The head of a high-profile probe of CIA prisons in Europe accused the
US administration of “gangster-style methods” on Tuesday but failed
to produce hard evidence that European governments had hosted any such facilities.
Dick Marty, the Swiss politician looking into the case for the Council
of Europe, the 46-nation human rights organisation, said in an interim report
that US renditions, or extra-legal abductions, had challenged “the very
foundation of the law-based state and its democratic foundation”.
“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,” he said.
“If governments resort to gangster-style methods, I say no,” he
The US maintains rendition is compatible with international law and that it
does not transport people to countries where they would be at risk of torture.
But Washington uses a more narrow definition of torture than do many European
Mr Marty said it was “highly unlikely that European governments or at
least their intelligence services were unaware” of “hundreds”
of CIA flights and more than 100 renditions on European soil or passing through
“There is a great deal of coherent evidence pointing to the existence
of a system of ‘relocation’ or ‘outsourcing’ of torture”
by the US, said Mr Marty.
But he admitted that many of his findings – such as the number of likely
renditions – were based on press reports and acknowledged that an in-depth
study by a Romanian human rights organisation had not substantiated allegations
that Romania had hosted a CIA prison.
Nor did he uncover any evidence of such sites in Poland, the other country
that has come under most suspicion. He had received satellite pictures and flight
records from official European agencies only this week and would now analyse
“The Marty report has more holes than a Swiss cheese,” said Denis
MacShane, Britain’s former Europe minister, who attended the Council of
Europe meeting in Strasbourg. “It is sad that Mr Marty refuses to accept
the categorical denials of the Polish and Romanian governments.”
It is the behaviour of European states – rather than the actions of the
US – that comes under the competence of the Council of Europe. Mr Marty
criticised European governments for their reluctance to provide information
and was backed by a call from the European Commission. Last week, the European
parliament set up a parallel investigation, led by a 46-member committee.
In the UK, Mr Marty’s report fuelled renewed calls for the British government
to broaden its own investigations into allegations that British airports may
have been used as part of the “rendition” strategy.
The UK civil rights group Liberty is considering taking legal action against
ministers on the basis that the Foreign Office’s investigations have been
inadequate to allay public concern that the UK government might have been complicit
in acts of torture.
“It is time for our [the UK] government to get its story straight –
not about what it did not know, but what it is going to do about such serious
alleged violations of human rights and UK sovereignty.”
Opposition parties say they remain unconvinced by UK foreign secretary Jack
Straw’s statement to MPs that he had found no evidence of detainees being
transported through the UK or British Overseas Territories since 11 September