Friday, December 29, 2006

America's Polish gulag

Just over a year ago, the Washington Post revealed that the US was operating a network of secret prisons and torture centres - "black sites" - in Eastern Europe. Today, the BBC World Service has a piece on one of them, at a place called Stare Kiejkuty in Poland. The Council of Europe draft report into Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states [PDF] noted that a US Boeing 737, with the tail number N313P - one of the infamous torture planes - had made regular visits to nearby Szymany. The BBC has pinned it down a little further:

After a week of meetings in smoky Warsaw restaurants and coffee bars with Polish intelligence sources, airport workers and journalists, I obtained what I had been looking for, and something that nobody in authority wanted to reveal, the flight log of planes landing at Szymany airport.

They confirmed my eyewitness's account - that a well-known CIA Gulfstream plane, the N379P, had made several landings at the airport in 2003.

The plane has been strongly linked to the transportation of Al-Qaeda terrorists.

(The leaked flight logs up at Ghost Plane show two arrivals and four departures, all in 2003, but they are far from complete).

According to the report and eyewitnesses, the planes would land in the middle of the night and make a secure transfer at one end of the runway. Whoever was in them was taken to Stare Kiejkuty, a former Warsaw pact intelligence training centre. An investigation by the UK's Sunday Mirror actually managed to get inside the place, and reported

a green hangar the size of a football pitch. Locals say this was built last year to house newly-arrived inmates.

The question now is what the EU will do about it. They have evidence that an EU member state hosted a secret US prison in violation of international and EU human rights obligations. That member state is steadfastly refusing to cooperate with any investigation, and behaving like an old Soviet despotism. Surely it is time for the EU to make good on its threats, take a strong stand for human rights, and suspend Poland from membership until it cooperates?