The head of an investigation into alleged CIA secret prisons in Europe said Wednesday that evidence suggests planes carrying terror suspects stopped in Romania and Poland and likely dropped off detainees there.
Swiss Sen. Dick Marty’s final report, however, offered no clear, direct proof that CIA detention centers were set up in Europe – an allegation made by a human rights group last year.
Marty said Romania was part of what he called a “renditions circuit” and was used as a stopover by CIA-linked planes carrying terror suspects. He also said an airport in Poland was likely used as a detainee drop-off point, and accused a total of 14 European countries, including Britain, Italy and Germany, of violating human rights in connection with CIA activities.
“We believe we are in a position to state that successive CIA rendition operations have taken place in the course of the same, single flight circuit,” Marty said in a report commissioned by the Council of Europe, the continent’s leading human rights watchdog.
The report is addressed to the 46 Council of Europe member states and will likely be used by the group to put pressure on the countries implicated in it to investigate the allegations.
The report relied mostly on flight logs provided by the European Union’s air traffic agency, Eurocontrol, witness statements gathered from people who said they had been abducted by U.S. intelligence agents, and judicial and parliamentary inquiries in various countries.
In his report, Marty put airports in Timisoara, Romania, and Szymany, Poland, in a “detainee transfer/drop-off point” category, together with eight airports outside Europe.
Human Rights Watch
Marty analyzed a flight pattern of a plane with tail number N313P. He said the plane arrived in Timisoara from Kabul, Afghanistan, on the night of Jan. 25, 2004, after having transported Khaled El-Masri, a German who said he had been abducted by foreign intelligence agents in Macedonia, to the Afghan capital. El-Masri claims he was imprisoned for five months and tortured there.
Marty said the plane with the crew that accompanied El-Masri stayed in Timisoara for 72 minutes before leaving for Palma de Mallorca in the Mediterranean Sea.
“Having eliminated other explanations – including that of a simple logistics flight – the most likely hypothesis of the purpose of this flight was to transport one or several detainees from Kabul to Romania,” Marty said in the report without elaborating.
Marty said that based on the information at his disposal, he deduced the Szymany airport in northeastern Poland was used for a rendition flight in September 2003.
Neither country offered immediate comment, but both have denied involvement in the past.
Marty’s investigation runs parallel to one by the European Parliament, which has said that data from Eurocontrol shows there have been more than 1,000 clandestine CIA flights stopping on European territory since the Sept. 11 attacks in the United States.
But officials said the data does not make clear if there were detainees were on board the flights, nor does it shed any light on allegations of CIA secret prisons.
Allegations that CIA agents shipped prisoners through European airports to secret detention centers, including compounds in Eastern Europe, were first reported in November by The Washington Post. Human Rights Watch later identified air bases in Poland and Romania as possible locations of the alleged secret prisons, but both countries have denied involvement.
Clandestine prisons and secret flights via Europe to countries where suspects could face torture would breach the continent’s human rights treaties, including the European Convention on Human Rights. The Council of Europe, the guardian of the treaty, has no power to punish countries for breaching it, other than terminating their membership in the organization.
The European Union could theoretically suspend the voting rights of a country found to have breached the convention, however the evidence would likely have to be proved in court.
In his report, Marty said that most European government “did not seem particularly eager to establish the alleged facts.”
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