[A] dispute over the alleged kidnapping, detention and mistreatment of a German citizen by CIA agents, and a court ruling in the UK banning the use of evidence obtained by torture, have prompted Europeans to confront a question avoided since the attacks of September 11 2001: how far should they co-operate with the US in the war on terror?
Below, a summary of the mountain of evidence coming out, and my personal condemnation of the hypocrisy of our European governments.
A major word of thanks to Fran as most of the quoted articles come from her European Breakfast news review.
Gernot Erler, Germany’s deputy foreign minister, admits the US and Europe have “moved in separate directions” on tackling terror. “What’s needed is a more fundamental discussion [with the US] on how to pursue the fight against international terrorism,” he told the FT.
Across Europe a series of developments have highlighted the uneasy arrangement by which European governments have appeared to collude with the US in practices that they have rarely been willing to defend, criticise or even acknowledge. (…)
“We do not have a war against terror,” says one senior EU official, highlighting Europe’s less militaristic approach to the struggle to contain the terrorist threat. Yet the insider argues that neither the US nor Europe, as mutually interdependent partners, have any option but to co-operate with each other on the biggest issues.
Many Europeans argue that the Bush team seems not to understand that maltreatment of prisoners can provide a rallying cry for terrorist movements. “If we want to win the war against al-Qaeda, we have to win the battle of ideas and show that we live by certain values which exclude torture,” says Prof Paul Wilkinson, an expert on counter-terrorism at St Andrews University in Scotland.
The Bush administration’s reaction so far has been to raise the stakes by not-so-subtly reminding the Europeans that they have been complicit in the past:
Nevertheless, some US officials are irritated by what they see as Europe’s attempt to evade its responsibility. (…) A senior US official says Ms Rice intended to emphasise that the US acted with the knowledge of, and together with, its European allies. The implication “that the US was acting as a lone cowboy, a rogue state” drove the US to that public statement, the official says. “That was the rub.”
Before, while the US kept its European partners informed of its activities, neither side saw fit to advertise the relationship. Now, after weeks of revelations, the cover is blown. Rather than continue to avoid the issue, Europe will have to decide how far it is prepared to go in the battle against terror.
The problem is that, while the governments in Europe would be keen to follow the US line and avoid the issue altogether, they are under growing pressure from their respective oppositions, and from a combative press, to come clean. So far, they have tried to raise the issue as delicately as possible with US authorities (and in particular with Condi Rice, as she was in Europe recently), but both the flow of new information, and the hard stance of the Bush administration are making their position increasingly uncomfortable.
Public opinion is in no mood to compromise on this, and both the opposition and the media see blood in the water, as it is becoming increasingly clear that European governments were complicit in the illegal abductions and torture of their own fucking citizens.
CIA prisoners in Europe were apparently abducted and moved between countries illegally, possibly with the aid of national secret services who did not tell their governments, according to the first official report on the so-called “renditions” scandal. Dick Marty, a Swiss senator investigating allegations of secret CIA prisons for the Council of Europe, said that he did not think the US was still holding prisoners in Europe, but had probably moved them to north Africa last month.
Mr Marty said in a statement after a Paris meeting of the council that his information so far “reinforces the credibility of the allegations concerning the transfer and temporary detention of individuals, without any judicial involvement, in European countries“. The council has set its 46 members a three-month deadline to reveal what they know about the transfers. Mr Marty said that if it was proved that European governments knew the renditions process, involving flying terrorist suspects to secret interrogation centres, was going on, they “would stand accused of having seriously breached their human rights obligations to the Council of Europe”.
The Council of Europe has nothing to do with the EU, and is a pan-European organisation which acts as a watchdog on human rights and democracy. It runs the European Court for Human Rights, based in Strasbourg, which acts as ultimate recourse for people that have been denied basic rights in their country of origin (even Western countries get sentenced by this court once in a while and its decisions, which can only be enforced by the relevant country, are always followed).
So the fact that the CoE investigator finds the allegations “credible” is a major piece of information, which will lead to further investigations to determine what exactly the European authorities knew.
And the pressure is mounting in various countries to get to the truth:
still form the Guardian
British MPs and peers were told by an international lawyer that their government would break the law if it did not investigate allegations that the CIA transferred terrorist suspects via Britain to secret camps where they may have been tortured. “Credible information suggesting that foreign nationals are being transported by officials of another state, via the United Kingdom, to detention facilities for interrogation under torture, would imply a breach of the [UN torture ] convention and must be investigated,” James Crawford, professor of international law at Cambridge University, told the all-party parliamentary group on extraordinary rendition.
Rendition victim was handed over to the US by MI6 (Independent)
MI6 officers interrogated a former UK student in Pakistan, Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, said yesterday. The man, a terrorist suspect, says MI6 handed him to the CIA for “extraordinary rendition” and torture .
The allegations by Binyam Mohammed el-Habashi, 27, in which he details the abuse, sleep deprivation and torture inflicted on him, were previously uncorroborated, but Mr Straw admitted for the first time that at least part of his story was true.
Reading from a brief, Mr Straw told MPs: “Mr Habashi was interviewed once in Karachi by the security services. The security services had no role in his capture or transfer from Pakistan. The security service officer did not observe any abuse and no incidents of abuse were reported to him by Mr Habashi.”
Asked whether he could confirm Mr Habashi was handed over to the Americans in Karachi, Mr Straw said: “I know nothing about it.” However, the official confirmation of Mr Habashi’s claims that he was seen by British MI6 officers while in custody in Pakistan will strengthen his legal claims that he was abused after being handed over to the US.
ATHENS, Dec 13: A prominent Greek lawyer on Tuesday accused British security forces of illegally detaining Pakistanis living in Greece days after suicide bombings in London in July.
Fragiskos Ragoussis, one of the country’s best known criminal lawyers, submitted a file to the Greek parliament on the allegations, automatically triggering a parliamentary investigation.
Mr Ragoussis, who is also a defence attorney for members of Greece’s once-feared Nov 17 leftist guerilla group, alleged that 28 Pakistani men were arrested, detained up to a week and interrogated on Greek soil by British security officials.
Frank-Walter Steinmeier, German foreign minister, will today seek to counter accusations of a government cover-up of the abduction two years ago of a German citizen by the CIA by outlining how Berlin protested behind the scenes to Washington about the kidnapping, writes Hugh Williamson in Berlin.
Mr Steinmeier will use an emergency parliamentary debate on the abduction of Khaled al-Masri, a German of Lebanese descent, to present details of how the BKA federal crime authority and the BND intelligence agency both lobbied the US government in summer 2004 to disclose information on Mr Masri’s abduction.
The government has admitted it was told of the kidnapping in a secret US briefing on May 31 2004, three days after Mr Masri’s release, and Mr Steinmeier’s speech today appears designed to show that Berlin has not been inactive on the case in the last 18 months.
Row over CIA ‘torture’ flights engulfs Blair (Independent)
Tony Blair and Jack Straw, the Foreign Secretary, were under pressure last night to refute convincingly claims that Britain has been complicit in alleged use of CIA planes to take suspected terrorists for torture in secret camps abroad.
Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, has accused the Government of conducting a “hear no evil, see no evil” policy on renditions, after repeated denials that Britain is colluding in transporting prisoners to countries where torture is reputedly widespread. But there are signs that the Government’s attempt to keep free of the controversy are becoming untenable, amid calls from MPs, human rights groups and European bodies for an in-depth investigation.
The Foreign Secretary revealed on Monday for the first time that he had agreed as Home Secretary to rendition for two flights from the UK to the US under the Clinton administration on the grounds that the suspects were to stand trial. He refused a third, he said, because he was not satisfied about the arrangements for sending the suspect to a third country.
Yesterday, under cross-examination by the Foreign Affairs Committee of the Commons about rendition, Mr Straw said there could be a fourth case. He said that the Home Office was still checking the records.
Poland to examine claims of secret CIA jails (FT, yesterday)
The Polish government is launching an inquiry into whether the country hosted Central Intelligence Agency prisons on its territory, Kazimierz Marcinkiewicz, the prime minister, announced on Monday.
The charge by US-based Human Rights Watch that the US intelligence agency kept prisoners accused of terrorism in Poland has been consistently rejected by Aleksander Kwasniewski, the Polish president.
However, local media have uncovered evidence that US aircraft were stopping at Szymany, an obscure airport in northern Poland.
So you have formal investigations and/or parliamentary hearings in Germany, the UK, Spain, Poland, Italy and Romania, plus the Council of Europe. (France has been shamefully discreet on the topic – although, thankfully, not the press). This scandal is not going away.
But I want to be very clear that the governments are dragging their feet all the way and making every effort not to be hostile or negative to the Bush administration – so much so that that they are objectively complict in the cover up, which means that they are most likely complicit in the crimes in the first place. The Berliner Zeitung says it best:
But instead of openly declaring their complicity, European governments have silently aided and abetted.
The justifiable suspicion exists that European governments not only knew of the torture, but that they also benefited from the coerced testimony so gathered.
So this is not a Europe vs America thing, this is a citizens vs governments run amok thing. Thankfully, both our opposition and our media are making a big deal of this story, which gives us hope that the truth will come out and these crimes will be stopped – and punished.
You have to make noise on your side of the Atlantic as well. Get your opposition and your media to run with this story. This is vital for our most basic rights.