BRUSSELS, Belgium (AP) – The European Union and the continent’s top human rights group said yesterday they will investigate allegations the CIA set up secret jails in eastern Europe and elsewhere to interrogate terror suspects, and the Red Cross demanded access to any prisoners.
Human Rights Watch said it has evidence, based on flight logs, that indicate the CIA transported suspects captured in Afghanistan to Poland and Romania. But the two countries – and others in the former Soviet bloc – denied the allegations. U.S. officials have refused to confirm or deny the claims.
Such prisons, European officials say, would violate the continent’s human rights principles. At work may be a complex web of global politics, in which eastern European countries face choices between the views of the European Union and their interest in close ties with the United States.
The International Committee of the Red Cross expressed strong interest in the claims, first reported Wednesday in the Washington Post, that the CIA has been hiding and interrogating some of its most important al-Qaida captives at Soviet-era compounds.
Red Cross chief spokeswoman Antonella Notari said the agency asked Washington about the allegations and requested access to the prisons if they exist. The Red Cross, which has exclusive rights to visit terror suspects detained at a U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, long has been concerned about reports U.S. officials were hiding detainees from ICRC delegates.
Europe’s top human rights organization, the Council of Europe, said it would also take part in the investigations.
Notari said the Red Cross, which also monitors conditions at U.S. detention centers in Afghanistan and Iraq, has been unable to find some people who reportedly were detained. She said the Red Cross was “concerned about the fate of an unknown number of persons detained as part of what is called the ‘global war on terror’ and held in undisclosed places of detention.”
In implicating Poland and Romania, Human Rights Watch examined flight logs of CIA aircraft from 2001 to 2004, said Mark Garlasco, a senior military analyst with the New York-based organization. He said the group matched the flight patterns with testimony from some of the hundreds of detainees in the war on terrorism who have been released by the United States.
“The indications are that prisoners in Afghanistan are being (taken) to facilities in Europe and other countries in the world,” Garlasco, a former civilian intelligence officer with the Defense Intelligence Agency, told The Associated Press.
He would not say how the organization obtained the flight logs, but said two destinations of the flights stood out as likely sites of any secret CIA detention centers: Szymany Airport in Poland, which is near the headquarters of Poland’s intelligence service; and Mihail Kogalniceanu military airfield in Romania.
Human Rights Watch also obtained the tail numbers of dozens of CIA aircraft to match them with the flight logs, Garlasco said.
He said that in September 2003, a Boeing 737 flew from Washington to Kabul, Afghanistan, making stops along the way in the Czech Republic and Uzbekistan. On Sept. 22, the plane flew on to Szymany Airport, then to Mihail Kogalniceanu, proceeded to Sale, Morocco, and finally landed at Guantanamo, Garlasco said.
As far as he knew, Garlasco said that Human Rights Watch has not yet found or interviewed detainees who were held in any alleged facilities in Poland and Romania.