First news about secret CIA prisons in Eastern Europe appeared in November 2005 with the publication of the scandalous article in The Washington Post. The inquiry was launched immediately. Firstly it was considered that the USA broke all possible international laws and organized secret CIA prisons without any permission. However a new report released today by the Council of Europe shows us that the situation was a bit different.
Several European states have allowed the CIA to snatch their own residents, others have offered extensive logistical support, while many have turned a blind eye, according to the Council of Europe.
The UK stands accused of not only allowing the use of British airspace and airports, but of providing information that was used during the torture of one suspect. The report adds that there is strong evidence to suspect two European states, Poland and Romania , of permitting the CIA to operate secret prisons on their soil, despite official denials.
The full extent of European collusion with the CIA during operations to abduct terrorism suspects and fly them to countries where they may be tortured is laid bare today by the continent's most authoritative human rights body.
The report follows an investigation by Dick Marty, chairman of the Council's legal affairs and human rights committee. It has been obtained by the Guardian ahead of its publication in Paris today. Mr Marty says that far from being hoodwinked by a "CIA plot", 14 European states were fully aware of much of what was going on. "It is now clear - although we are still far from having established the whole truth - that authorities in several European countries actively participated with the CIA in these unlawful activities. Other countries ignored them knowingly, or did not want to know."
Although Mr Marty concludes that the US must bear responsibility for the extraordinary rendition, he says the programme could operate only with "the intentional or grossly negligent collusion of the European partners".
A breakthrough in Mr Marty's inquiry came with agreement by EuroControl, the air traffic agency, to hand over thousands of records of flight plans filed electronically with controllers by the pilots of alleged CIA planes since 2001. While the majority of the flights had nothing to do with prisoner operations, Mr Marty's report provides the first official confirmation that some flights correspond with the accounts given by prisoners of their abduction and transfer to secret jails by the CIA.
His report highlights the movement of 18 suspects, all of which used European facilities or airspace, which are part of a series of "rendition circuits" which he likens to a "spider's web spun across the globe". He warns that the US, believing that "neither conventional judicial instruments nor those established under the framework of the laws of war could effectively counter the new forms of international terrorism" has decided to "develop new legal concepts" that have left hundreds of terrorist suspects deprived of their liberty, outside US territory but under US control and denied any access to their fundamental legal rights. "This legal approach is utterly alien to the European tradition and sensibility, and is clearly contrary to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights."
Mr Marty says that while Spain , Turkey , Germany and Cyprus have provided staging posts for rendition operations, Italy , Sweden , Bosnia , and Macedonia have all allowed the rendition of their residents from their soil. He accuses the latter of covering up its involvement in the CIA rendition of a German citizen, Khaled el-Masri, to Afghanistan, after he arrived in Macedonia in January 2004. Britain - like Ireland , Portugal , and Greece - is described as providing stopovers for CIA planes, but the greatest criticisms levelled against London are about the handing over of information about its residents and former residents that has, says Mr Marty, led to renditions and torture. For instance, information about a former London student, Benyam Mohammed, 27, is alleged to have been used during his torture in Morocco , where he was taken following his arrest in Pakistan , according to The Guardian.
Marty, who lacks subpoena power or other tools to compel countries to cooperate, began his probe after The Washington Post reported in November that the CIA had established secret prisons for suspected al-Qaeda leaders in eastern Europe, as well as in Afghanistan and Thailand , since the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks.
The names of all 14 East European countries involved in the covert program were not published at the request of senior U.S. officials, including a direct appeal from President Bush. They argued that the disclosure might disrupt counterterrorism efforts in those countries and elsewhere and make them targets of possible terrorist retaliation, according to The Washington Post.
Marty named seven countries which he said "could be held responsible, in varying degrees, which are not always settled definitively, for violations of the rights of specific individuals".
They were the UK , Germany , Italy , Sweden , Bosnia and Herzegovina , Turkey and the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia . Seven more colluded, "actively or passively", in the detention or transfer of unknown persons.
Washington has never denied moving terrorist suspects to other countries for questioning, but does deny allegations of torture, and of deliberately picking centres in Eastern Europe and beyond, outside the US human rights jurisdiction.
Mr Marty's report is now due to be debated by the Strasbourg-based Council of Europe's Parliamentary Assembly later this month. The Assembly brings together 630 MPs from the 46 Council of Europe member states, which include all 25 EU member states, The Independent says.
Prepared by Alexander Timoshik