Inconvenient News,
       by smintheus

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

  Council of Europe report finds evidence of secret CIA prisons in Europe

The Guardian will have an important story tomorrow about the Council of Europe's investigation into CIA torture flights, which I've discussed here in April. The report will show that 14 European countries actively colluded with the CIA in facilitating CIA "rendition" flights and the kidnapping of their own citizens by the CIA, or they looked the other way while the CIA operated on their territory.

Much of the most important news was broken months ago. EuroControl, the EU air traffic control bureau, cooperated with the investigation by providing flight data on a large number of aircraft controlled by the CIA, allowing the investigators to follow their routes and compare these to the accounts given by men who'd been abducted by the CIA and flown to secret prisons. These comparisons revealed "rendition circuits" used by the CIA. A summary of the preliminary findings of the investigation is provided by this AP story.

Dick Marty, who headed the earlier investigation, is quoted by The Guardian accusing Britain, Spain, Turkey, Germany and Cyprus of actively assisting the CIA in rendition flights; and Italy, Sweden, Bosnia, and Macedonia of permitting the CIA to kidnap their own citizens. In other words, according to Marty it is an absolutely horrific international conspiracy to flout basic human rights laws.

The aspect of the report which may receive the most publicity is the finding that Roumania almost certainly, and Poland probably, have allowed the CIA to set up secret prisons on their soil.

Mr Marty alleges there is enough concrete evidence, mainly consisting of flight data, to support suspicions that Romania and Poland have allowed the operation of secret CIA detention centres on their soil, despite official denials.

The evidence against Romania, he says, comes from a "rendition circuit" involving a CIA Boeing 737 with registration N313P, that began in Cyprus on January 21 2004. The plane and the CIA team on board went from Cyprus to Morocco the following day to pick up Benyam Mohammed and take him to Afghanistan. The plane then returned to Europe to render el-Masri, on January 24, also to Afghanistan. Finally, Mr Marty believes, the pattern of the flight indicates it transferred another suspect from Afghanistan to a secret detention place in Romania.

The drop-off in Romania could not be explained, says Mr Marty, by any need to refuel. "The most likely hypothesis is that the purpose of this flight was to transport one or several detainees from Kabul to Romania," he concludes. He adds that although he has not uncovered definitive evidence of a secret detention centre in Romania, his findings justify further investigation. Romania, he adds, "is thus far the only Council of Europe member state to be located on one of the rendition circuits we believe we have identified, and which bears all the characteristics of a detainee transfer or drop-off point".

Mr Marty also highlights a number of flights from Afghanistan to Poland at times when it is now known that terrorism suspects were being transferred from Kabul to unknown destinations. His suspicions were fuelled by the Polish authorities' failure to cooperate: while EuroControl's records detailed a series of flights into the country, including a number to the Szymany air base, north east of Warsaw, local officials claimed they had no records of the visits. Mr Marty describes that as "highly unusual", and adds: "Poland cannot be considered to be outside the rendition circuits simply because it has failed to furnish information corroborating my data from other sources."

As you probably are aware, June has been marked out as Torture Awareness Month. To my mind, this is the clearest possible sign of how badly the world has been abused by George Bush's presidency. When I was a lad, the idea that Americans would ever feel the need to declare a 'Torture Awareness Day', much less 'Month', would have been considered far-fetched. Now, we almost consider it a normal thing to do.

It reminds me of a talk I had years ago with a Spanish friend, a conservative Catholic. I asked him what it was like growing up under a dictatorship. He replied 'It was just normal. I never really thought about it that way. I didn't think there was anything strange about it because that was all I'd ever known.'

We are rapidly reaching that point in America, too. Will the next generation think it is normal for our government to torture and kidnap people? Will it even occur to them to wonder whether there's another way of life?

What my government has become, disgusts me. That is why I've joined Bloggers Against Torture. Please join them as well. Help to take back what we've lost.


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