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Europe: Pending Questions on CIA Activities in Europe

Council of Europe Deadline Is Today; European Parliament to Begin Hearings

European governments must provide detailed information about their participation in or knowledge of the Central Intelligence Agency’s unlawful detention and transfer of terrorist suspects.

Two European bodies are investigating the CIA’s activities in Europe. The Council of Europe has asked governments to provide, by February 21, explanations regarding European involvement in the CIA’s detainee operations. The European Parliament will hold hearings on the subject on February 23.

“Information about the CIA’s secret detention and rendition programs isn’t going to fall from the sky,” said Joanne Mariner, Human Rights Watch’s terrorism and counterterrorism director. “Getting to the truth about these secret operations is a daunting task that will require full cooperation from European governments.”

Human Rights Watch singled out Germany, Italy, Macedonia and Sweden as countries that need to provide specific information on transfers of terrorism suspects to places where they were at risk of torture. Poland and Romania must respond to allegations that the CIA operated secret detention sites on their territory.

Human Rights Watch called on these countries to provide detailed information about cases that involved operations on their soil, as follows:

Germany, Italy and Macedonia

The governments of Germany and Italy should provide information on the alleged abduction in Milan of Abu Omar, an Egyptian cleric, by CIA personnel on February 17, 2003. A prosecutor in Milan has indicted 22 CIA personnel for Abu Omar’s abduction. He has credibly alleged that Abu Omar was held for a short time at the U.S. military base at Aviano in Italy, flown to the Ramstein U.S. military base in Germany, and then transferred to another plane and flown to Cairo, where he was allegedly tortured. Both the Italian and German governments need to provide more information about their knowledge of or involvement in this case and facilitate meetings between relevant officials, Council of Europe investigators, and investigators with the European Parliament.

The governments of Germany and Macedonia should also provide information on the case of Khalid el Masri, a German national who was arrested by Macedonian authorities in January 2004. Masri was transferred to U.S. custody in the Macedonian capital Skopje and then flown to Afghanistan, where he was held in a secret CIA detention facility near Kabul until his release in mid-2004. (For more information, please visit: and


The Swedish government should provide information on the rendition of Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed al-Zari, two Egyptian asylum seekers in Sweden who were handed over to CIA operatives at Stockholm’s Bromma airport and transported together in December 2001 on a CIA-leased plane from Sweden to Egypt.

In its May 2005 decision on the Ahmed Agiza case, the U.N. Committee Against Torture found that Sweden had violated article 3 of the Convention Against Torture by handing Agiza over to U.S. authorities in Stockholm and thus assisting in his transfer to Egypt, where both he and al-Zari claim that they were tortured. The U.N. committee noted that the diplomatic assurances allegedly guaranteeing that the men would not be tortured, which the Swedish government secured from Egypt in advance of the expulsions, did not suffice to protect against the manifest risk of torture that the men faced in Egypt. (For more information, see the Human Rights Watch report, Still at Risk: Diplomatic Assurances No Safeguard Against Torture, April 2005, at:

The Swedish government has yet to fully comply with the decision of the Committee Against Torture. Moreover, it has neither fully explained the extent of its knowledge of or involvement in the transfer, nor has it taken adequate steps to remedy the violations suffered by Agiza and al-Zari. Agiza remains in a Cairo prison following a patently unfair trial. Al-Zari was released from custody in late 2003, but remains under surveillance by the police.

Poland and Romania

Poland and Romania should assist ongoing investigations by providing information about CIA operations within their countries since 2003.

Poland and Romania should provide information about flights by CIA airplanes into their territory. According to flight records and investigations by Polish and international media, aircraft known to have been used by the CIA to transport prisoners flew on several occasions in 2003 and 2004 to closed military bases or remote airfields in Romania and Poland, on flights from Afghanistan, Jordan, and Guantanamo Bay. (By contrast, most other stops by these planes in Europe have taken place at open civilian airports, unlikely locations for covert operations.)

Both Poland and Romania should instruct their civilian and military aviation authorities to provide records on flights to and from their airfields by CIA-linked planes credibly linked to past prisoner transports from 2002 to the present. These planes include a Boeing 737 under the registration number N313P, and Gulfstream jets registered as N379P and N85VM.

Officials in both countries have denied that secret CIA detention facilities existed in Poland or Romania. But some former military and intelligence officials who served in the Polish and Romanian governments during the period in which the alleged detentions took place have told the media that their governments provided the CIA with exclusive use of certain areas on their territory where authorities of these countries did not have access.

On November 20, former Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu told the Associated Press that Romanian authorities did not have access to certain sites used by U.S. services in Romania in 2003-2004. (When later asked about this statement by other journalists, he said his comments were taken out of context, but did not explain how.)

On December 15, Zbigniew Siemiatkowski, the former head of Poland’s intelligence agency, told the Polish Press Agency that the CIA had a special zone inside a Polish intelligence facility at Stare Kiejkuty, near the Szymany airport in northeastern Poland, as well as at least two other sites within Poland. However, he denied the sites were used for detention. On Polish Radio ZET, Siemiatkowski also confirmed that CIA planes flew into Poland on multiple occasions. Although he refused to discuss the operations and denied the existence of secret prisons, he complained about the CIA leaking information about Poland, asking rhetorically, “What has happened with institutions such as the CIA, that the most confidential information goes public...?”

To All European Governments

On November 21, the secretary-general of the Council of Europe, Terry Davis, initiated a formal inquiry under article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights, under which governments are legally bound to provide, by February 21, explanations regarding their involvement – by action or omission – in unlawful detentions or transfers of detainees. Since November, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has also conducted an ongoing investigation, led by Swiss parliamentarian Dick Marty.

Similarly, the European Parliament last month set up a Temporary Committee to investigate the use of European territory by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of terrorism suspects. The committee will hold its first hearing on the subject on February 23.

In cooperating with these investigations, European governments must at a minimum ensure that their military, intelligence, law enforcement and aviation authorities answer questions and respond to follow-up requests for information from Council of Europe and European Parliament investigators. The following are specific examples of information that member states of each body can and should be providing to investigators:

1.) Member states should direct their aviation authorities to provide records in response to requests for aviation records or flight plans for particular airplanes.
2.) Member states should facilitate meetings and direct officials to cooperate in response to requests to meet with military, law enforcement or intelligence officials.
3.) Each member state should provide information on the detention of alleged terrorism suspects by U.S. military or intelligence services in their country or in other states.
4.) Each member state should provide information on the use by the United States of detention facilities in their country or in other states.
5.) Each member state should provide the names of and detailed information about all persons in their jurisdiction who were transferred into the custody of the United States outside of normal extradition procedures.
6.) Each member state should provide information regarding any transfer that occurred based on reliance upon so-called “diplomatic assurances” that the transferred person would not be subject to torture or other ill-treatment in the receiving country.
7.) Each member state should provide information as to what mechanisms they have in place to respond to requests for the use of their airspace or territory by aircraft owned or operated by the U.S. government, and what information they require to evaluate such requests.
8.) Parliamentarians from member states should initiate national-level inquiries, using parliamentary questions and other such means, to seek information on secret detentions and transfers of prisoners, and should share their findings with Council of Europe and European Parliament investigators.

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