EU states warned on CIA prisons

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Wednesday, November 30, 2005

The European Union's highest justice official has warned EU member states that any nations found to have hosted a covert CIA jail could have its "voting rights suspended". EU Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini said the consequences would be "extremely serious" if reports of such jails turned out to be true.

According to Human Rights Watch, the secret prisons are located in Poland and Romania. This comes amid an EU investigation into claims that the US ran clandestine jails in eastern Europe. In the case of Romania, a senior Euro MP has questioned whether its accession to the EU should go ahead as planned. The US has declined to confirm or deny the reports of secret jails, which became public in the US earlier this month.

Speaking at a news conference in Berlin, Mr Frattini called for tough penalties against any involved state, saying "I would be obliged to propose to the Council of EU Ministers serious consequences, including the suspension of voting rights in the council." He said a suspension of voting rights would be justified if any country is found to have breached the bloc's founding principles of human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Such a move would be unprecedented for the EU.

However, a diplomatic source said that to suspend a member state's voting rights in the Council of the European Union, the other 24 member states would have to vote unanimously to take such a step, which would be unlikely to happen in practice.

Mr Frattini said the Bush administration had asked for more time to deliver a response to the accusations after a senior commission official formally raised the issue on a visit to Washington last week. "Right now, there is no [US] response," he said. The allegations that the CIA held al-Qaeda suspects in secret prisons in Eastern Europe were first reported in the Washington Post on November 2, but the newspaper withheld information on the location of the prisons on the request of the U.S. government.

During his first U.S. visit, the newly appointed German foreign minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier failed to receive any clarification on the question of secret CIA prisons, but the United States has now officially recognized that this is an issue of great concern to its European allies. Seceretary of State Condoleezza Rice promised an official U.S. clarification on this matter in the near future.

Sources

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