Watchdog backs CIA flights report

Swiss Senator Dick Marty addressing the Council of Europe Keystone

Europe's leading human rights body has called on the United States to cease secret flights transferring terror suspects across the continent.

This content was published on June 27, 2006 - 17:51

The Council of Europe also accused European states of colluding with the CIA in breach of basic human rights, backing the findings of a seven-month investigation by Swiss senator Dick Marty.

"The strategy [to address the terrorist threat] should conform in all its elements with the fundamental principles of our common heritage in terms of democracy, human rights and respect for the rule of law," a resolution voted by the Strasbourg-based watchdog said.

The assembly also decided to continue its inquiry into alleged secret flights and jails.

Marty had called on states to set up "a world legal order, with the US, but built on sound values, especially those upheld by the Council of Europe."

His report published in Paris earlier this month, concluded that 14 European nations colluded with US intelligence to set up secret flights and detention centres in violation of international human rights laws.

Under the CIA policy of rendition, prisoners are moved to third countries for interrogation. But Washington denies they are subjected to torture.

Call for clarification

The European Union justice commissioner, Franco Frattini, who was invited to Council of Europe debate, called for national inquiries to follow up Marty's findings.

He acknowledged it as a fact that such incidents occurred on European territory since the September 11 attacks on the US. However, he said the exact number of so-called renditions was unknown.

He added it was still unclear whether governments were aware of renditions or cooperated and whether or not they were legal.

"What we must do is make sure that national authorities understand that they have not only the power but the duty to carry out judicial investigations," said Frattini.

In his report, Marty provided no direct evidence but said that most European governments did not seem eager to help him establish the facts about renditions.

He relied mostly on flight logs provided by the EU's air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, witness statements gathered from people who said they had been abducted by US intelligence agents, as well as judicial and parliamentary inquiries in various countries.

Marty also accused the Swiss government of having "deliberately ignored allegations" of suspect aircraft transiting through the country's airspace, which were eventually confirmed by Swiss Federal Aviation Office.

He also questioned Switzerland's decision in February to extend permission until the end of the year for overflights by non-commercial US aircraft.

swissinfo with agencies

In brief

In November 2005 Human Rights Watch alleged the existence of secret detention camps in Europe and the kidnapping of suspected terrorists by the CIA.

The human rights watchdog, the Council of Europe, asked Dick Marty, a Swiss senator and chairman of the council's Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights, to launch an investigation.

Marty presented a report on June 7 and drafted a resolution which was debated by the Council of Europe in a plenary session on June 27.

Marty's report accuses 14 European countries of having colluded with the CIA on secret prisons and transfers of terrorism suspects.

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Key facts

Founded in 1949, the Council of Europe is the continent's oldest political organisation.
Switzerland joined the Strasbourg-based body in 1963.
The Council sees itself as the guardian of democratic security, based on human rights, democracy and the rule of law.
The Council of Europe is distinct from the 25-nation European Union.

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More: SWI certified by the Journalism Trust Initiative

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