ACLU Applauds Europeans for Investigating Rendition and Torture Claims, Effort Called a Model for U.S.

May 11, 2006 12:00 am

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NEW YORK – The American Civil Liberties Union met today with delegates from the European Parliament to discuss the initial results of their investigation to determine whether “the CIA or other US agents … have carried out abductions, ‘extraordinary rendition’, detention at secret sites, detention incommunicado or torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment of prisoners on the territory of the European Union” in violation of numerous European and International laws.

Delegates of the committee have been in Washington, DC this week to meet with government officials and representatives of NGOs to discuss the findings contained in its draft report dated April 24, 2006.

In a related matter, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia will hear oral arguments tomorrow in the historic lawsuit El-Masri v. Tenet, in which Khaled El-Masri, a German citizen who was an innocent victim of the CIA’s “extraordinary rendition” policy, will challenge his abduction, detention and interrogation in a secret overseas prison at the hands of CIA operatives. The ACLU represents El-Masri.

According to Steven Watt, an advisor to the ACLU’s Human Rights Program, was among those who met with the delegation in Washington DC, “Revelations that the CIA sponsored the illegal detention and torture of individuals kidnapped in European countries shocked the moral conscience of the world. Americans were stunned and bewildered, believing that their country was governed by laws and principles that forbid such crimes. As we have come to understand, however, our president is implementing policies that are steadily eroding our laws and our values while creating a government cloaked in secrecy and shielded from accountability. In stark contrast, the Europeans are undertaking a thorough examination of what happened and what laws might have been broken. This effort serves as a model for the United States, which has gone to extreme measures to prevent the truth from being uncovered. We applaud the European Committee for their tireless and noble work and hope our government will take note of their approach.”

Ann Beeson, the ACLU Associate Legal Director was also at the meeting with European delegation.

The European Parliament’s draft report from the included the following pronouncements:

  • “[S]erious and inadmissible violations of fundamental human rights have, since 11 September 2001 and as part of the essential action to combat terrorism, taken place on several occasions.”
  • “[T]he CIA has on several occasions been clearly responsible for the illegal abduction and detention of alleged terrorists on the territory of Member States and for extraordinary renditions and that, in a number of cases, this has concerned European nationals.”
  • “[The Committee c]onsiders it implausible, on the basis of the testimonies and documents received to date, that certain European governments were not aware of the extraordinary rendition activities taking place on their territory and in their airspace or airports.”
  • [The Committee s]tresses that the prohibition of torture, as the latter term is defined in Article 1 of the United Nations Convention against Torture, is absolute and allows no exceptions whether in times of war or threat of war, domestic political instability or any other emergency; recalls that cases of incommunicado detention, abduction or extraordinary rendition must also be considered violations of fundamental rights under international law and are therefore to be condemned as acts involving the use of torture or inhuman and degrading treatment.

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