Tuesday, November 29, 2005

EU Might Sanction Member Countries Over Secret CIA Prisons

The Independent reports that the European Union has warned member countries that if they allow the C.I.A. to use their territory to operate secret detention centers, or to fly into or out of airports for the purpose of transporting detainees to such detention centers, they could face punitive sanctions, such as having their voting rights suspended.

U.S. officials have been contacted for information in connection with several investigations into the secret C.I.A. prisons, and for the first time the Bush administration has asked for more time to get answers rather than refusing to comment on the matter at all.

Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs, warned that any countries found to be allowing the CIA to operate the detention centres - part of a global secret gulag used to hold al-Qa'ida suspects and other "ghost detainees" - could have its voting rights suspended.

Three separate initiatives are under way to try to investigate the claims, which surfaced early this month and which initially appeared to implicate Poland and Romania. Since then, a number of countries have faced claims that CIA planes may have landed on their territory while transporting terrorist suspects. Evidence shows that the planes landed and refuelled in Scotland.

Speaking in Berlin, Mr Frattini reminded EU member states that breaches of human rights could be punishable by their voting rights being suspended. That sanction, under Article 7 of the EU's governing Nice Treaty, was created after the row over the far-right Freedom Party being included in Austria's coalition government in 2000.
In addition, the UK presidency of the EU has written to the US to seek clarification, and the Council of Europe - the continent's human rights watchdog - has launched a formal inquiry, writing to all member countries.

Here is the reason the EU is so concerned about member countries hosting the C.I.A. detention centers:

All EU member states and applicant countries are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, a charter that precludes the use of clandestine detention centres.

Isn't that quaint? Surely prohibitions on secret gulags are anachronistic in this day and age.

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