Council of Europe report: European countries must do more to prevent rendition flights

Amnesty International (AI) welcomes the call from the European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini for European governments to cooperate fully with the Council of Europe's investigation into 'extraordinary renditions' and secret detention centres. The Council of Europe's interim report makes clear that the response from some European countries has not been sufficient. The governments of both the UK and Romania, for example, have cited their confidence in assurances offered by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice.

Amnesty believes that such assurances cannot be regarded as adequate protection against abuse. Amnesty reiterates its call to the UK Government to launch an immediate, thorough and independent investigation into evidence that its territory has been used to assist in unlawfully transporting detainees to countries where they risk torture.

The Polish authorities must make the findings of their enquiry into the alleged existence of secret CIA detention centres available to the Council of Europe. The authorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina must provide more information about how six Bosnians came to be abducted by American agents on Bosnian soil and taken to Guantánamo Bay. The report also casts doubt on the Italian Government's denial that it was informed about the operation in which at least 25 foreign agents abducted an Egyptian citizen in the middle of Milan. The Italian authorities clearly have more explaining to do.

As Dick Marty points out in the report, "the fact that detention and interrogation centres have been relocated to other countries is proof that the authorities are fully aware that the methods used are incompatible with the American legal system." Amnesty International strongly endorses his call that Europe must "clearly and unambiguously declare that it refuses outright to tolerate such doings in its territory, or anywhere else." Amnesty believes that European countries must do everything in their power to ensure that no further rendition flights take place. Given the serious allegations that have been raised by both Amnesty in the past and Mr Marty today, European governments must ask more detailed questions about the purposes of all such flights and about the identity and status of all passengers on board.

Amnesty has analysed the movements of 17 aircraft that have been identified with specific cases of rendition or with companies alleged to be supporting the logistics of the program. Mr Marty has identified 14 additional aircraft allegedly belonging to entities with direct or indirect links to the CIA and believed to have been used by the CIA to transport detainees. While the majority of these flights are unconnected with renditions, there is no secure mechanism by which European governments can guarantee that their airports and airspace are not being used to support and facilitate the multiple human rights violations encompassed by renditions, which often involve abduction, arbitrary arrest and unlawful transfer.

States have an absolute obligation not to transfer anyone to a country where they face a significant risk of torture. AI therefore recommends that, pending the outcome of the Council of Europe's investigations, the operators of all 31 planes identified by Mr Marty should be forced to provide detailed information every time they land at an airport in Europe or enter European airspace. This would include, at minimum, the full flight plan of the aircraft, including onward stops from Europe and full itinerary since leaving the US, and the full names and nationalities of all passengers on board, and the purposes of their travel. If any passengers are listed as prisoners or detainees, more detailed information would have to be provided. European governments should refuse access to airspace and airfields if such information is not forthcoming.

Background information

During the four years between September 2001 and September 2005, the 17 airplanes analysed by AI recorded 2,238 movements in 270 airports in 62 countries and territories, including more than 800 flights in and out of Europe and the CIS. Such planes have landed in Azerbaijan, Belgium, Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Iceland, Republic of Ireland, Italy, Macedonia, Malta, the Netherlands, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Spain, Switzerland, Turkey, the United Kingdom and Uzbekistan.

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