Friday, February 22, 2008

EU Commission: Poland, Romania must clarify role in CIA extraordinary rendition program

Friday, February 22, 2008

BRUSSELS, Belgium: The European Commission on Friday said Poland and Romania have been dodging its requests to clarify their possible role in the U.S. extraordinary rendition program.

A day earlier, Britain acknowledged after years of denials that its territory was used by the U.S. to transport suspected terrorists on secret flights.

EU Justice and Home Affairs Commissioner Franco Frattini sent letters to Warsaw and Bucharest last July urging them to conduct in-depth judicial inquiries into the findings by the European Parliament and the Council of Europe, which both said circumstantial evidence pointed to the countries' complicity in the U.S. program.

Romania and Poland have firmly denied allegations of running secret CIA prisons or aiding the U.S. to spirit away terror suspects to illegal detention facilities.

Frattini nevertheless demanded the two countries clarify to him their possible role in the renditions program. Neither country has responded in an adequate manner, said EU Commission spokesman Johannes Laitenberger.

"We have not received a reply from Poland and the information from Romania was not considered complete. ... Frattini sent reminders in January and we're currently awaiting replies," Laitenberger said.

He didn't give any deadline, but said countries usually respond to Commission requests quickly.

EU member states have been unwilling to shed light on their possible role in spiriting terror suspects to secret detention facilities — a practice illegal under EU human rights laws. Britain's admission Thursday followed years of assurances that it did not take part in the renditions program following the Sept.11, 2001, terror attacks on the United States.

The European Parliament is to evaluate how EU countries have responded to the accusations of complicity with the CIA and what they have done to prevent illegal activities by foreign intelligence services on their soil, officials said.

After Britain's admission "we might be pushing into a slightly more open door," said British Liberal Democratic lawmaker Sarah Ludford.

"They've used us and abused us. The U.K. government has turned a blind eye" to the renditions, she said.

Former Romanian Defense Minister Ioan Mircea Pascu has said the EU's calls for further inquiries were unwelcome and that the EU was simply ignoring Bucharest's denials that it permitted such prisons on Romanian soil.

The European Parliament and the Council of Europe, a human rights watchdog, have accused at least 14 European nations of colluding with U.S. intelligence in a web of rights abuses to help the CIA extraordinary renditions program.

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