Is Europe Complicit in Torture?

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Amnesty International is turning up the heat on European governments accused of allowing secret CIA prisons on their soil or helping the agency fly terror suspects to other countries that torture. In a blistering 46-page report released Tuesday night, the human rights group charges that any European nation that has helped the CIA in these clandestine activities is itself guilty of illegal conduct — even if the torture happens far away in another country.

"Many European governments have adopted a 'see no evil, hear no evil' approach to what the CIA has been doing in their backyards, but that won't wash any more," the report states. "Several European nations have been the United States' partner in crime," says Larry Cox, Amnesty's USA executive director. "The bottom line is that without Europe's assistance, fewer men would be denied basic rights."

Amnesty's report, titled "Partners In Crime," comes on the heels of a 67-page report released last week by the Council of Europe, which charges that 14 European countries helped the CIA move terror suspects and that two of them (Romania and Poland) likely had secret CIA prisons. That report's author, Swiss parliament member Dick Marty, used language as tough as Amnesty's, accusing the U.S. of creating "this reprehensible network" and European partners of "grossly negligent collusion" in it.

The Amnesty report cites instances where seven European nations — Bosnia and Herzegovina, Turkey, Germany, Italy, Macedonia, Sweden and Great Britain — helped the CIA in the rendition of 13 terror suspects. "All involve men being bundled onto planes and transferred abroad, without due process, to places of detention where they have suffered abuse," Amnesty charges.

The European countries named in the Amnesty and Council reports have all denied they helped the CIA in the renditions. Poland and Romania claim they had no secret prisons, but the European Parliament pledged Tuesday to spend another six months investigating those allegations, and may send fact-finding missions to both Eastern European countries. The U.S. government insists it doesn't practice torture or condone it in other countries. Marty has acknowledged he has no hard evidence on the CIA rendition network nor European collusion in it. But he insists that there's enough circumstantial evidence to hold Europe culpable. As for Amnesty, while its report repeats allegations that have previously been aired in the press, the group hopes the allegations that have piled up so far will be enough to pressure the continent's governments to end future cooperation with the CIA's secret transports. Concludes the human rights group: "An ostrich approach to renditions does not absolve Europe's governments of their responsibility."