European countries must investigate their alleged involvement in CIA renditions, Amnesty International said today, as a hearing into a new report on the EU's complicity got underway.
The report on the illegal transfer, disappearance, and torture of detainees in Europe is being prepared by the European Parliament's (EP) committee on Civil Liberties, Justice & Home Affairs (LIBE). It is the follow-up to the EP's 2007 investigation.
"New data and information which has come to light over the past five years makes it imperative for member states to act," said Julia Hall, Amnesty International's expert on counter-terrorism and human rights, who is testifying at the hearing on Tuesday.
"The EP process is the perfect opportunity to press reluctant governments to make progress on accountability for operations which involved egregious human rights violations, including torture and enforced disappearance."
The 2007 report, led by rapporteur Claudio Fava, faced major opposition in the European Parliament, resulting in virtually no real accountability among EU countries.
The fifth anniversary - and the new report - mark key milestones in the road to unlock the truth about European complicity.
Governments which allegedly colluded with the CIA have an obligation under international human rights law to ensure an independent, impartial, thorough and effective investigation is carried out.
Since the Fava report, the Lithuanian Government has admitted hosting secret CIA prisons; a building in Romania's capital Bucharest has been identified as being an alleged CIA detention centre, and a Polish investigation into secret sites has repeatedly faltered, despite data released in 2009 adding to evidence of complicity.
According to media reports today, a former head of intelligence in Poland has been charged in relation to CIA detainees held in Poland. Amnesty International said it is monitoring the situation closely.
Denmark and Finland have been linked to Lithuania in recent releases of rendition flight data. Finland has declined to investigate further and Denmark's current enquiry is too narrow to comply with human rights standards.
A proposed British enquiry was abruptly halted in 2011 pending the outcome of a criminal investigation into British complicity in CIA renditions to Libya.
"There is no dearth of information’, said Hall. "But there’s an appalling lack of political will to secure the truth. How can the EU, which portrays itself as a human rights standard-bearer, presume to tell other governments, notably those involved in the Arab Spring, how important human rights are when it steadfastly refuses to investigate its own alleged complicity in torture and disappearance?"
Amnesty International has urged EU countries to cooperate fully with the EP process, which includes sharing information and permitting site visits.
It believes the LIBE committee should produce an authoritative and comprehensive report highlighting gaps in accountability processes at national and EU level.
The report should recommend an EP resolution which requires member states to conduct a human rights-compliant investigations into complicity in the CIA operations, afford effective redress to victims of these practices, and reform any agency or system which led to the abuses in the first place.