There is evidence that the CIA set up secret detention sites for terrorism suspects in some of the EU member states. The European Parliament believes that the countries involved should be held accountable but its efforts to investigate the allegations are said to be hindered by US and EU governments. The EP's human rights subcommittee held a public hearing on secret rendition and detention practices on 12 April 2012 focussing on how to protect human rights while countering terrorism.
German Green MEP Barbara Lochbihler, chair of the human rights subcommittee, criticised NATO for not attending the hearing and responding in a constructive way. "I completely do not understand the reasoning for not doing so, because members of armies of NATO can be involved in such human rights violations." She gave the example of whether German soldiers in Afghanistan should hand over people to the US if there is a risk they could be tortured.
The problem with secret detentions
Speakers at the hearing criticised secret renditions and detentions, which made it impossible to check if torture was being used to question suspects.
Gerald Staberock, secretary general of the Organisation Mondiale Contre la Torture (OMCT), said: "We make distinctions between innocent victims and guilty victims, yet the obligation not to torture applies to any person, whether he has a terrorist affiliation or not."
Lithuanian Christian-Democrat MEP Vytautas Landsbergis said: "Such practices are usually continued being covered by alleged counter terrorism with zero respect for human rights."
French Green MEP Hélène Flautre said: "We have to establish instruments to ensure this will never happen again."
Secret detention vs public court hearings
Juan Méndez, United Nations' special rapporteur on torture, said: "In almost no recent cases has there been any judicial investigations into allegations of secret detention and practically no-one has been brought to justice. Many victims has almost never received any form of reparation, rehabilitation or compensation."
Ben Emmerson, United Nations' special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights, added: "A public court hearing provides visible justice to the victims of terrorism and to their families. By contrast, indefinite or secret detention of terrorist suspects without charge or trial is not only unlawful and against our common values, but also provides distorted arguments to the terrorists."
The importance of upholding human rights
Clive Stafford Smith, founder and director of Reprieve, an organisation dedicated to using the law to enforce the human rights of prisoners, said ignoring human rights would only increase the risk. "It's only when we betray our values, that we make our own world much more dangerous. By far the greatest weapon in our armoury against violence and terrorism is the enforcement of human rights."
British Liberal-Democrat MEP Sarah Ludford said: "Human rights compliance actually makes us safer. I have always resisted the dogma that we have to give up our liberty for security."
The need for further investigation
Portuguese Social-Democrat MEP Ana Gomes said the committee met with a lot of resistance from politicians and intelligence services. "We need to push for accountability for those who take political decisions and the people who covered up and lied against parliamentary enquiry."
Antoine Buchet, of the European Commission's directorate-general for justice, commented: "Neither the Commission nor the European Parliament has its own powers of investigation. It is up to member states to shed light on what has happened."
British Social-Democrat MEP Richard Howitt said: "I believe it's the work of the NGOs and parliamentarians, not just here in the European Parliament, but also in national parliaments, that's really kept this issue alive."