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Secret prisons, the EU, and a very strong warning

by Plutonium Page Fri Dec 2nd, 2005 at 06:44:32 AM EST

From the front page (slight edit to push some text below the fold). We have to keep this story alive and screaming, and encourage European politicians to push these inquiries to the end.

(Cross-posted from The Next Hurrah.)

Little by little, over the last year or so, we've begun to learn the extent of the Bush administration's War on TerrorTM as waged by the CIA.  I'm not referring to something they'd put on their website.  I'm talking about "extraordinary rendition", the practice of transferring terrorism suspects to interrogation camps, often in countries where torture is legal.


Recently, the extent of the CIA's rendition program has become clearer, as a number of European countries have reported that they suspect the CIA has been using their airports - without permission - for their rendition flights (click here for a summary as well as a descriptive EU map, pdf).

Three European countries (Spain, Germany, and Italy) have been discussing challenging the CIA's use of their airports;  also, the Council of Europe, as well as the EU parliament have been discussing launching an investigation into reports of CIA interrogation centers in Europe.

Well, things came to a head yesterday with an announcement from the EU Justice Commissioner:

The European Union's top justice official has warned that any EU state found to have hosted a secret CIA jail could have its voting rights suspended.

Franco Frattini said the consequences would be "extremely serious" if reports of such prisons turned out to be true.

This comes amid an EU investigation into claims the US secret service ran clandestine jails in eastern Europe.

The US has refused to confirm or deny the reports, which surfaced in the US earlier this month.

He said a suspension of voting rights would be justified if any country is found to have breached the bloc's founding principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law.

As the article says, the move would be unprecedented.  Also, it would be difficult to achieve, because the other 25 EU member states have to vote unanimously to suspend the voting rights of one state.

Given that the UK is a member of the EU, and Bush's biggest European supporter of the Iraq war (and the War on TerrorTM), a unanimous vote is not likely, unless the prisons are found as well as explicit proof of torture at those prisons.  In that case, it is possible that the UK could be pressured into voting with the other states.

Frattini's proposal is not extreme;  if it isn't obvious why, read through "Prevention of Torture and Rehabilitation of Victims" on one of the official EU websites.

It's sad that the US goverment's policies have degraded so badly means that the suspension of your voting rights is deemed an appropriate sanction against cooperating with them.

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Yahoo News has an interesting slideshow to go with the story.  Click the photo:

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:34:09 AM EST
Thanks Page. I was going to do a story on this as well, so now I don't need to. Let me add a few other articles (you can find several more already in the Breakfast thread) - feel free to use them as you need:


`Secret CIA jails' deepens US/EU divide (FT)

The senior European diplomat could not have been clearer: "You don't talk about torture in the morning and then say in the afternoon: `Democratise yourself'."

His comments, on the contrast between the Bush administration's use of intensive interrogation techniques abroad and its public message about worldwide democratisation, underlined how Iraq-war tensions have found an echo in the controversy over the CIA's alleged "secret prisons".

They also show how, despite President George W. Bush's high-profile attempt this year at rapprochement with Europe, the two sides of the Atlantic are still often at odds over international law and the fight against terrorism.

The storm has steadily grown ever since the Washington Post claimed this month that Europe had hosted secret facilities used by the Central Intelligence Agency to interrogate terror suspects.

The issue is also likely to overshadow the inaugural trip to Washington on Tuesday of Frank-Walter Steinmeier, Germany's new foreign minister, who will discuss the issue with Condoleezza Rice, US secretary of state.

(...)

"We cannot limit ourselves solely to the `secret prisons' issue," said Dick Marty, the Swiss politician who has headed the main political investigation into the incidents under the auspices of the 46-member Council of Europe, covering countries from east and west Europe, including Russia.

He said that further investigation needed to look into "illegal detention, even of a short duration" of US prisoners on European soil, such as stops to refuel aircraft.

At heart, many European countries recoil from Washington's approach to its "war on terrorism", preferring instead the legalistic approach for which the Bush administration criticises its Democratic predecessor.

The controversy is strongest in the "old Europe" countries to the west of the continent, where US diplomacy is often seen as particularly heavy-handed. Despite Mr Bush's multiple trips to Europe this year, public opinion has not warmed to his administration. (...)

"This is a reflection of how the two sides see the world differently and how they see terrorism differently," says Jeremy Shapiro, director of research at the centre for US and Europe at the Brookings Institution in Europe.

"But I don't see this as a huge problem for EU-US relations, because there's not going to be any hugely public spat on this issue. The US won't say that there weren't any secret prisons in Europe, but it will give assurances that they are not there now."

He added that a quiet US backdown was all the more likely because of the attempt by Senator John McCain to provide firmer checks against the use of torture - an initiative that has led to a public relations disaster for the White House.

But in the meantime the dispute has only served to highlight, once again, the profound difference in philosophy between the EU and the Bush administration.

I think this Shapiro guy is wrong. If Frattini, a close Berlusconi ally and a tough right wing law'n'order guy can talk about stripping a country of its EU votes, that means that Europe is starting to take these stories pretty damn seriously - and not just talking about it.

The Council of Europe, which has been shamefully lenient with Russia, can probably use this an opportunity to restore its human rights credentials (and that Swiss prosecutor seems intent to get things moving).

It's going to pollute relationships with Germany, and prevent any rapprochement with Merkel, and it's going to put Blair/Straw in an impossible position (as current presidents of Europe) to have to convey Europe's deep unhappiness over this to Washington or lose all credibility inside Europe.

I was not hopeful when this came out that there would be any meaningful reaction, but now I am getting optimistic that this good become really huge.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:38:31 AM EST
Thanks, Jerome.  I'll check out the breakfast thread as well.

I also think this will be huge.  It had better be.  If it gets to the point that there is a vote, and the UK dissents, how will Blair/Straw explain that one?

That's a rhetorical question, obviously.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:43:25 AM EST
[ Parent ]
More from the FT


Washington seeks to shift EU focus from 'secret jails'

The US sought yesterday to push ahead with its attempt to strengthen ties with Europe, in spite of the continuing furore over allegations that Washington has maintained secret prisons in the continent.

(...)

The Council of Europe, a pan-European grouping, yesterday called for the co-operation of all its 46 member governments, in its own investigation into the affair. The European Commission has declared that hosting secret detention facilities would be incompatible with the obligations of EU membership. One senior US official has privately remarked that the issue of the treatment of terror suspects is the one he most hates addressing in public. The controversy also complicates the US's attempted rapprochement with the EU.

In spite of visits to Europe by President George W. Bush, three-quarters of Europeans polled in a survey by the German Marshall Fund of the US said relations with the US had stayed the same or become worse over the previous 12 months.

Mr Fried said the two sides of the Atlantic had to move beyond "analysing the US-European partnership as if it were a sick child", and focus instead on a common agenda such as Middle East reform and democratisation beyond Europe.

the issue of the treatment of terror suspects is the one he most hates addressing in public.

Poor man... Hint: actually treat terror suspects in accordance with the (US) law and you'll be fine...

analysing the US-European partnership as if it were a sick child

Another hint: it would not be analysed as such if it weren't. It's been bitten by a rapid dog.


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:43:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
... that I decided to cross-post here.  There are some fantastic comments on the thread at The Next Hurrah, but check out this one.  My very own troll.  How incredibly ignorant and and "we rule the world".
by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:47:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
how fitting this criticism comes from Europe, which has a sorry history of appeasement.
Yes, we have been appeasing the US for 4 years now, and we're getting rather tired of it. So, don't push it because you are still mired in your "two simultaneous wars" with no end in sight. The US needs its European allies more than the Europeans need US secret prisons on their territory.

Why doesn't this "Kate" volunteer her basement as a detention facility?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:57:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Maybe someone should arrest this Kate for suggesting things that are obviously illegal in the USA. Maybe she is a terrorist, trying to undermine the constitutional order and subvert the country. I think that a few days in a cell somewhere could make her intentions clearer.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:01:35 AM EST
[ Parent ]
She should definitely be subject to "pressure" so she "softens up" and gives up "actionable intelligence" about "her associates".

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:04:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I know, why don't we bash Kate over the head and...

Oh dear, I'm getting carried away again.

;)

by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:24:15 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not on the head, not on the head... It leaves marks ! (snark)

"What can I do, What can I write, Against the fall of Night". A.E. Housman
by margouillat (hemidactylus(dot)frenatus(at)wanadoo(dot)fr) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 07:59:55 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I think quite a few veterans of the Battle of Britain would be very much offended by that statement.  And the pilots in that were not only Brits, but Continental Europeans, Canadians, Aussies, and Americans.

Me thinks Kate needs to read some history...from, you know, books...and turn Fox News off.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 07:01:38 PM EST
[ Parent ]
Americans are consumed by the meme that they "saved Europe from the Germans twice". They will tell you at the slightest opportunity that "if it wasn't for the US of A you'd be speaking German". Problem is, German is the second most spoken language in Europe anyway, as a native language ans also as a foreign language. And I usually say that if it hadn't been for Hitler we would all be speaking German as Germany was an industrial, scientific and philosophical leader even through the terrible depression of the 1920's and 30's.

The problem is not Fox News. The problem is that Americans construct their worldview around the City on the Hill, the Last Best Hope of Mankind, and the one thing you cannot challenge is people's worldview---you won't change it and they'll hate you for the challenge. This is where hubris comes from, and it will be their downfall, and they need to fall down and crawl back up like the Japanese and the Germans did. I just hope they won't take the whole lot of us with them.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 07:44:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]
It's certainly a myth to say that it was all America.  The Brits and Soviets played critical roles.  More critical than America's, though America's role was, of course, crucial.  I'm personally convinced that, had it not been for Hitler's losses in the Battle of Britain and the invasion of Russia, history would've been very different.

In the end, Germany turned into one of the great success stories of the 20th Century.  Europe went into a spectacular boom after WWII -- like nothing Western Civilization had (or has) ever seen, and much of that came from Germany.

What bothers me about many conservatives in America is the attitude of "We saved your ass in WWII" when none of us were even alive when the war was fought.

Be nice to America. Or we'll bring democracy to your country.

by Drew J Jones (pedobear@pennstatefootball.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 09:22:47 PM EST
[ Parent ]
I'll add to that, what bothers me is the notion that a previous good deed justifies a bad deed now.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 04:18:36 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Oh and to add an appropriate UK-centric bitterness to the issue, you Yanks were nothing but mercenaries. You were well paid for your part. I believe Britain's payments to the US for material aid offered in the war finally expired just a couple of years ago...
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Wed Nov 30th, 2005 at 04:20:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is not a troll, it's just an ignorant, scared person. It's a very common mindset, to think that toughness will make you invulnerable. It's also a mindst that makes terrorism a bigger problem than it is.

  • people who are willing to kill themselves are pretty much impossible to stop. It might thus be a good idea to avoid policies that spawn more and more people willing to kill themselves;

  • again, if we are fighting for our "freedom", the way to do it is probably not to curtail our rights. ("But I a not a terrorist" - yes, but who will you tell if you ever get arrested, because you sat in the bus next to someone who is on a FBI list, or because your phone number is in the addressbook of the neighbor of a terrorist suspect, or....)

  • terrorism is nothing new around the world, it did not appear out of nowhere on 9/11. A number of countries are leanrt to deal with it, and live with it, without going to war with the whole world (and they are not all pussies).


In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:58:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Jérôme, how can you forget that "law abiding citizens have nothing to worry about"?

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:02:44 AM EST
[ Parent ]
It's a very common mindset, to think that toughness will make you invulnerable.

Isn't that what Bush's 2004 campaign was all about, and the reason people voted for him?  "9/11 changed everything, and I'm waging the War on Terror™, which means I'm tough!"

Also, I hate to slam some of my fellow Americans, but the "I'm so badass" attitude isn't just a stereotype (when you're talking about Bush voters, in particular).

It's also a mindset that makes terrorism a bigger problem than it is.

Right - I mean, the Iraq war was all about being "tough" and taking down Saddam.  And look what happened:  terrorism has INCREASED, in part because of the Iraq war.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:19:23 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.
Handsomely "forgot" Al Qaeda HQ and OBL were/are located in Afghanistan and supported by the Taliban, a creation of the Pakistani government and ISS. Iran and Iraq were fervent opponents of Al Qaeda and the Taliban. Iraq is the wrong place to fight Al Qaeda, costing 2100+ American lives, 16,700+ U.S. casualties and 40,000+ Iraqi lives.

Only three states recognized the Taliban regime on 911 :: Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and UAE Dhubai et al.

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
 

▼▼▼ READ MY DIARY

by Oui on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:21:40 AM EST
[ Parent ]

Monographs by Ehsan Ahrari

Jihadi Groups, Nuclear Pakistan and the New Great Game pdf file - 50 pages
Published August 2001 (Carlyle: Strategic Studies Institute, 2001)

The Dynamics of the Great Game in Muslim Central Asia
(Washington, D.C: National Defense University Press, January 1996)


Crawford Texas August 25, 2001  

But, alas ... George doesn't read books nor PDB briefs when on holiday in Texas.

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
 

▼▼▼ READ MY DIARY

by Oui on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 09:41:41 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Mr Fried said the two sides of the Atlantic had to move beyond "analysing the US-European partnership as if it were a sick child", and focus instead on a common agenda such as Middle East reform and democratisation beyond Europe.
Yeah, democratisation in the US would be a goog thing to focus on.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:53:07 AM EST
[ Parent ]
"We cannot limit ourselves solely to the `secret prisons' issue," said Dick Marty, the Swiss politician who has headed the main political investigation into the incidents under the auspices of the 46-member Council of Europe, covering countries from east and west Europe, including Russia.

He said that further investigation needed to look into "illegal detention, even of a short duration" of US prisoners on European soil, such as stops to refuel aircraft.

Do you realize how the Swiss investigator is getting ready to argue that keeping the detainees in the airplanes while refueling amounts to illegal detention, that is, kidnapping?

This is going to get huge, because the prisons may not exist, but the rendition program and the refueling are well documented.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:50:33 AM EST
[ Parent ]
To paraphrase Rumsfeld: you don't indict criminals on the charges you'd like, but on the charges you have (evidence to back).

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:51:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Today, Joschka Fischer's successor as German foreign minister, Frank Walter Steinmeier, pays his inaugural visit to the U.S. Judging from the media reports, stating that the visit was "overshadowed" by the CIA-in-Europe-affair would be an understatement. From Der Spiegel:

Politicians from SPD and Greens still demand a clarification of facts from the USA: Steinmeier is expected to ask about this "forcefully and effectively", the SPD-faction's foreign policy spokesman Gert Weisskirchen said. Weisskirchen is confident that Steinmeier will be able to get answers to his questions. "A wholehearted clarification of facts would be in the best interest of Condoleeza Rice", said the SPD-politician. Although the USA had a priviledged status in Germany, "this does not mean that they are not bound to international law or the German constitution."

Steinmeiers first mission is a delicate one...

by Saturday (geckes(at)gmx.net) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:11:57 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.
Secret CIA Flights Won't Go Away

BERLIN (Der Spiegel) -- Reports keep coming in of covert CIA flights through Europe that carry terrorist suspects to places where torture is legal. A German paper reports that they haven't stopped, which could be awkward for Angela Merkel if she wants to make nice with Washington. Also, ex-Chilean leader Augusto Pinochet celebrates an unhappy birthday, and the EU accuses Israel of stonewalling in Jerusalem.

The Berliner Zeitung reported that American airbases in Germany had been used as pit stops for at least six secret flights, including the two most high-profile missions in the unfolding story of so-called "extraordinary renditions."

For some time it's been suspected that a high-profile terrorist named Abu Omar -- spirited off the streets of Milan by CIA agents in early 2003, according to criminal charges in an Italian court -- was transferred from one plane to another at the Ramstein base, en route to Cairo.

This week the Berlin paper reported that a Hercules C-130 landed at Frankfurt around the same time, refueled, and took off for Baku, Azerbaijan. That flight led to an official complaint from Vienna after it showed up unexpectedly on Austrian radar.

Dutch FM Bernhard Bot Threatens Condoleezza Rice
EU Countries Could Lose Voting Rights

Cross-posted from my diary ::
EU Gets Tough on CIA Torture Flights ¶ "Guten Tag Washington"

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."
 

▼▼▼ READ MY DIARY

by Oui on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 05:49:05 AM EST
... and encourage European politicians to push these inquiries to the end.

I know how to do this in the US, with our Representatives and Senators... but how do you do it in Europe?

I'm new here, obviously.  And my Dutch husband isn't home, or I'd ask him ;-)

Write letters to the editor, maybe?

de Volkskrant has had some good articles on the use of airports by the CIA (Schipol included, more here).

Anyway, what do you guys suggest?

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:25:03 AM EST
LTE is often the best bang for buck if you are short of time to campaign.

Other possible steps:

  • write to your parliamentary representatives (Euro and National)

  • Write to the government minister

  • Talk to your neighbours, friends and associates about writing too.
by Metatone (metatone [a|t] gmail (dot) com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:34:00 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well, a place to start is our very own wiki:

Tools for Action

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:34:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
I knew there was a wiki, but haven't seen it yet.

I'll go take a look.

by Plutonium Page (page dot vlinders at gmail dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:36:59 AM EST
[ Parent ]
If you write to your members of the Dutch and European parliament you may be much more effective than in the US because of the surprise factor.

Just try the tried and true American methods. The European method involves going to the local bar and bitching, maybe going to a demonstration if things get bad, or striking if they get really bad, and then voting for the same dudes at the next election.

A society committed to the notion that government is always bad will have bad government. And it doesn't have to be that way. — Paul Krugman

by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:44:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
.
EuroTribbers should set up an action platform «« is present in wiki »» with all corresponding contact and email addresses in Brussels to become more vocal on these important Human Rights issues. The HR obligation is the backbone of the European Union, its charter and obligations of all members.


EU Peace  ◊  Vote Oui!

The highest Judicial Court of the EU is European Court of Justice based on the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union

Council of Europe

"Treason doth never prosper: what's the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason."

▼ ▼ ▼ MY DIARY

by Oui on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 06:48:50 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Who decides when voting rights get suspended? the council. or parliament? Or is the Court in Luxemburg responsible. Since it is apparently Poland, who is together with Romania the prepetrator in this case, let me state loud and clear:

I am tired to finance an ultra-catholic conservative state, which opens its country for torture and is enforcing a level of persecution of gays that hasn't been seen in Europe for decades with German tax money. It is sickening.

by jandsm on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 02:53:13 PM EST
There are suspicions about Poland and I believe the Czech republic refused to have one. The main question appears to be over Romania. That is the only EU or EU Accession country to sign a bi-lateral agreement with the USA agreeing not to send US troops to the International Criminal Court. The one "black prison" that is believed to still be in existence is in Romania.

Suspending a member's voting rights looks complex from what I have seen. It requires unanimous agreement among the other Heads of Government in the Council of Ministers and a two thirds majority of the Parliament.  That is to hold a meeting to consider the suspension. Once that hurdle is passed, the meeting of the CoM can pass a resolution by qualified majority vote.

As Romania is not yet a member, the procedure may be different. The Copenhagen Criteria for new members require:


    "Membership requires that the candidate country has achieved stability of institutions guaranteeing democracy, the rule of law, human rights and respect for and, protection of minorities, the existence of a functioning market economy as well as the capacity to cope with competitive pressure and market forces within the Union. Membership presupposes the candidate's ability to take on the obligations of membership including adherence to the aims of political, economic and monetary union."

There are already questions about whether Romania will be able to fully address the corruption in many of its institutions in time for the planned accession. I would think the bilateral agreement with the US not to cooperate in helping to send accused US war criminals to the ICC would have to be considered in the context of whether it guarantees the rule of law. If they had knowledge of a "black prison", I do not see how they could be said to meet the criteria. The USA might have set one up on say an air base without their consent but immediate steps would have to be taken to close it and release anyone illegally detained.

I believe that before Accession is finalised, the Council of Ministers has to unanimously agree a candidate has met the Criteria. The pressure required to get just one to object is obviously a lot less than to try to persuade 24 and the Parliament.

by Londonbear on Tue Nov 29th, 2005 at 11:25:03 PM EST
[ Parent ]


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