January 24, 2006

US ‘Outsourced’ Torture: Probe

By Jon Boyle

STRASBOURG, France -- A European human rights investigator said on Tuesday there was evidence the United States had "outsourced" torture to other countries and it was likely that European governments knew about it.

But Swiss senator Dick Marty, who heads an investigation by the Council of Europe human rights watchdog, said he had not uncovered any irrefutable evidence to confirm allegations that the CIA operated secret detention centers in Europe.

His remarks, in a preliminary report, kept pressure on the CIA and European governments over allegations that the U.S. intelligence agency flew prisoners through airports in Europe to jails in third countries where they may have been tortured.

"There is a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing of torture'," Marty said in his initial report into the allegations for the 46-nation Council, based in the eastern French city of Strasbourg.

He said it had been proved that "individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported to different destinations in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered degrading treatment and torture."


Marty estimated that more than 100 people had been involved in "renditions" -- delivering prisoners to jails in third countries, where they may have been mistreated or tortured.

"It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware," he added.

But Marty said there was no firm evidence of detention centers in Europe similar to the one operated by the United States at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba.

The U.S. government has neither denied nor confirmed the reports of secret detention centers, first made in the Washington Post newspaper in November.

The allegations have named Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria as hosts to secret detention centers. No country has acknowledged playing any active role in the network.

Earlier this month, Marty said European states had deliberately turned a blind eye to the "dirty work" that had gone on and were complicit in illegal CIA activities during the war on terrorism.

The allegations followed widespread anger in Europe about the U.S. treatment of prisoners in Iraq and detainees at Guantanamo Bay, where hundreds of people judged by the U.S. military to be illegal combatants are held without charge.

There was no immediate reaction from the United States.

Denis MacShane, a former minister for Europe in U.S. ally Britain, told reporters that Marty's report "has more holes than a Swiss cheese."

"I have read it carefully and there is nothing new, no proof, no witness statement, no document that justifies the claims made," MacShane, a British member of parliament, said.

"The report simply re-circulates newspaper allegations and sustains the anti-American propaganda that seeks to divide the democracies of Europe and the world when we should be united to defeat those who murdered hundreds of Europeans in (bomb attacks in) Madrid and London, and who plan fresh attacks."