Report: Countries illegally helped CIA

 

Knight Ridder News Service

More than 20 nations -- from Central Asia to Western Europe -- colluded in a CIA-run ''spider's web'' of secret flights and prisons for abducted terrorism suspects that breach European and international human rights accords, a report to Europe's top human rights organization charged Wednesday.

''Rather than face any form of justice, suspects become entrapped in the spider's web,'' the report says.

The findings could further damage the United States' image in Europe and the Muslim world, where many people already are angry about the Iraq invasion, alleged torture of U.S.-held detainees and what they perceive as a Bush administration bias toward Israel.

ALLEGATIONS DISPUTED

Bush administration spokesmen said the report rehashed old allegations with no basis in facts. They denied that the United States practices torture and said rendition -- transporting suspects to face criminal charges in their native countries -- was legal under international law.

''The fight against terrorism is our highest priority, but it must be conducted with respect for the international rule of law,'' asserted Rene van der Linden, the president of the 46-nation Council of Europe.

The council, Europe's oldest human rights organization, can pressure member governments and legislatures into using the report as the basis for more investigations. It has no power to enforce human rights accords, however. The report, by Swiss Sen. Dick Marty, charges that 14 European governments and eight other nations aided the CIA in some way in illegally seizing suspected Islamic terrorists.

`UNLAWFUL TRANSFER'

It didn't give a total number of abductions, but said investigators had confirmed 10 cases of ''alleged unlawful interstate transfer'' involving 17 men. The men claimed they were abducted by American agents, trussed up and blindfolded, subjected to maltreatment that included beatings and flown to U.S. prisons in GuantĂ¡namo Bay, Afghanistan or to Poland, Morocco, Romania, Algeria, Egypt, Jordan, Uzbekistan, Iraq and Pakistan.

Several of the men were released after investigators found that they had been erroneously identified as Islamic terrorists or accomplices.

''Rendition is not something that began with this administration, and it's certainly going to be practiced, I'm sure, in the future,'' White House spokesman Tony Snow said.

But Marty said that after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the Bush administration oversaw a ''critical deviation'' in U.S. rendition policy under which the practice was used to ``place captured terrorist suspects outside the reach of any justice system and keep them there.''

The ''absence of human rights guarantees'' and the use of ''enhanced interrogation techniques'' led in several cases ''to detainees being subjected to torture,'' he said.

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