In a statement marking the anniversary of the Sept 11, 2001, terror attacks, Nils Muiznieks said Ireland and 24 other EU countries violated human rights law and caused further suffering after the deaths of approximately 3,000 people in New York and Washington.
These countries “still have to fully account for their co-operation with the unlawful US programme, in particular as concerns the use of their airspace and airports for suspected rendition flights, capture and transfer of individuals to US custody, and participation in interrogation, as well as knowledge of the secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations”, Muiznieks said.
It was imperative to take urgent political and judicial action in countries to “lift the veil of secrecy” governments had drawn over their responsibilities, he said.
“The CIA programme of rendition and secret detention is not simply a grave political mistake; it is above all a serious violation of fundamental human rights. The continued impunity breeds contempt for democracy and the rule of law, as well as disrespect for the victims and values in whose name the fight against terrorism was carried out. It is high time to set the record straight,”, Muiznieks said.
So far, governments have been unwilling to establish the truth and be accountable for their complicity in the unlawful CIA programme in Europe between 2002 and 2006, he said. Judiciary and parliamentary efforts to investigate were thwarted by abuse of state secrets laws.
“Secrecy is sometimes necessary to protect the state; it should never serve as an excuse to conceal serious human rights violations,” Muiznieks said.
The European Court of Human Rights last December made a breakthrough when it held Macedonia responsible for the torture of a man kidnapped by the CIA with the help of local officials.
Further cases taken by two victims against Poland, Lithuania, and Romania have been referred to the court. “In the near future the court could further expose the lawlessness that has characterised the CIA programme if it decides to examine the complaints,” Muiznieks said.
Italy is the only country to have handed down sentences against people involved in the CIA programme. In 2009, 23 US citizens — 22 of whom were CIA agents — and five Italian secret service agents were sentenced for the kidnapping and rendition to Egypt of a Muslim cleric from the streets of Milan.
Germany, under pressure from the US, has refused to demand extradition as requested by their courts, while British judges compelled the government to compensate 16 people transferred abroad and tortured. Sweden has compensated two Egyptian asylum seekers handed over to the CIA.
Ireland has been named in a plethora of investigations and complaints into kidnapping and torture, including in reports from the Council of Europe.
In 2006 it said Ireland may be held accountable for collusion because flights involving illegal transfers made stopovers at airports here, mainly at Shannon. A European Parliament report in 2007 said there had been 147 known stopovers at Irish airports.
In 2011, the UN committee against torture said it was concerned at the reports of Ireland’s alleged co-operation with rendition flights and “at the inadequate response by the State”.