CIA report highlights European complicity

Marty said it was highly likely European governments knew of the CIA centres Keystone

A Swiss investigator says that European governments probably knew about CIA abductions and the transfer of detainees through European airspace.

This content was published on January 24, 2006 - 09:41

But Dick Marty, who is investigating the affair for the Council of Europe, said in an interim report he had no concrete proof of CIA detention centres in eastern Europe or elsewhere.

It is highly unlikely that European governments, or at least their intelligence services, were unaware of the "rendition" of more than 100 detainees, Marty said on Tuesday.

Marty's interim report on CIA prisons and flights for the Council of Europe, the continent's human rights watchdog, was made public in a memorandum.

Citing statements made by American officials and others, Marty said there was "a great deal of coherent, convergent evidence pointing to the existence of a system of 'relocation' or 'outsourcing' of torture".

He added: "It has been proved – and in fact never denied – that individuals have been abducted, deprived of their liberty and transported... in Europe, to be handed over to countries in which they have suffered... torture."

The report said that extraordinary rendition - transferring terror suspects to countries where they may face torture or ill treatment - "seems to have concerned more than a hundred persons in recent years".

However, Marty acknowledged that, at this stage, there was no formal, irrefutable evidence of the existence of secret CIA detention centres in Romania, Poland or any other country.

The Council of Europe began investigating reports of CIA secret jails in Europe and covert rendition flights in November last year following a report in the Washington Post.


In two countries – Italy and Germany – judicial investigations have begun into the abduction of persons subsequently transported to Guantanamo, Afghanistan and other detention centres by means of aircraft linked to the CIA, the report states.

One case concerned an Egyptian cleric Hassan Mustafa Osama Nasr, also known as Abu Omar, who sought asylum in Italy after his Islamic organisation was declared illegal by the Egyptian government in the 1980s.

On February 17, 2003 he was abducted as he walked to his mosque in Milan for midday prayers. He was taken to Egypt via Germany, overflying Swiss air space.

Italy has issued arrest warrants for 22 suspected CIA agents accused of involvement in the kidnapping. Nasr's Egyptian defence lawyer claims the cleric was tortured after he arrived in Egypt.

Several other investigations are under way into whether European countries may have hosted secret CIA-run prisons or allowed detainees to be transferred through their territory.

The Swiss Federal Prosecutor's Office said the timing of Nasr's flights and the alleged kidnapping played a role in the opening of a Swiss investigation.

Separate investigations are under way in Switzerland after a Sunday newspaper published a confidential fax sent by Egypt's foreign ministry to the Egyptian embassy in London.

The fax, which was intercepted by the Swiss intelligence service in November, allegedly confirmed the existence of secret prisons in Europe.

swissinfo with agencies

Key facts

Switzerland may have been unintentionally involved in the secret prison affair because of CIA flights and landings in Swiss airspace and territory.
The Swiss authorities have asked Washington for explanations about four landings at Geneva airport and 30 flights in Swiss airspace.
The Federal Prosecutor's Office has also opened an investigation.

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In brief

The following issues are mentioned in the report's chapter on Switzerland:

The role the Swiss authorities played in cooperating with the US in the questioning and subsequent arrest of American citizen José Padilla in 2002 as an "enemy combatant".

The interception of a fax by Swiss intelligence sent from Egypt to London. The fax, referring to secret detention centres was later published in a Swiss newspaper.

The case of Abu Omar, abducted in Milan and most likely flown through Swiss airspace.

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