[JURIST] Two international human rights organizations on Monday accused European countries of suppressing evidence of their roles in the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) [official website] rendition program of forced transfer and secret detention. Legal action charity Reprieve, in cooperation with the human rights organization Access Info Europe [advocacy websites], released their interim findings [report; press release] in a report documenting right of access requests made in 28 countries to investigate flights associated with “extraordinary rendition”—the covert transfer of prisoners by the US from locations in Europe, the Middle East and elsewhere in Asia. The report shows that only seven countries have provided information following right of access requests, with five other countries responding with claims that they do not hold the information requested, three countries and Eurocontrol [official website] denying the requests outright and almost half of the total countries polled responding with administrative silence. The groups admonished the European countries that lagged in terms of transparency:
The right of information is a fundamental right in itself, as has been recognised by the European Court of Human Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee. It is also an instrumental right, essential for the protection of other human rights. Information concerning grave infringements of human rights should never be withheld from the public.
The report found the US provided the most comprehensive response to the requests, having handed over Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) [official website] records with data on more than 27,000 flight segments. Canada, one of the countries to refuse the information requests, responded that its civil air navigation services provider is a private body that does not fall under the scope of Canada’s access to information law and so is not required to provide information. The report claims that the 13 countries responding with administrative silence have violated the right of access to information and are “covering up the serious violations of the human rights of those who were the victims of extraordinary rendition.”
Many of the flights that are being investigated passed through Europe and in some cases the involuntary passengers they carried were allegedly held and tortured in detention centers in Europe. Earlier this month a joint investigation between the Associated Press (AP) [media website] and a German public television company reportedly uncovered a CIA-operated secret prison [JURIST report] outside the capital of Romania. The investigation found that once detainees were placed in the prisons, they endured sleep deprivation and other harsh interrogation techniques, but waterboarding was not allowed in Romania. Investigations have previously uncovered similar “black site” locations in Lithuania and Poland. The Lithuanian National Security Committee concluded that the Lithuanian State Security Department provided the CIA with two secret facilities [JURIST report] in December 2009. In 2007 it was discovered that the CIA had prisons in Romania and Poland [JURIST report], but the governments would never confirm or deny the allegations. In 2010 Poland requested US assistance in their investigation of the alleged prison, but the US government refused to cooperate. The European Parliament [official website] approved a report condemning member states for cooperating with the (CIA) in operating illegal secret prisons and extraordinary rendition flights in Europe in 2007. This action came in the wake of a 2006 report by the Legal Affairs Committee of the Council of Europe [official website] report that alleged that 14 European countries [JURIST report] collaborated with the CIA by taking an active or passive role in secret prisons and rendition flights.