|"US air force planes land at Diego Garcia in support of the 'war on terror' after 9/11 attacks." (Larry A. Simmons/USAF)|
By Ian Cobain
The Guardian, February 5, 2013
"Up to two dozen European countries including the UK could face proceedings before the European Court of Human Rights from their involvement in the CIA's extraordinary rendition operations after 9/11, according to a human rights organisation that has documented worldwide secret support for the programme. At least 54 different governments -- more than a quarter of the world's total -- were covertly engaged with the global kidnap, detention and torture programme, according to a report published on Tuesday by the Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI), a New York-based NGO. The greatest number -- 25 -- were in Europe, while 14 were in Asia and 13 in Africa. Among the European participants, Macedonia has been found guilty by the European Court of the illegal imprisonment and torture of a German national. Proceedings are being brought against Poland, Lithuania and Romania after they permitted the CIA to operate secret prisons on their territory. Italy is facing proceedings in the European court over the state's involvement in the abduction of a Muslim cleric, who was kidnapped in Milan and flown to Egypt to be tortured. Last week an Italian appeal court upheld the conviction of the CIA's local station chief and two other Americans involved in the kidnap. Amrit Singh, the author of the OSJI report, said she believes that other European countries that were involved in the CIA's rendition could also find themselves before the European Court. 'The moral cost of these programs was borne not just by the US but by the 54 other countries it recruited to help,' she said. So extensive was the participation of governments in Europe and elsewhere across the world that the OSJI believes the CIA could not have operated its programme without their support.
'There is no doubt that high-ranking Bush administration officials bear responsibility for authorising human rights violations associated with secret detention and extraordinary rendition, and the impunity that they have enjoyed to date remains a matter of significant concern,' the report says. 'But responsibility for these violations does not end with the United States. Secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations, designed to be conducted outside the United States under cover of secrecy, could not have been implemented without the active participation of foreign governments. These governments too must be held accountable.' The states identified by the OSJI include those such as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Egypt and Jordan, where the existence of secret prisons and the use of torture has been well-documented for many years. But the OSJI's rendition list also includes states such as Ireland, Iceland and Cyprus, which are accused of granting covert support for the programme by permitting access to air space and airports by aircraft that the CIA used during its rendition operations. Canada not only permitted the use of its air space, but provided information that led to one of its one nationals being taken to Syria, where he was held for a year and tortured. Iran -- one of the states within President George W. Bush's so-called axis of evil -- is identified by the OSJI as having participated in the rendition programme, handing 15 individuals over to Kabul shortly after the US invasion of Afghanistan, in the full knowledge that they would fall under US control. Syria, another state that does not enjoy friendly diplomatic relations with the US, is said to have been one of the 'most common destinations for rendered suspects'. Other countries are conspicuous by their absence from the rendition list: Sweden and Finland are present, but there is no evidence of Norwegian involvement. Similarly, while many Middle Eastern countries did become involved in the rendition programme, Israel did not, according to the OSJI research. Many of the countries on the list are European. Germany, Spain, Portugal and Austria are among them, but France, Holland and Hungary are not. Georgia stands accused of involvement in rendition, but Russia does not. The OSJI reports that the UK supported CIA rendition operations, interrogated people being secretly detained, and allowed the use of British airports and air space. The organisation concludes that the UK also arranged for one man, Sami al-Saadi, to be rendered, along with his entire family, to Libya, where he was subsequently tortured, and provided intelligence that allowed a second similar operation to take place. It has recently emerged that many European countries became involved in the rendition programme as a consequence a series of decisions taken in secret at a Nato conference three weeks after 9/11. Subsequently, British intelligence officials maintained for several years that they had been kept in the dark about the programme, although it is now known that the CIA briefed MI6 about its plans five days after 9/11.Shortly after entering the White House, Obama rejected calls for an inquiry into the CIA's operations. Last December the US Senate's Intelligence Committee completed a 6,000-page study of the rendition programme, but it is unclear whether it will ever be published. Democrat committee members say the report shows the CIA committed 'terrible mistakes', but Republican members are refusing to endorse it. [...]"