European Parliament hears evidence on CIA extraordinary rendition programme from Reprieve’s Crofton Black

March 29, 2012

Reprieve’s Crofton Black this week gave evidence to the European Parliament on new developments in his European renditions accountability investigation.

Dr Black has been investigating the CIA renditions network with a particular focus on European secret prisons. As a global conspiracy by the USA, the network required the co-operation of corporations, governments and service providers. Reprieve, a legal action charity, is working with the European Parliament to ensure these parties are held accountable so that such co-operation may never happen again. Reprieve reported the following:

  • Since the last European Parliament report in 2007, two more CIA “black sites” have been firmly identified in Lithuania and Romania, using information provided by former CIA employees and supported by documentary evidence.
  • The Lithuanian site, in the former riding stables at Antaviliai, was purchased by a mysterious company, Elite LLC,incorporated in Washington DC and Panama and acting through power of attorney given to an individual named Valdas Vitkauskas. Elite was incorporated in July 2003. In March 2004, Elite and Mr Vitkauskas purchased the site from its local owners.
  • Residents living in the vicinity with a clear view of the site spoke of a building programme, overseen by Americans, in which a large metal warehouse structure was created. Vehicles with darkened windows visited the site regularly and guards patrolled around it. In January 2007 it was sold to its current owners, the Lithuanian security services.
  • During this period, a number of flights, related by documentary evidence to companies participating in the renditions programme, made flights to Lithuania, sometimes disguising their routes. Planes came to Vilnius and Palanga from Bucharest and Morocco. On landing, the planes were not checked: normal border guard duties were suspended on the instructions of the security services. Landing forms were signed, not by the pilots, but by officers of the airports.
  • These planes also visited Romania. Telephone records connect the Romanian landings to other landings in the renditions network, and flight information connects them to the contracting companies and ultimately to the US government.

Reprieve is building a database of financial transactions relating to renditions programme flights – some of which can be linked to the renditions of specific prisoners. Most transactions involve non-European companies paying European companies and European governments fees and taxes. The Danish government, for example, receives a fee for “each crossing between Europe and North America by an aircraft, wherever registered, in the course of which the aircraft is at any time north of the 45th parallel North between the meridians of 15 West and 50 West” (CAA charges for Denmark and Iceland 2003).

Reprieve made the following recommendations:

Flight control agency Eurocontrol is key to this investigation. It states that its agreements with service providers and operators preclude it from providing data to NGOs, journalists and “third parties”. However, it can assist when requested by “member states”. New, broad and detailed engagement with Eurocontrol by European states is therefore crucial.

The European Parliament must capitalize on recent developments by seeking the assistance of Eurocontrol to confirm private and state involvement in flights implicated in the secret prisons network.

Reprieve Investigator Crofton Black said: “A lot of crucial evidence has already been collected. Unfortunately, however, in many European countries involved in renditions and secret detention, the quality of the evidence has often been spoilt by poor interpretation. Governments and prosecutors have been very reluctant to follow the evidence and draw the necessary and logical conclusions from it. The European Parliament needs to scrutinize these failings and make a firm statement about the reality of the renditions programme: many European countries are still trying to brush under the carpet things that the US has already acknowledged.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors:

1.For more information please contact Katherine O’Shea or Donald Campbell at Reprieve’s Press Office on katherine.oshea@reprieve.org.uk/ donald.campbell@reprieve.org.uk  +44(0)20 7427 1099 or go to http://www.reprieve.org.uk/investigations/eucomplicity/

2. Watch Dr Crofton Black’s testimony on Reprieve‘s website.3. The European Parliament has resolved to seek accountability for European participation in the CIA renditions programme: “In its resolutions of 2007 and 2009 the Parliament urged the EU and the Member States to take action, acknowledge, repair and prevent in the future the human rights violations that occurred in Europe in the context of the US rendition and secret detention programmes. The hearing’s objective is to assess the developments at national level on the implementation of the Parliament recommendations. The event will substantiate the upcoming LIBE report and contribute to the Parliament’s commitment to fully take up its responsibilities under the new legal framework of the Lisbon Treaty. (2012/2033(INI), Rapporteur Hélène FLAUTRE (Verts/ALE, FR)); Tuesday, 27.03.12, 9.00-12.00.”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.