Thursday, June 08, 2006

Collusion and empty denials

When the news broke that the United States was shuttling high-ranking terrorism suspects to secret "black prisons" in Europe and detaining or even torturing them in violation of local law, European governments acted surprised. Echoing Sergeant Schultz, they loudly proclaimed that they knew nothing. Nothing! Several even launched investigations. Unfortunately, a report released today by Dick Marty, the Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly's Rapporteur on rendition has made it clear just how empty those denials were. Using air-traffic control data, witness statements and sources inside intelligence services, Marty has mapped the US rendition system - and found that many European governments were wilfully blind, if not active participants:

The body of information gathered makes it unlikely that European states were completely unaware of what was happening, in the context of the fight against international terrorism, in some of their airports, in their airspace or at American bases located on their territory. Insofar as they did not know, they did not want to know. It is inconceivable that certain operations conducted by American services could have taken place without the active participation, or at least the collusion, of national intelligence services. If this were the case, one would be justified in seriously questioning the effectiveness, and therefore the legitimacy, of such services. The main concern of some governments was clearly to avoid disturbing their relationships with the United States, a crucial partner and ally.

And so they looked the other way on rendition and torture, and in some cases actively cooperated in the rendition and subsequent questioning of their own citizens or residents. Subsequently, many dragged their feet or actively impeded investigations into rendition activity on their territory, or claimed that there was no need to investigate as they had received "assurances" from the United States that it was not happening (even in the face of clear evidence that it was). Marty names seven states which can be shown to have violated the rights of specific individuals, contrary to their obligations under the ECHR: Sweden, Bosnia-Herzegovina, the UK, Italy, Macedonia, Germany and Turkey. In addition, he accuses both Poland and Rumania - both of whom refused to cooperate with the investigation - of hosting CIA detention facilities, and various other countries of active or passive collusion. He demands that all states conduct full public inquiries into rendition on their territory (as they are obligated to under the ECHR), and cease all cooperation in rendition operations immediately.

The shit is likely to hit the fan over this. Americans seem not to care what their government does in the name of the "war on terror". Europeans do. There will be calls for full investigations, and for those responsible for cooperating with the US in gross human rights violations to resign or even be prosecuted. And that IMHO is exactly what should happen. Rendition violates international law. It violates the domestic law of those countries in which flights touch down. And it certainly violates acceptable political standards in those countries. Those responsible should be held accountable.