Update: the EU now wants to investigate the suspicion after all
Yesterday, the Washington Post carried a report on the CIA’s secret camp system, in which alleged terror suspects are secretly held abroad, outside any legal system. The existence of such camps in Jordan, Afghanistan, Morocco or Egypt has been known for a long time (secret US camp in Jordan), as well as the practice of transferring some prisoners to friendly intelligence services for embarrassing interrogation (outsourcing of embarrassing interrogation). New, however, was the allegation that such secret camps also existed in two Eastern European countries.
Who is being held in these secret prisons is not known. The Washington Post spoke of about 100 detainees, of which 30 were high-ranking al-Qaida members. Among those held by the CIA in a secret location was Ramsi Binalshib, who was arrested in September 2002 and has since disappeared (like a bad detective story). The fact that he is being held by the U.S. is also proven by the fact that in the Hamburg trials against Motassadeq and Mzoudi (Mzoudi trial: acquittal confirmed by BGH), for example, reference was made to trial transcripts. Among others to guard the open secret, but Binalshib was not allowed to be questioned before the German court.
Security Adviser Stephen Hadley, also implicated in Nigergate, did not deny the existence of such camps, at least at the press conference he gave yesterday, but did not confirm them either. He ared that even if there were such camps, everything would be fair in the treatment of prisoners. No one was really allowed to believe that, especially since U.S. Vice President Cheney is trying to block a bill that would dictate exactly what government employees are not allowed to do with prisoners. At least Cheney wants to see the employees of the CIA exempted from this law, which means that they can continue to torture prisoners without having to expect punishment (US government wants an exemption for the CIA from the impending ban on torture). Hadley, on the other hand, asserted:
While we are doing what is necessary to protect our country from terrorist attacks and to win the war on terror, the President has made it very clear that we are doing it in a way that is consistent with our values. He made it very clear that the U.S. does not torture. The U.S. will carry out its activities in accordance with the law and international obligations.
In addition, he explained that in the cases where the "mabstabe imposed by the President" investigations had been launched in cases where the measures ordered by the president could not have been complied with. The culprits have been punished and regulations have been changed to make sure that the president’s orders are respected.
The Washington Post did not mention the names of the two Eastern European countries where such CIA camps are said to exist. This was done at the request of government officials, who warned that otherwise the fight against terrorism could be damaged. According to Human Rights Watch, two close allies of the Bush administration, Poland and Romania, are suspected of having allowed CIA camps on their soil. Here, some of the "ghost detainees", that is, the secretly held prisoners, were brought out of Afghanistan by airplanes used by the CIA.
Tom Malinowski, the director of Human Rights Watch, is 9i0 percent certain, as he told the British Times, that the CIA used the Szymany airfield in Poland, located near an intelligence facility, to do so in 2003. In Romania it was the military airfield Mihail-Kogalniceanu. Also the Polish newspaper Gazeta Wyborcza refers to "Sources", which claims something similar.
Bulgaria, Slovakia and Hungary quickly denied the existence of CIA prisons. However, Czech Interior Minister Frantisek Bublan said yesterday that the U.S. government had asked his government a month ago whether it would be willing to detain suspects on its territory. But the government refused. In the meantime, Romania and Poland have also rejected the allegations. According to the Washington Post, there is at least one such CIA prison in a European country of the former Eastern Bloc, which became democratic after the collapse of the Soviet Union.
The EU was happy to stay out of the case. This has nothing to do with the EU, said Javier Solana. If it is not Bulgaria or Romania, but for example Poland or Hungary, then human rights violations had been committed within the EU, when prisoners were held in secret camps without charges and access to the legal system, and womoglich after the allegedly since summer 2004 no longer used "Enhanced Interrogation Techniques" tortured or ill-treated by the CIA, in addition to being a violation of the Torture Convention.
Update: Friso Roscam Abbing, spokesman for the European Commission on Justice, Freedom and Security, announced today that the Commission will ask all member countries about CIA detentions in their countries. However, it was only a matter of obtaining information, not an investigation. One still expresses skepticism, but wanted to prevent the criticism by the questioning. "I do not believe", Abbing said, a bit tongue-tied, "that there is such a thing in Eastern Europe, at least not as far as I know."
Abbing explained that such prisons would indeed violate European law, first and foremost the European Convention on Human Rights. As far as the treatment of prisoners is concerned, all member countries had ratified the Convention on Human Rights and the International Convention against Torture and had to comply with the obligations. However, the EU had little ability to take action against a member country that would tolerate such a CIA prison on its soil. If it was one of the countries that wanted to join the EU, they were obliged to respect human rights according to the enlargement criteria. The existence of secret prisons would violate them in any case, Abbing said.
Meanwhile, the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) is calling on the U.S. government to allow access to all foreign terror suspects held in U.S. custody. "We are concerned about the fate of an unknown number of people who have been captured and are being held in secret detention sites as part of the so-called global war on terror. Access to detainees is an important humanitarian priority for the ICRC and a logical continuation of our work in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay", said Antonella Notari, ICRC spokesperson.