The PACE report highlights the different forms that collusion by some Council of Europe member States has taken, among these are: secretly detaining a person on European territory for an indefinite period of time, whilst denying that person’s basic human rights and failing to ensure procedural legal guarantees such as habeas corpus; capturing a person and handing them to the US, in the knowledge that they would be unlawfully transferred into a US-administered detention facility; permitting the unlawful transportation of detainees on civilian aircraft carrying out “renditions” operations, travelling through European airspace or across European territory; passing on information or intelligence to the United States where it was foreseeable that such material would be relied upon directly to carry out a “rendition” operation or to hold a person in secret detention; participating directly in interrogations of persons subjected to “rendition”, or held in secret detention; accepting or making use of information gathered in the course of detainee interrogations, before, during or after which the detainee in question was threatened or subjected to torture or other forms of human rights abuse; making available civilian airports or military airfields as “staging points” or platforms for rendition or other unlawful detainee transfer operations, whereby an aircraft prepares for and takes off on its operation from such a point; and making available civilian airports or military airfields as “stopover points” for rendition operations, whereby an aircraft lands briefly at such a point on the outward or homeward flight, for example to refuel.
The Council of Europe is meant to be a point of reference and guardian for human rights, democracy and respect for the rule of law in Europe. It draws its legal and moral authority from, inter alia, the common standards of human rights protection embodied in the European Convention on Human Rights (echr) and the European Convention on the Prevention of Torture (ecpt), to which all of its 46 member States subscribe.
One of the the Council’s functions is to raise the alarm internationally whenever human rights are ignored. The Council of Europe’s Assembly, that gathers parliamentary representation from all member states, has found that under the excuse of the so-called “war on terrorism” many states have come to accept “systematic human rights abuses”. To hide these abuses from the public, the US has created a new terminology and new legal concepts, such as “enemy combatant” and “rendition”, so to avoid traditional criminal law and procedure and laws of war such as the Geneva Convention that would oblige US military to treat detainees in a humane and dignified way.
The controversy around US rendition flights and European involvement started on 4 November 2005, with comments in the Washington Post and Human Rights Watch on the existence of CIA detention centres in Romania and Poland. It was then that PACE President, Rene van der Linden, announced the opening of an investigation. Senator Dick Marty, a Swiss parliamentarian and former prosecutor, was chosen to conduct the inquiry three days later.
By 21 November 2005, Council of Europe Secretary General Terry Davis, invoked Article 52 to request that 45 governments explain by 21 February 2006 how their laws prevent “unacknowledged deprivation of liberty” and how it aids foreign agencies to carry out such acts.
By 13 December last year, Marty had found that the information he had obtained reinforced the credibility of the allegations concerning the illegal detention and transfer of individuals in European countries, allegations never denied by the US administration.