Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe’s rights commissioner, accused governments of being “deeply complicit” in illegal activities carried out by the US over the last 10 years, since the September 11 2001 terrorist attacks on New York and Washington.
“In attempting to combat crimes attributed to terrorists, countless further crimes have been committed in the course of the US-led 'global war on terror’,” he said. . “Many of those crimes have been carefully and deliberately covered up.”
A 2007 Council of Europe (COE) report by Dick Marty, Swiss MP, accused Britain and 13 other European governments of allowing the CIA to run secret detention centres, of turning a blind eye to torture and the illegal abductions of terror suspects.
Mr Hammerberg accused Europe’s governments of blocking investigations into rendition in line with Washington’s wishes.
“The message is clear – good relations between the security agencies are deemed more important than preventing torture and other serious human rights violations,” he said.
The COE has highlighted the case of Khaled El-Masri, a German car salesman, who was abducted twice, first to Afghanistan and then to Albania, where he was dumped on a remote hillside in an apparent effort to cover up what officials later conceded was an error.
“So far Europe has granted effective impunity to those who committed crimes in implementing the rendition policy. An urgent rethink is required to prevent this misjudged and failed counter terrorism approach from having a sad legacy of injustice,” said Mr Hammerberg.
An American legal dispute between two aviation companies has unveiled the hidden network of US companies that played a key role in the covert airlifts to abduct, and transport terrorism suspects.
The court files of more than 1,700 pages shed new light on the US government’s reliance on private contractors for flights between Washington, foreign capitals, the US military base at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, and, at times, landing points near once-secret, CIA-run overseas prisons.
The companies included DynCorp, a leading government contractor that secretly oversaw a fleet of luxury jets, and caterers that unwittingly stocked the planes with fruit platters and bottles of wine for US security personnel, according to the court files and testimony.