Grondrechten - 21-04-2006 - 11:04
"Under the UK-US intelligence sharing agreement, the US and UK have taken a policy decision that they will get testimonies obtained under torture in third countries. I say that with regret and with certainty." So said Craig Murray, ex-UK ambassador to Uzbekistan, to the committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for illegal activities. MEPs also heard from EU counter-terrorism coordinator Gijs de Vries, Spanish journalist Matías Vallés and UN peacekeeper Edward Horgan.
Giving evidence on Thursday, Mr Murray spoke of cooperation among national intelligence services when dealing with terrorism suspects detained in countries like Uzbekistan, where he was the British ambassador from 2002 to 2004. He said he had hard evidence that the Uzbek intelligence services often torture detainees. He said the CIA and the British intelligence service MI6 did not participate in such interrogations, but they shared the information obtained from them.
"I saw evidence of scores of cases of torture in Uzbekistan: people boiled to death, photos of serious injuries, mutilation of genitals, rape of individuals in front of their relatives... until they would sign a confession," Mr Murray said. When he tried to share his concern with the UK Foreign Office by sending several letters and faxes, he was finally told that "Jack Straw discussed the issue with the head of the MI6 and reached the conclusion that we should continue to receive intelligence material obtained from confessions under torture and that this would not contravene the UN Convention against Torture ", since the UK government did not torture people directly. He said Foreign Office legal advisor Michael Wood replied in a letter that the UN Convention against torture only forbids information obtained under torture "to be invoked as evidence in any proceedings".
"In this way, the British formal position can be maintained when they say 'we do not condone, use or instigate torture,'" Mr Murray added. He said he had continued to protest, which led to him being forced to leave the civil service. Mr Murray said these events left a " lack of credibility of the intelligence material obtained, intended to paint the false picture that Uzbekistan opposition people were linked to Al Qaeda and Bin Laden ".
Other EU countries
Asked by rapporteur Claudio Fava (PES, IT) whether other EU countries had used intelligence obtained under torture, he said: " I am not aware of the CIA sharing intelligence with other European services but I know that Germany in particular had close links with the Uzbek intelligence security services and I believe this is still happening. They still have a military base there ".
Asked about the alleged existence of detention centres in Bulgaria or Romania, Mr Murray said he had never come across any evidence of such centres and was sceptical about their existence. However, he said he was aware of the use of torture in other third countries like Syria, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco.
De Vries: fight terrorism within boundaries of human rights
Gijs de Vries, the EU's counter terrorism coordinator, said terrorism "must be fought within the boundaries of human rights. The prohibition against [torture] is absolute." However, he said he could give no information on CIA activities in Europe. "I am not privy, and nor is Javier Solana," to information on cooperation between national services. He said operational cooperation does not take place via the EU: "Intelligence is not covered by the EU institutions. Sorry if it sounds too formalistic, but I cannot change the treaties," he said, responding to José Ignacio Salafranca Sánchez-Neyra (EPP-ED, ES). Asked if he or the Council's threat analysis centre had ever processed information that may have come from countries or intelligence service that have participated in renditions or torture, whether he had any knowledge of any detention centres in Europe and whether there was definitive evidence of illegal renditions in Europe, he answered in the negative.
MEPs from all the main political groups were not impressed: Mr Fava said he was not sure this part of the hearing served a useful purpose.
Javier Solana, EU High Representative for the Common Foreign and Security Policy, will give evidence to the committee on 2 May.
CIA flights in Spain and Ireland?
Matías Vallés, a journalist from the Diario de Mallorca gave MEPs details of his newspaper's investigation of CIA rendition flights through Spain. He said a series of such flights had transited through Palma de Mallorca in 2003-4. He said they could not have gone unnoticed or unauthorised by Spanish officials. It was like having a Ferrari in a car park, but: "Nobody asked, 'how come we have a Ferrari in our car park?'" he said. "There is now no way to check whether there was any criminal activity involving those planes." He said he had no knowledge of any involvement of the Spanish secret services. Alluding to the forty two suspected CIA operatives believed to have taken part, he said some of them had similar names to those "involved in the kidnapping of Abu Omar" (the Egyptian cleric allegedly abducted by CIA agents in Milan in February 2003).
Ignasi Guardans Cambo (ALDE, ES) told Mr Vallés: "Your investigation does not really confirm that there was a crime in Mallorca." It does, though, confirm among Spanish officials "a deeply rooted passivity in the face of facts that do not seem appropriate."
The last person to give evidence was former UN peacekeeper and ex-Irish Army officer Edward Horgan. He aimed to provide evidence of CIA flights using Shannon airport in Ireland for extraordinary renditions. He said he had traced many CIA-owned plans stopping at Shannon, but it could not be proved whether there were illegal detainees on board.
Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners
Chair : Carlos COELHO (EPP-ED, PT)