by Jerome a Paris
Fri Nov 25th, 2005 at 03:38:00 AM EST
I received this morning an e-mail from Le Monde, which says that the following will be [and indeed is] the main headline of this afternoon's paper:
According to our information, the US military camp "Camp Bondsteel", in Kosovo, hosted a prison similar to that in Guantanamo. 6,000 US soldiers live on that base, which occupies 300 hectares near Ferisaj, a town south of Pristina, the "capital" of the UN-administered province.
Update [2005-11-25 14:15:40 by Jerome a Paris]: I have now access to the paper version of Le Monde, translated below.
Update [2005-11-25 14:46:15 by Jerome a Paris]: Links to the articles now available online (in French):
Une "prison secrète" américaine a existé dans un camp de l'OTAN au Kosovo (An American "secret prison" was located in a NATO camp in Kosovo)
"Bondsteel", un camp retranché à l'abri des regards (Bondsteel, a fortified camp protected from outside view)
Update [2005-11-25 8:56:2 by Jerome a Paris]: musing graze over at dKos provides this link in English from Reuters on the story.
The original text (it's from their daily e-mail announcing the headlines of their paper edition which comes out in the early afternoon, and it's sent in the morning to their subscribers):
Un "petit Guantanamo" au Kosovo
D'après nos informations, la base militaire américaine "Camp Bondsteel ", au Kosovo, a abrité une prison semblable à celle de Guantanamo. Six mille soldats de l'US Army vivent sur cette base, qui s'étire sur 300 hectares près de la localité de Ferisaj, au sud de Pristina, la " capitale " de la province administrée par l'ONU.
Their website has no information on this for the time being, but they have some interesting articles from their previous edition which say that the Swiss investigator on behalf of the Council of Europe has information from Human Rights Watch, as well as "other information" which he would not comment but said strongly suggested that there has been a network of small prisons, each with one or a few prisoners. On the other hand, that Swiss guy was saying that there was no "Guantanamo style" camp that he knew of, so today's news would be a significant break.
Update [2005-11-25 4:30:9 by Jerome a Paris]: Via Idiot Savant in the comments:
If you have Google Earth, the ICBM-address is 42o21'39" N by 21o14'36" E. Thoughtfully, half the camp is in high-resolution, so you can count the HMMWVs outside the barracks. There's also a nice aerial photo here.
And via Plutonium Page
, info on Camp Bondsteel
Update [2005-11-25 8:15:40 by Jerome a Paris]:
From the paper version of Le Monde (no link yet, will provide as soon as it's there) it appears that their main information is the testimony of Alvaro Gil Robles, the commissaire for human rights of the Council of Europe, who visited the camp in september 2002.
I have translated his quotes below and summarise the other information provided by Le Monde below. Note that the Council of Europe has NOTHING to do with the EU. It is the main organisation in Europe for democracy and human rights and includes countries like Russia, Turkey and Serbia/Montenegro since 2003)
"From one of the towers, the camp looked like a smaller version of Guantanamo. Small wood houses were surrounded by high barbed wire. I saw between 15 and 20 prisoners, locked in these houses, all dressed in orange coveralls like in Guantanamo. Most were seating, some were locked in isolated cells. Some were bearded, some were reading the Koran. There was room between the cells for guard rounds. A female US soldier working in the prison told me that she had just come here after having served in Guantanamo."
"I was shocked by what I saw"
Le Monde indicates that he was finally brought to the camp by French general Valentin, the commander of KFOR and visibly unhappy with what was happening with the prisoners, after he had asked to visit several times after hearing of extrajudiciary arrests in Kosovo. Gil Robles said that, after his visit, he asked for this to stop and states that he was assured in the year after his visit that it had.
The region has an extremely ambiguous legal status, being part of Serbia but administered by NATO on behalf of the UN with US forces only partly subject to NATO authority (and their allies unhappy about that). From 1999 on, the military had rights to arrest and hold people for 30 days without any recourse. Now rules say that prisoners have to be brought back to the judicial system which has been rebuilt by MINUK (UN) within 48 hours, but "nobody knows what happens in the military bases".
According to Gil Robles, the prisoners were a mix of locals (Serbs and Kosovars) but at least 4 were North African, officially arrested near the Macedonian border for "security reasons". They were apparently member of a Muslim NGO and were freed later as there was nothing against them.
As Le Monde notes, this is more than 3 years old and Gil Robles did not mention the camp in his report back then. But the recent emergence of the stories about CIA camps has made him speak up today so that the whole truth comes out about this camp and possible others in Europe.