EU awaiting Polish, Romanian replies on CIA jails

BRUSSELS – The European Commission said on Friday it was awaiting responses from Poland and Romania to charges that they hosted CIA prisons where al Qaeda suspects were questioned and guards used methods akin to torture.

A day after Britain said Washington used its territory to transfer terrorism suspects, a spokesman for the EU executive said Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini had renewed an appeal for the countries to respond to the Council of Europe report.

The Council of Europe, Europe’s main human rights watchdog, said last year that detention centers in Romania and Poland were used to interrogate top al Qaeda suspects from 2003-2005.

“They (the letters) reminded the two countries … of the obligation to carry out effective investigations and asked for detailed information as to how this has been implemented and in particular what the outcome of the investigation is,” Johannes Laitenberger told a daily news briefing on Friday.

“We have not received a reply from Poland and the information, the reply so far received, from Romania was not considered complete by Vice President Frattini. So Vice President Frattini sent reminders to both countries on January 29 and we are currently awaiting replies to these reminders.”

He said Frattini sent letters to Romania and Poland last July.

Britain, having maintained for years it was unaware of a British link to “rendition” flights, said on Thursday the United States had told it that it had used British territory to transfer terrorism suspects.

European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso said the EU executive had asked EU member states “to be transparent and investigate what happened in terms of extraordinary renditions”.

The Council of Europe report’s author, Swiss senator Dick Marty, said Poland housed some of the CIA’s most sensitive prisoners, including Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, reputed mastermind of the September 11, 2001, attacks on the United States.

Marty said U.S. intelligence and other sources told him the two EU members hosted the secret jails under a special CIA program created after 9/11 “to ‘kill, capture and detain’ terrorist suspects deemed of ‘high value'”.

He said they were part of a “global spider’s web” of secret CIA detentions and transfers, known as extraordinary renditions. Marty also accused EU members Germany and Italy of using state secrecy to obstruct his investigation.

Frattini said in 2005 that if reports of secret CIA prisons in Europe were true, states would face serious consequences including the possible suspension of their EU voting rights.

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