Europe and America: Partners Even in Torture

A report from the American Congress’ Senate Intelligence Committee recently exposed some methods of torture that American intelligence agencies have used. This report, known as the Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program, contains a total of 6,000 pages — though only a 480-page summary was published — and was written after 6 million documents about the CIA’s programs were examined.

But the scandal does not end at America’s borders. It transgresses them, revealing the flagrant, disgraceful cooperation of European countries that boast, like the United States or perhaps even more so, about defending human rights, freedom and democracy. This scandal unmasked all of these parties, exposing their lies and deception to themselves, their peoples and the entire world. Those deluded about the character of these governments and agencies saw the truth. Yet despite the gravity of this scandal, some people still defended these governments and did not want to see them exposed, calling for the scandal to be overlooked and justifying it with deceptive arguments. They employed false labels and invoked national security and other shiny slogans often used to cover up blatant crimes that violate local and international law and many legal customs, signed conventions and agreements.

The irony is that most of these governments have signed the agreements that prohibit torture and should therefore adhere to them more than others. Instead, they imitate the United States, which has breached those agreements, trampling on its signature and often exploited them by using them as an argument against other countries. The United States has carried out flagrant abuses in its extraterritorial prisons. Perhaps the ugliness exposed by the images of torture from Abu Ghraib, Bagram and Guantanamo Bay does not sufficiently explain the mentality of those running these prisons, or the people that stood silently behind them and tried to make the scandals pass quietly because they feared the reactions of the victims’ families and others. Those images were the first humane cries against the torture and the prisons and their staff. The American administrations and their intelligence services are the ones that allowed these prisons, ran them, and remained silent about them to this day. This silence has helped the perpetrators escape legal punishment for their legal, moral and human responsibility. But the identity of the parties practicing torture, lying, playing it down, and concealing their barbaric nature and blatant offenses has become clear to the world.

European governments were not content to just cooperate and coordinate with the United States in matters that violated human rights and the principles of democracy and public liberty, such as the latter’s spying on personal and private information of individuals and institutions, eavesdropping on and monitoring phones, mail, email and social media, and other actions that violate the most basic civil rights of European citizens obtained through long struggles and many sacrifices. Rather, as is well-known, agreeing to all of these illegal violations paved the way for allowing other scandalous practices and atrocities. As the scandal exposes, they cooperated with the American administrations on torture and other policies and with intelligence services. The scandal proved shocking facts about these governments and the deception they practice in their electoral campaigns, governance and the slogans they send out to the world.

Documented facts have proved beyond a doubt that some European countries helped the American intelligence agencies, including the CIA, perform kidnappings and espionage, among other things, while others hosted the so-called “black sites” of American influence, which are prisons and torture chambers. Member of the Parliamentary Assembly for the Council of Europe Dick Marty exposed some of these sites in 2007 when he wrote that there is “enough evidence to state that secret detention facilities run by the CIA did exist in Europe from 2003 to 2005, in particular in Poland and Romania.” He added that the illegal deportation of suspects by the CIA’s team in Europe constitutes “massive and systematic violations of human rights.”

The United States and European countries have over the last few years kept silent about their roles and collusion in mutual violations, but some facts and images, and the cries of victims have come to light thanks to the diligent work of local organizations, rights activists, those who actually defend rights and freedoms, certain media outlets, the European Parliament and the European Council. Similarly, exposing the black sites has revealed the extent to which secret official prisons are distributed around the forests and mountains of Europe, and the actions that have taken place on planes and ships in service of the American security agencies or under their orders.

In addition to Poland and Romania, the list of countries involved in cooperating with the United States in illegal matters includes Lithuania, Britain, Germany, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Austria, the Czech Republic, Greece, Cyprus, Croatia, Bosnia, Albania, France and Switzerland.

The efforts of groups that defend human rights and public liberty to uncover the facts, put an end to the violations and bring the perpetrators to trial played a role in forcing most European states to investigate the role that their agencies and officials played in helping the CIA commit crimes. Only Sweden has taken the unique step of paying compensation to the victims of this collusion, though the Italian judiciary did convict officials for their involvement in American intelligence programs, and a former Polish president did acknowledge his country’s cooperation and exposed some of the black sites. These were the only responses, except for limited actions by the European Court of Human Rights, which revealed last July that Poland cooperated with the CIA to run a secret prison in which two suspected terrorists were tortured. The court is still investigating claims against several European countries, including Lithuania and Romania, regarding their involvement in and silence on these criminal activities.

The American administrations have acknowledged that they performed these barbaric activities. American intelligence officials do not deny them. But they have not apologized for them, preferring instead to defend and justify them by arguing that they were done to protect the security of the entire Western world. This American scandal, and the fact that the facts and events have been acknowledged, incriminates everyone who practiced them, decided them and managed them. Europe’s cooperation is an additional disgrace about which we should not remain silent. We must demand that the law is applied and that those involved are tried and do not escape human, moral and legal responsibility.

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