The European Union's top justice official said Tuesday suspected terrorists had been transferred to U.S. intelligence agents on European territory, but he added that it was not known whether these actions were legal or not. Lisa Bryant has more for VOA from Paris about the latest allegations of CIA flights and renditions in Europe.
The statements by European Union Justice Commissioner Franco Frattini were made in Strasbourg, France, at the Council of Europe. The Council, which is Europe's top human rights body, voted to continue an inquiry into reports of secret CIA flights in Europe.
Dick Marty, a special investigator for the Council, charges the flights and renditions to third countries of terrorist suspects almost certainly took place with knowledge of European governments. He wants these governments to investigate the allegations, and says that, if true, they are against European principles.
Two separate European bodies - the Council of Europe and the European Parliament - are investigating the allegations.
According to the Associated Press, Commissioner Frattini said it was a "fact" that terror suspects were transferred to U.S. agents in Europe since September 11, 2001. He said it wasn't yet known just which countries cooperated with the transfers, or whether they were legal. But Frattini said he wants European governments to investigate these allegations and says he will put political pressure on them to do so.
A number of European governments deny knowledge of alleged CIA flights and renditions. The latest charges were published in a report by Marty for the Council of Europe earlier this month. U.S. officials dismissed the report, saying it offers nothing new and lacks hard evidence.
Bob Ayers is a former U.S. intelligence officer who now works as an analyst at the Royal Institute of International Affairs in London. He says, if the alleged CIA renditions actually took place, European governments must certainly have known about them. But Ayers said he doubts these governments will launch the kinds of investigations Marty and Frattini are calling for.
"If it took place, it was taking place with mutual knowledge and collaboration so there's not going to be a huge hue and cry to investigate their own behavior," he said. "And if it didn't take place, there's no point investigating it.
In a joint statement Tuesday, several human rights groups in Geneva said it was unacceptable and unlawful for European countries to participate in illegal transfers or detentions of terrorist suspects.