Unaccountable European agency Eurocontrol covers up rendition information

December 2, 2011

International aviation organisation Eurocontrol is refusing to release crucial evidence relating to the CIA’s illegal renditions programme, despite requests to do so by legal action charity Reprieve and their partners Access Info Europe. Eurocontrol is made up of 39 European member states, including the UK, all of whom are bound by freedom of information laws – and who fund its half a billion euro budget. However, the organisation appears to consider itself above the laws which apply to its members when it comes to disclosure of information – even when it relates to serious criminal acts such as the renditions programme. Reprieve and pro-transparency group Access Info Europe have written to the Director General of Eurocontrol, asking him to reconsider his denial of access to flight planning information vital to renditions accountability. In the past, Eurocontrol has made a significant positive contribution to the struggle for renditions accountability, disclosing portions of its records to the Council of Europe, the European Parliament and to the Danish parliament. Thanks to these disclosures, flight logs for dozens of planes, contracted by the CIA to perform sometimes illegal missions, have become available. This good track record is at risk, however, as Eurocontrol has recently and unaccountably denied access to records for another 54 planes. These planes were unidentified at the time earlier requests were made, and represent new insights into the renditions programme, particularly in its later stages. Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “Eurocontrol may pay lip service to transparency, but in reality it is now covering up crucial evidence on the CIA rendition programme. It has the necessary information and it is able to disclose it. Will it step up and do the right thing? The clock is ticking.” Access Info Europe’s campaign coordinator Lydia Medland said: “Consistent with European and International human rights law, Eurocontrol should now make a review of the information that they hold, and consider the public interest in this case.” ENDS Notes to Editors 1. For further information, please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 1082 2. The letter to Eurocontrol is available on Reprieve’s website. 3. In 2005, investigators, law enforcement officials and journalists became aware of the widescale use of private US-registered aircraft, illegally to transport (‘render’) individuals captured by the US and other governments in the context of the ‘war on terror’. Prisoners transported by this method were routinely also held incommunicado and tortured, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention against Torture, the Geneva Conventions and the domestic laws of all European countries. A list of such aircraft was collected and published in two Council of Europe reports, in 2006 and 2007. Owing to the ongoing evolution of the CIA’s rendition and detention programme, however, the Council’s data remained incomplete. For the last twelve months, Reprieve and Access Info Europe have been building a more comprehensive overview of aircraft involved in the renditions programme, and their flight routes. The list includes aircraft active before the Council of Europe reports but unknown to the Council of Europe investigators, and aircraft active after the Council of Europe reports. It currently includes 54 aircraft, all of which have substantive documentary connections to entities involved in CIA renditions operations. An interim report on this project will shortly be released. 4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives.  Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA.Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’