New report reveals Europe’s cover-up of CIA rendition-to-torture evidence

December 19, 2011

Just days after new details emerged of a secret CIA prison in Romania used to torture terrorism suspects, a report by two  international human rights organisations shows that European countries are continuing to suppress evidence of their role in the USA’s notorious rendition programme.The report Rendition on the Record – produced by open government specialists Access Info Europe and legal action charity Reprieve following information requests made in 28 countries – shows that most European countries remain unwilling to respond to questions about their complicity in the CIA’s illegal detention operations. To date, only seven countries have provided any information.By contrast, the USA’s Federal Aviation Authority has released more than 27,000 flight records – a significant resource for researchers and lawyers working to get to the bottom of human rights abuses committed during the ‘war on terror’.The six-month investigation by Reprieve and Access Info indicates that European countries routinely ignore requests, or treat them in a casual fashion, failing to keep track of correspondence and ignoring timeframes. It also points to a worrying trend in which data of public interest is held by unaccountable organizations which are not subject to national access to information regimes.Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “It’s a shocking indictment of European complacency that, while the USA will gladly release over 27,000 records, Europe’s air traffic manager Eurocontrol won’t even release one. It’s equally unacceptable that countries such as Austria, France, Italy, Latvia, Romania, and Spain simply ignore requests for data relating to serious human rights abuses.”Access Info Europe’s campaigns co-ordinator Lydia Medland said: “This report shows that there are no legitimate reasons why data about flights cannot be released. I hope and expect that those 13 countries which have not yet answered our more than 50 information requests will now send the information. It is imperative that the data be made public before it is destroyed in order to permit full accountability for these violations of human rights.”

Overall Results of Rendition on Record Information Released Information Not Held Administrative Silence Information Denied Denmark, Finland, Germany, Ireland, Lithuania, Norway, USA Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Estonia, Slovenia, UK Albania, Austria, Azerbaijan, Cape Verde, France, Georgia, Iceland,  Italy, Latvia, Romania, Russia, Spain, Turkey Canada, Eurocontrol, Sweden, Portugal

 ENDSNotes to Editors1. For further information please contact Donald Campbell in Reprieve’s press office: +44 (0) 207 427 10822. The report Rendition on the Record can be downloaded below, as can more details about our investigation into European rendition complicity.3. In 2005, investigators, law enforcement officials and journalists became aware of the widespread 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 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.All information accessed under this project will be collated and made available by The Rendition Project, a joint research project between the University of Kent and Kingston University, and funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.4. Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to deliver justice and save lives, 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.’Follow Reprieve on twitter: @ReprieveUK; if you were forwarded this release, sign up to join our press mailing list.5. Access Info Europe is a human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and protecting the right of access to information in Europe and globally. Access Info’s mission is to advance democracy by making the right to information work in practice as a tool for defending civil liberties, for facilitating public participation in decision-making, and for holding governments accountable. Access Info Europe’s Access for Rights project includes work on issues of freedom of expression and media freedom in the context of anti-terror laws, freedom of assembly, and protection of privacy in particular on the issue of retention of personal telecommunications data.