PACE committee: secret services must be held accountable for torture, abduction or renditions

 Analysis by Dick Marty of inquiries in nine European countries reveals ‘state secrecy’ still used to shield wrongdoing

Strasbourg, 07.09.2011 – Secret services and intelligence agencies must be held accountable for human rights violations such as torture, abduction or renditions and not shielded from scrutiny by unjustified resort to the doctrine of “state secrets”, according to the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE).

In a draft resolution adopted today in Paris, based on a report by Dick Marty (Switzerland, ALDE), the committee also gave its verdict on judicial or parliamentary inquiries launched after two major reports by Mr Marty five years ago named European governments which had hosted CIA secret prisons or colluded in rendition and torture. The committee:

• deplores that the parliaments of Poland and Romania confined themselves to inquiries “whose main purpose seems to have been to defend the official position of the national authorities”, and calls on Romanian judicial authorities to finally initiate a serious investigation, following detailed allegations of abductions and secret detentions;

• welcomes the parliamentary inquiry in Lithuania which established the existence of two CIA secret detention centres in the country, while noting it was unable to say whether people had actually been detained and ill-treated in those places, or whether Lithuanian senior officials were aware;

• welcomes the inquiries conducted professionally in Germany and Italy, which have shed “considerable light” on the abductions of Khaled El-Masri and Abu Omar, but regrets that the government withheld information from a determined parliamentary commission in Germany, which could not complete its work;

• welcomes the friendly settlements with alleged victims reached in the United Kingdom, and urges all interested parties to agree on a framework for the Gibson inquiry into torture currently under way, as well as welcoming the “untiring efforts” of the all-party parliamentary group to establish the truth;

• is surprised that the parliament of “the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia” considered it unnecessary to launch an inquiry into the El-Masri case, in the light of clear findings in other inquiries, and calls on the authorities to finally initiate a serious investigation, following detailed allegations of abductions and secret detentions.

The committee also urged prosecutors in Lithuania, Poland, Portugal and Spain to “persevere in seeking to establish the truth” and called on authorities in the United States to co-operate with them.

Citing the Maher Arar case in Canada, the committee said it was possible to put in place procedures which protected “legitimate” state secrets, while still holding state agents accountable for murder, torture, abduction or other human rights violations.

The report is due to be debated by the Assembly – bringing together 318 parliamentarians from 47 Council of Europe countries – during its autumn session in Strasbourg (3-7 October 2011).