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".

Arts & Entertainment
Madonna in her music video for 'Like A Virgin'
music... and other misheard song lyrics
News
Waitrose will be bringing in more manned tills
newsOverheard in Waitrose: documenting the chatter in 'Britain's poshest supermarket'
News
The energy drink MosKa was banned for containing a heavy dose of the popular erectile dysfunction Levitra
news
News
Much of the colleges’ land is off-limits to locals in Cambridge, with tight security
educationAnd has the Cambridge I knew turned its back on me?
VIDEO
Sport
Australia's Dylan Tombides competes for the ball with Adal Matar of Kuwait during the AFC U-22 Championship Group C match in January
sportDylan Tombides was diagnosed with testicular cancer in 2011
News
Ida Beate Loken has been living at the foot of a mountain since May
newsNorwegian gives up home comforts for a cave
Extras
indybest10 best gardening gloves
News
Russia's President Vladimir Putin gives his annual televised question-and-answer session
peopleBizarre TV claim
Arts & Entertainment
tvIt might all be getting a bit much, but this is still the some of the finest TV ever made, says Grace Dent
Arts & Entertainment
Comedian Lenny Henry is calling for more regulation to support ethnic actors on TV
tvActor and comedian leads campaign against 'lack of diversity' in British television
News
Posted at the end of March, this tweeted photo was a week off the end of their Broadway shows
people
News
peopleStar to remain in hospital for up to 27 days to get over allergic reaction
Arts & Entertainment
The Honesty Policy is a group of anonymous Muslims who believe that the community needs a space to express itself without shame or judgement
music
News
Who makes you happy?
happy listSend your nominations now for the Independent on Sunday Happy List
Life & Style
life
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition iPad app?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Apprentice IT Technician

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is a company that specializ...

1st Line Technical Service Desk Analyst IT Apprentice

£153.75 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company is an innovative outsourcin...

1st Line Helpdesk Engineer Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: This company has been providing on site ...

Sales Associate Apprentice

£150.00 per week: QA Apprenticeships: We've been supplying best of breed peopl...

Day In a Page

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe: Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC

How I brokered a peace deal with Robert Mugabe

Roy Agyemang reveals the delicate diplomacy needed to get Zimbabwe’s President to sit down with the BBC
Video of British Muslims dancing to Pharrell Williams's hit Happy attacked as 'sinful'

British Muslims's Happy video attacked as 'sinful'

The four-minute clip by Honesty Policy has had more than 300,000 hits on YouTube
Church of England-raised Michael Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith

Michael Williams: Do as I do, not as I pray

Church of England-raised Williams describes the unexpected joys in learning about his family's Jewish faith
A History of the First World War in 100 moments: A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife

A History of the First World War in 100 moments

A visit to the Front Line by the Prime Minister's wife
Comedian Jenny Collier: 'Sexism I experienced on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

Jenny Collier: 'Sexism on stand-up circuit should be extinct'

The comedian's appearance at a show on the eve of International Women's Day was cancelled because they had "too many women" on the bill
Cannes Film Festival: Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or

Cannes Film Festival

Ken Loach and Mike Leigh to fight it out for the Palme d'Or
The concept album makes surprise top ten return with neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson

The concept album makes surprise top ten return

Neolithic opus from Jethro Tull's Ian Anderson is unexpected success
Lichen is the surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus, thanks to our love of Scandinavian and Indian cuisines

Lichen is surprise new ingredient on fine-dining menus

Emily Jupp discovers how it can give a unique, smoky flavour to our cooking
10 best baking books

10 best baking books

Planning a spot of baking this bank holiday weekend? From old favourites to new releases, here’s ten cookbooks for you
Jury still out on Manchester City boss Manuel Pellegrini

Jury still out on Pellegrini

Draw with Sunderland raises questions over Manchester City manager's ability to motivate and unify his players
Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

Ben Stokes: 'Punching lockers isn't way forward'

The all-rounder has been hailed as future star after Ashes debut but incident in Caribbean added to doubts about discipline. Jon Culley meets a man looking to control his emotions
Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

Mark Johnston: First £1 million jackpot spurs him on

The most prize money ever at an All-Weather race day is up for grabs at Lingfield on Friday, and the record-breaking trainer tells Jon Freeman how times have changed
Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail. If you think it's awful, then just don't watch it'

Ricky Gervais: 'People are waiting for me to fail'

As the second series of his divisive sitcom 'Derek' hits screens, the comedian tells James Rampton why he'll never bow to the critics who habitually circle his work
Mad Men series 7, TV review: The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge

Mad Men returns for a final fling

The suits are still sharp, but Don Draper has lost his edge
Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground as there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit

Google finds a lift into space will never get off the ground

Technology giant’s scientists say there is no material strong enough for a cable from Earth into orbit