hundreds of CIA chartered flights and transporting more than 100 people from European countries and said that rendition by the US “broke the principle of the rule of law“ and was “ damaging to the fight against terrorism

The US maintains that rendition, or extra legal abduction, is compatible with international law and that it never transported people to countries where they would be at risk of torture.