S/SW blog philosophy -

I credit favorite writers and public opinion makers.

A lifelong Democrat, my comments on Congress, the judiciary and the presidency are regular features.

My observations and commentary are on people and events in politics that affect the USA or the rest of the world, and stand for the interests of peace, security and justice.

Saturday, December 10, 2005

"Secret jail" reports from across the sea

We know now that the United States has not confined its housing of prisoners of war to Guantanamo in Cuba, nor Iraq, nor Afghanistan. Europe in now involved as a location. How do those contries feel about that? How do they report about it? What are the various views, official, unofficial, right and left, readers and elected officials? Following is a compilation of stories I have gathered from across the ocean about the secret detainee question:

On November 28 2005, the German newspaper Der Spiegel, presented an excellent in-depth story about so-called "black sites," (originally broken by Dana Priest and published November 2 in the Washington Post). It begins with this:

A bitter debate over torture has erupted in Europe. Washington is believed to have used EU countries as transit points for moving terrorism suspects to clandestine locations where they may have been tortured. The Council of Europe and other organizations are now demanding answers -- from the US and European countries who looked the other way.

This Euractiv report from a European Union perspective, originated on November 29. To quote,

Justice Commissioner Frattini has said that should it be found that
any EU country were hosting secret detention centres, he would "be obliged to propose serious consequences, including suspension of voting rights in the Council". Speaking in Berlin on 28 November 2005, Mr Frattini continued this new proactive stance by confirming that the matter had been formally raised with Washington by one of his officials. Although the state department would immediately give neither confirmation nor denial, it indicated that Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice would address the matter when she visits Europe in December.

The 12/08/05 story from the official point of view of the Federal government of Germany stresses that the U.S. and Germany are "close friends and partners." Quote:

Commitment to national and international law
In connection with current public debate on CIA flights Merkel welcomed Rice's assurances, repeated during their meeting, that the United States respects international treaties and national laws in its fight against terrorism, in particular the ban on torture. She noted that Germany is aware that the intelligence agencies need to be able to do their work.
Condoleezza Rice stressed that it is of major importance that the intelligence agencies of the two countries be able to work together effectively in the fight against terrorism. She said the United States does not tolerate torture and always acts in accordance with its own laws and the obligations it has under international treaties.

In a December 9 quote from The Jerusalem Post , we learn a bit more about the controversy:

A Human Rights Watch investigator said that Poland was the CIA's main center for secretly detaining terror suspects in Europe in remarks published Friday. But the group later cautioned that it was too soon for any conclusions because their investigation is still at an early stage. In his sole comment on the evidence, Sifton said: "It is information about airplanes that have been linked to the CIA, information about flight records that are known involving those planes, and our theories and opinions about what those records suggest." "Our research is into a broad spectrum of activities including Afghanistan, the Middle East, Europe," he said. "Our primary concern is not about Poland, it is about finding the secret detention facility now. Poland is a key to the puzzle, but not our primary focus."
From the same Middle East locale, Aljazeera also covers this same story on 12/10/05, giving it a slightly different flavor. This site is worth a visit. It is, naturally, very interesting and has a large number of links to related stories.

The 12/09/05 letters to the editor section in the International Herald Tribune has three interesting "rendition" opinion items, from readers in Budapest, Kyoto, and Italy. Expatica, a news site for expatriates in France, has a 12/10/05 story with the view that Secretary Rice's European visit "Cleared the air over the secret CIA suspicions."

Probably the most extensive coverage of this whole story can be found at the Manchester Guardian site, "Guardian Unlimited," which has set up a special section for intensive in-depth coverage. This is the lead from one of their 12/10/05 stories:

The recording of flights by planespotters from places as far afield as
Bournemouth and Karachi has unintentionally played a significant role in helping journalists and human rights groups expose the scale of the CIA's renditions system.

This BBC story, written on 12/09/05, discusses the views of a United Nations human rights official, with whom U. S. Ambassador to the UN, John Bolton has disagreement. (It also has several links to other significant British views) Quote:

Top UN human rights official Louise Arbour has repeated accusations made earlier this week that the US and other countries are easing curbs on torture. Ms Arbour told the BBC that governments had to clarify if they were holding prisoners in secret jails, without the freedom to communicate or be visited. The US envoy to the UN has said Ms Arbour's comments are "inappropriate". Ms Arbour said she had a mandate to protect and defend human rights, and she would continue to do exactly that. She said she did not believe she needed to respond to US criticism of her comments. "I'm the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights. This is what I do," she told the BBC.


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