January 18, 2006

EU lawmakers to check “no Guantanamo” in Europe

By Ingrid Melander

BRUSSELS (Reuters) - The credibility of the European Union
is at stake over accusations the CIA ran secret prisons in the
bloc, a top European lawmaker said on Wednesday as the European
Parliament formally launched a probe into the scandal.

"There must be no Guantanamo on European soil," foreign
affairs committee chair Elmar Brok told Reuters, referring to
the controversial U.S. detention center in Cuba.

"We want to be clear to our people and to the rest of the
world that we do not violate human rights."

The decision to create a European Parliament committee to
look into media and rights group allegations of CIA detention
centers in EU member and candidate countries was taken last
week by political leaders in the assembly.

The panel was launched on Wednesday in Strasbourg and has
no investigative powers and its mandate is to collect and
analyze information on the allegations.

The newspaper reports and human rights groups have said the
United States ran centers in eastern Europe where suspects
where interrogated, tortured or transported to other countries
in a process that Washington calls "rendition."

Romania, Poland and others have denied they let the United
States hold terrorism suspects on their territory. The U.S.
government has neither denied nor confirmed the reports of
secret jails, first made by the Washington Post in November.

The Council of Europe, a human rights body comprising EU
member states and other countries, has launched its own
investigation and its preliminary results will be announced on
January 23 by lead investigator Dick Marty a Swiss senator.

He said last week he believed European governments had been
complicit in illegal CIA activities in the "war on terror."

A British member of the European Parliament, Sarah Ludford,
said the parliamentary committee would put political pressure
on member states to come up with the truth about the

Ludford, from the Liberal group and who is tipped by
lawmakers to act as vice chairman of the committee, said the
panel ought to summon top EU officials, such as foreign policy
chief Javier Solana, visit sites believed to have been used by
the CIA and speak to people who were alleged to have been

The chairs and members of the new committee are due to be
appointed on Thursday.

Although no date for a first meeting has been decided yet,
the 46-member committee is likely to start working as early as
next week, a European Parliament spokesman said.

"It is clear we need cooperation with the United States
against terrorism, but it should be in a way that is in
accordance with our values," Brok said.