EU members face sanctions over secret CIA prisons

The dispute over CIA detention centres threatened to open a fresh rift within Europe last night after the European Commission warned that any country found to be hosting the secret prisons could be penalised.

Meanwhile, the United States said that it needed more time to respond to allegations about the centres - the first time, at least in public, that Washington has not simply refused to comment on the issue.

Franco Frattini, the European commissioner for justice and home affairs, warned that any countries found to be allowing the CIA to operate the detention centres - part of a global secret gulag used to hold al-Qa'ida suspects and other "ghost detainees" - could have its voting rights suspended.

Three separate initiatives are under way to try to investigate the claims, which surfaced early this month and which initially appeared to implicate Poland and Romania. Since then, a number of countries have faced claims that CIA planes may have landed on their territory while transporting terrorist suspects. Evidence shows that the planes landed and refuelled in Scotland.

Speaking in Berlin, Mr Frattini reminded EU member states that breaches of human rights could be punishable by their voting rights being suspended. That sanction, under Article 7 of the EU's governing Nice Treaty, was created after the row over the far-right Freedom Party being included in Austria's coalition government in 2000.

More than three weeks after the claims surfaced, the truth behind them seems as elusive as ever. The European Commission's director general for justice and home affairs, Jonathan Faul, raised the issue with the White House and US State Department last week. Mr Frattini said: "They told him: 'Give us the appropriate time to evaluate the situation.' Right now, there is no response."

In addition, the UK presidency of the EU has written to the US to seek clarification, and the Council of Europe - the continent's human rights watchdog - has launched a formal inquiry, writing to all member countries.

Denials have come from several countries. Poland's Defence Minister, Radoslaw Sikorski, said: "I am sure you have heard the firm denials of the government spokesman. There is nothing to investigate. It hasn't happened. In Sweden they had allegations and it turned out to be a wedding. Can we investigate every claim?" He added: "I have not had a letter from the Council of Europe. And I don't think intelligence matters are a responsibility of the Council of Europe anyway."

All EU member states and applicant countries are signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights, a charter that precludes the use of clandestine detention centres.

Mr Frattini said Romania's Interior Minister, Vasile Blaga, had also assured him that the allegations were untrue and that Mihail Kogalniceanu airbase, used by US forces to transport troops to Afghanistan and Iraq, was not used to hold or interrogate terror suspects.

The claims about Romania and Poland were made by the New York-based Human Rights Watch, a group which monitors human rights issues around the world. It said its claims were based partly on flight logs that showed planes previously identified as those used by the CIA to fly prisoners had landed at the airports at the same time as it was known high-level suspects were moved from Afghanistan.

One of the group's directors, Tom Malinowski, said the controversy was taking place because "disappearing people is not consistent with the most basic principles that democratic countries abide by".

News
Russell Brand was in typically combative form during his promotional interview with Newsnight's Evan Davis
peopleReports that Brand could stand for Mayor on an 'anti-politics' ticket
News
The clocks go forward an hour at 1am on Sunday 30 March
news
Arts and Entertainment
The Doctor finds himself in a forest version of London in Doctor Who episode 'In the Forest of the Night'
TVReview: Is the Doctor ever going stop frowning? Apparently not.
News
Voluminous silk drawers were worn by Queen Victoria
newsThe silk underwear is part of a growing trade in celebrity smalls
PROMOTED VIDEO
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
footballMatch report: Real fight back to ruin Argentinian's debut
News
Candidates with surnames that start with an A have an electoral advantage
newsVoters are biased towards names with letters near start of alphabet
Arts and Entertainment
Isis with Lord Grantham (Hugh Bonneville)
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Jay James
TVReview: Performances were stale and cheesier than a chunk of Blue Stilton left out for a month
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Maths Teacher

£110 - £200 per day: Randstad Education Leeds: Secondary Maths Teacher for spe...

Business Analyst - Surrey - Permanent - Up to £50k DOE

£40000 - £50000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***ASP.NET Developer - Cheshire - £35k - Permanent***

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

***Solutions Architect*** - Brighton - £40k - Permanent

£35000 - £40000 Per Annum Excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd:...

Day In a Page

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news: musician splits with manager after police investigate assault claims

Wilko Johnson, now the bad news

Former Dr Feelgood splits with manager after police investigate assault claims
Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands ahead of the US midterm elections

Mark Udall: The Democrat Senator with a fight on his hands

The Senator for Colorado is for gay rights, for abortion rights – and in the Republicans’ sights as they threaten to take control of the Senate next month
New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

New discoveries show more contact between far-flung prehistoric humans than had been thought

Evidence found of contact between Easter Islanders and South America
Cerys Matthews reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of Dylan Thomas

Cerys Matthews on Dylan Thomas

The singer reveals how her uncle taped 150 interviews for a biography of the famous Welsh poet
DIY is not fun and we've finally realised this as a nation

Homebase closures: 'DIY is not fun'

Homebase has announced the closure of one in four of its stores. Nick Harding, who never did know his awl from his elbow, is glad to see the back of DIY
The Battle of the Five Armies: Air New Zealand releases new Hobbit-inspired in-flight video

Air New Zealand's wizard in-flight video

The airline has released a new Hobbit-inspired clip dubbed "The most epic safety video ever made"
Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month - but can you stomach the sweetness?

Pumpkin spice is the flavour of the month

The combination of cinnamon, clove, nutmeg (and no actual pumpkin), now flavours everything from lattes to cream cheese in the US
11 best sonic skincare brushes

11 best sonic skincare brushes

Forget the flannel - take skincare to the next level by using your favourite cleanser with a sonic facial brush
Paul Scholes column: I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Phil Jones and Marcos Rojo

Paul Scholes column

I'm not worried about Manchester United's defence - Chelsea test can be the making of Jones and Rojo
Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

Frank Warren: Boxing has its problems but in all my time I've never seen a crooked fight

While other sports are stalked by corruption, we are an easy target for the critics
Jamie Roberts exclusive interview: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Jamie Roberts: 'I'm a man of my word – I'll stay in Paris'

Wales centre says he’s not coming home but is looking to establish himself at Racing Métro
How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?

A crime that reveals London's dark heart

How could three tourists have been battered within an inch of their lives by a burglar in a plush London hotel?