January 24, 2006

US “outsourced” torture: investigator

By Jon Boyle

STRASBOURG, France (Reuters) - The United States flew
detainees to countries where they would be tortured and
European governments probably knew about it, the head of a
European human rights investigation said on Tuesday.

But Swiss senator Dick Marty said in a preliminary report
for the Council of Europe human rights watchdog that he had
found no irrefutable evidence to confirm allegations that the
CIA operated secret detention centers in Europe.

His report kept pressure on the U.S. Central Intelligence
Agency over the charges that it flew prisoners through European
airports to jails in third countries, but Washington denied any
wrongdoing and critics said the report contained nothing new.

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

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

At the State Department in Washington, spokesman Sean
McCormack dismissed the report as "same old reports wrapped up
in some new rhetoric. There's nothing new here."

The September 11 attacks on U.S. landmarks sparked a U.S.
global war on terrorism against al Qaeda and led to the
invasion of Iraq. Public opinion has hardened in Europe since
deadly bomb attacks in London last July and in Madrid in March,

But the allegations about the CIA, first made by newspapers
and human rights groups late last year, have put pressure on
the United States and European governments to explain their
actions and those of their secret services.

Marty 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

He estimated more than 100 people had been subject to the
process known as "rendition."


Romania, Poland, Ukraine, Kosovo, Macedonia and Bulgaria
have faced accusations that the CIA used detention centers on
their soil.

Marty acknowledged there was no firm evidence of detention
centers in Europe similar to the one at Guantanamo Bay in Cuba,
where hundreds of people judged by the U.S. military to be
illegal combatants are held without charge.

But he said U.S. media had faced government pressure not to
publish further accusations, and he expected newly received
European satellite and flight data to boost his investigation.

The United States has not denied or confirmed the existence
of secret detention centers.

U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff told
reporters in Paris he had not seen Marty's report but "the
government acts in accordance with the law and with respect to
the sovereignty of host countries in which it operates."

"The authorities are free to investigate what they want to
investigate but we should not allow ourselves to be distracted
from the need to identify, prevent and protect against
terrorist acts of violence," he added.

The State Department's McCormack insisted the United States
"does not torture," respects the sovereignty of European allies
and does not transfer suspects to countries where there is
reasonable expectation they might be subjected to torture
without first seeking assurances they will not be tortured.

There may be differences between Europe and America on
these issues, but "we are fighting the same fight, we share the
same core values. And what we need is discussion and dialogue
about how to deal with the issues that confront us," McCormack
told a news briefing.

He said if Europeans had more questions on this issue, the
United States would try to answer them.

Denis MacShane, a British member of parliament and former
minister for Europe, told reporters Marty's report "has more
holes than a Swiss cheese." A British government spokesman said
there seemed to be no new facts.

European Security Commissioner Franco Frattini urged EU
members to cooperate fully with Marty's probe but said it was
too early to draw conclusions.

Poland said the report left no "basis for thinking such
camps or prisons existed on Polish territory."

(Additional reporting by Ingrid Melander in Brussels, Kate
Baldwin in London and Paul Carrel in Paris)