BRUSSELS, July 6, 2006 (RFE/RL) -- Finnish EU parliamentarian Paula Lehtonmaeki set the tone in the debate when she said the EU must not compromise on rights.
“What is at issue here is the realization of fundamental rights in Europe, and the fight against terrorism," Lehtonmaeki said during the July 5 debate. "These issues must not be allowed to conflict. All antiterrorist activity must respect international commitments, and the fight against terrorism must not be used to justify bargaining over internationally recognized commitments related to human rights, refugees, or humanitarian issues.”
Accusations Of Rights Violations
The author of the interim report on the purported CIA "renditions" of terrorism suspects, Italian socialist parliamentarian Paolo Fava, said the EU must establish the truth about rights violations that may have taken place. He said it was an established “fact” that the CIA had “rendered” European citizens and residents to other countries for interrogation.
He said the U.S. administration had admitted this, but that it had denied allegations that renditions had resulted in the torture of terrorism suspects, or that European laws had been violated.
Fava said a number of EU member states were complicit in denying their citizens basic rights by cooperating with the CIA in the renditions.
He welcomed the arrest of a senior military intelligence official in Italy on charges of having aided the CIA in a rendition.
European Cooperation Discussed
Fava said his report -- to be voted on by EU deputies on July 6 -- had reconstructed a “complicated system of CIA flights.” He said prisoners were transported via EU airports without any checks – among the more than 1,800 suspect flights, there was only one recorded instance of an official attempting to establish the identities of the “extra passengers.”
The report does not explicitly raise the issue of secret CIA detention centers in Europe. However, Fava’s European Parliament committee plans to investigate these allegations during the next six months.
Fava’s report was welcomed by all political groups in the European Parliament with the exception of the largest, the right-wing European People’s Party faction. The EU’s conservatives say the report is biased against the United States.
None Of The EU's Business?
Finnish representative Lehtomaeki reminded deputies before the debate that although breaches of international law might have taken place, the EU had no formal grounds to interfere in what remained essentially member-state business.
“With reference to the interim report we are discussing here, I would like to stress that the basic treaties do not give the European Union the requisite competences in terms of the issues under discussion here," Lehtomaeki said. "Similarly, national intelligence services fall outside the jurisdiction of the grounding treaty [of the EU], as member states have unanimously decided to reserve the right to oversee the activities of their intelligence services.”
However, there are signs that this may be changing. Lehtomaeki said the EU’s Finnish presidency held human rights issues to be “very important” and would raise them at meetings with the United States and others.
Official Calls For More National Oversight
Franco Frattini, a European Commission vice president in charge of justice and home affairs, repeated his earlier calls for EU-member-state authorities to cooperate with the parliamentary committee, and called for investigations by national authorities into the issue.
He also said EU leaders should exercise greater control over the work of their intelligence agencies and that national parliaments should demand greater transparency in the agencies’ work.
Frattini directly encouraged national parliaments to launch inquiries into the funds used by security services and said he supported the parliamentary committee’s call for new rules on the use of EU airports by noncommercial civilian aircraft.
Police in Moscow arrest human rights demonstrators on February 1 (courtesy photo)
THE RECORD ON RIGHTS: On March 8, the U.S. State Department issued its global report on human rights. According to the report, 15 years after the breakup of the Soviet Union, human rights are improving in many post-communist countries. But problems persist in others, it says, despite the worldwide explosion of information and Western efforts to spread democracy. (more)
For more detailed information, see:
Azerbaijan Cited For Political Harassment, Police Brutality
Child Labor, Human Trafficking Cited In U.S. Report On Afghanistan
U.S. Says China, Iran 'Most Systematic' Rights Violators
Human Rights Not A Priority In Central Asia, U.S. Report Says
U.S. Report Points To Serious Abuses In Iraq
Abuses In Chechnya, Centralized Power Cited In U.S Report On Russia
U.S. Says Serious Human Rights Violations Occurring In Iran
For a regular review of civil-society developments throughout RFE/RL's broadcast region, subscribe to "RFE/RL (Un)Civil Societies."