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Europe rights body urges US to end secret prisons for terror detainees

[JURIST] The President of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe [official website], the region's official human rights watchdog organization, said Monday that US practices of allegedly subjecting terror suspects to torture do nothing to make the country safer in its prosecution of the war on terror. Marking the five-year anniversary of the September 11 attacks [JURIST news archive], Rene van der Linden said [statement]:

Five years ago today, the world stopped. A handful of deranged men, doing what they thought was the will of God, murdered over three thousand people in a monstrous event designed for the television age. We will never forget. Above all else, we acknowledge and mourn the loss of the families touched by that day.

But we must move on. Their loss is the spur to our work: we must do everything in our power to prevent such grief recurring. That means resolutely tracking and bringing to justice the perpetrators of such acts, and vigilance and determination in preventing further attacks.

But this difficult work must be done within the tried and tested framework of international and human rights law – or it will not make us safer. I have no doubt that interrogating suspects using 'alternative procedures' in secret locations beyond the law – official US government policy as of this week – will not make Americans safer in the long run. It is in America's interest to end this practice now.
Last week, US President Bush disclosed that the US has operated secret CIA prisons [JURIST report] outside the US where high-value terror suspects [DNI backgrounder, PDF] were detained and interrogated. Reacting to Bush's announcement, Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis said that "Secret prisons are not only wrong, they are also counterproductive" and proposed new mechanisms [press release; DOC text; COE materials] to prevent human rights violations in Europe in connection with the war on terror.

Also Monday, Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg expressed concern [statement] about government infringements on civil liberties, saying that "Suspects have been interrogated under torture and deprived of liberty without due process. Such methods are not only ineffective but undermine the ethical foundation of a free, democratic society." Hammarberg also said:
The total prohibition of torture must be reaffirmed and the policy of extra-ordinary renditions and secret detentions terminated. National security services should be based on clear and appropriate legislation providing for adequate safe-guards against abuse. Governments should secure parliamentary oversight of these agencies and, where human rights are affected, an effective judicial control.
AP has more.

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