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Dick Marty puts values over interests

Marty has left his mark on the Council of Europe Keystone

Swiss senator Dick Marty’s reports into secret CIA prisons and more recently into alleged organ trafficking in Kosovo have caused a stir internationally.

In an interview with as he prepares to step down from his parliamentary and Council of Europe roles, Marty says that he has always fought for human rights and democracy.

This week he attends his last Council of Europe (CoE) Parliamentary Assembly. He has already taken part in his last Swiss parliament session and will not be standing for re-election to the Senate. Why did you decide to devote 12 years to the Council of Europe as well as being a senator in Switzerland?

Dick Marty:  I think people involved in Strasbourg at least share the same fundamental common values, starting with the European Convention on Human Rights. Now that we are faced with world geopolitical changes – a strongly booming Asia, a recovering Latin America and an Africa that will, sooner or later, wake up – defending these values is becoming ever more important.

Our culture’s very survival is at stake because these values are an essential part of European – and Swiss – history. This historical and humanistic dimension should not be forgotten even if, however, it has virtually disappeared from the debate and priorities of Swiss political parties. What powers does the CoE have to translate these values into reality?

D.M.:  The CoE’s influence is much greater than one might think. Firstly, many conventions adopted by its Parliamentary Assembly have been taken up by the European Union and international organisations. The CoE has played a leading role in human rights and democracy. After the fall of communism in Eastern Europe, it created, for example, a sort of democratisation school for new eastern members.^

The European court [of human rights] in Strasbourg is also important. Some 800 million Europeans can now go to this highest European court if they feel their fundamental rights have been violated in their countries. The CoE has ensured  that a common heritage of values has been created, values which have a direct influence on all European countries. Even in Switzerland we’ve had to change many laws following European court rulings. Is this common heritage of values what made you decide to write the two CoE reports on secret CIA prisons in Europe despite the risks and threats?

D.M.:  These are fundamental values for all of humanity and even democracies cannot permit themselves to trample all over them. We cannot accept that somebody is arrested on the street – with the complicity of his own country’s secret services – and then transported to a secret prison, tortured and detained for years without charge and possibility of defending himself.

This has happened today to Muslim terrorists and presumed terrorists. Tomorrow the same methods could be applied to any one of us, to people who think freely and differently. The United States has confirmed in the past few years that most of the Guantanamo detainees were innocent. They were released without a penny or words of apology, and with no possibility of seeking justice, because the American government continues to enforce state secrecy. Several governments, including the US and British, were forced to admit that these secret prisons existed after your reports.

D.M.:   Yes, on June 6, 2006, former President George W Bush acknowledged publicly the existence of his administration’s secret antiterrorism programme. Former British prime minister Tony Blair, who had practically slandered me a few months before, had to apologise in parliament for CIA detainee flights via British territory.

Secret US documents published by Wikileaks have since confirmed several dates and details contained in my reports, over which I was attacked by several European governments. Reading these documents was, for me, a little bit like smoking a cigar in a rocking chair while enjoying  an African sunset. Your reports on the Kosovo crimes also caused an international outcry.

D.M.:   Kosovo wanted to impose an official truth, saying there were good and bad guys and that the western countries had bombarded the bad ones and supported the good ones. The Serbian government under Milosevic committed terrible crimes, but to say that nothing happened on the other side is a colossal lie. For years there have been many reports by the police, secret service and international agencies on crimes committed by both sides and on the collusion between politics and organised crime in the region.

My CoE report only stated what was already known. I haven’t gained any personal advantage, only a lot of animosity. But the truth can’t be complaisant. It’s in the interest of the Kosovo people to know the truth and have a transparent democracy. There can’t be justice without truth  or democracy without justice. It’s a very simple equation that shouldn’t be forgotten.

Born in Italian-speaking Ticino in 1945, where he served as deputy public prosecutor, then public prosecutor from 1975-1989. A member of the Ticino cantonal government from 1989 to 1995.
Elected to the Swiss Senate in 1995, representing the centre-right Radical Party. He steps down in 2011. Among his initiatives: installing an independent federal prosecutor, and the decriminalisation of abortion.

Elected to the Council of Europe parliamentary assembly in 1999; chaired the Committee on Legal 

Affairs and Human Rights 2005-2008. Retires in 2011.

On behalf of the committee investigated the CIA’s secret prisons in Europe, publishing a  report in 2006 saying 14 countries had colluded with the US in a “spider’s web” of human rights abuses. Marty said other countries, including Switzerland, had been involved actively or passively in the detention or transfer of unknown persons.
On December 16, 2010 published a report on suspected organ trafficking in Kosovo, which implicated high ranking members of the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA). Kosovo Prime Minister Hashim Thaci is among the accused. He has denied involvement.

Since 2011 Marty has been president of the Inter-Jura Assembly, a body created to help promote rapprochement between cantons Bern and Jura.

The Council of Europe is an international organisation in Strasbourg, France, which comprises 47 countries of Europe.

It was set up in 1949 to promote democracy and protect human rights and the rule of law in Europe.

It is divided into three sections: European Court of Human Rights, which enforces the European Convention on Human Rights, the Committee of Ministers made up of the foreign ministers of each member state, and the Parliamentary Assembly composed of parliamentarians from each member state.

(Translated from Italian by Isobel Leybold-Johnson)

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