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Rights group urges EU to hold nations accountable for CIA rendition programs

The EU has failed to hold member states legally accountable for their involvement in the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] extraordinary rendition program [JURIST news archive], according to a report [text, PDF] published Monday by Amnesty International (AI) [advocacy website]. In its report, entitled "Open Secret: Mounting Evidence of Europe's Complicity in Rendition and Secret Detention," AI said that limited progress has been made in holding governments accountable, mostly as a result of mounting evidence of certain states' involvement in activities, including hosting secret prisons, allowing the US to use their territories for abduction and rendition, and interrogating individuals under torture. AI said that further progress toward genuine accountability, achieved by bringing perpetrators to justice and providing redress for victims, is most often impeded by the "need" for "state secrecy" in order to protect national security. According to the report, however:

European governments have an opportunity now to recommit to a human rights machinery at the national level that works to end impunity, not perpetuate it. The fact that European states colluded in such egregious violations - illegal transfers, secret detention, and torture and ill- treatment; crimes under international law, in fact - is sobering.
The report concludes with AI stating that, while states hold a duty to protect their populations from violent attack, Europe should not be turned into an "accountability-free zone."

Last month, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) [official website] announced [JURIST report] that it would review the involvement of the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia in the extraordinary rendition and torture of Khaled El-Masri [JURIST news archive] by the CIA. In 2003, on orders from the US, Macedonian authorities seized El-Masri, a German citizen of Lebanese descent, while he was traveling in Macedonia and held him incommunicado for 23 days. He was then handed over to the CIA and transported to a secret detention facility in Afghanistan where he was held for four months in allegedly inhumane conditions, interrogated and abused. In September, Polish prosecutors announced [JURIST report] that they would investigate the alleged mistreatment of accused USS Cole [JURIST news archive] bomber Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri at a secret CIA prison in Poland. The investigation was in response to a request [JURIST report] filed by human rights group Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) [advocacy website] and al-Nashiri's lawyers. The request asked prosecutors to scrutinize al-Nashiri's detention and treatment as part of their investigation [JURIST report] into the allegations of a CIA-operated secret prison in the country and to prosecute those responsible for the acts on Polish soil.

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