Trading Black Sites for NATO Membership: Eastern Europe’s Role in the US Torture Program

by Adam Hudson, Truthout | News Analysis –


At the beginning of his first term, President Obama told the public to “look forward, as opposed to looking backwards,” on the subject of the CIA torture program. However, many refused to take heed – and they are still pushing for answers. In October, human rights lawyers and activists testified at the European Parliament, arguing that the European Union has not done enough to investigate Europe’s role in the CIA detention, rendition and torture program.

After the US Senate Select Intelligence Committee released its report on the CIA torture program in 2014 – declassifying more than 500 pages of a 6,000-page document, meaning that the majority is still classified – the European Parliament issued a resolution on it last February that welcomed the Senate report, condemned the CIA’s torture program and called on the US and European Union member states to investigate the abuses and prosecute the perpetrators. However, in terms of real accountability, little has been done.

“If EU actors had refused to get involved, as happened in some member states, then perhaps these egregious human rights abuses would not have happened,” Elspeth Guild of the Center for European Policy Studies told members of the European Parliament. Guild blamed “state secret doctrines” and a lack of independence for blocking an “effective investigation” into the issue.

Eva Joly, a Member of the European Parliament for France and member of France’s Green Party, went on a mission to Romania to investigate claims of the CIA’s illegal detention of prisoners in the country. She said at the hearing, “Nobody cooperated with me. I met with people who denied that anything happened in Romania – even persons from the civil society, or investigative journalists. I am disturbed by the fact that the people I met would not even analyze the evidence accumulate during 10 years.”

Natacha Kazatchkine, a senior policy analyst on fundamental rights, justice and home affairs at the Open Society Foundations attended the European Parliament hearing on the CIA torture program. Like many of those who testified, she feels that Europe has not done enough in terms of transparency and accountability regarding the CIA torture program and Europe’s role in it. She also criticized the lack of accountability in the US regarding the CIA’s global torture program and the prison at Guantánamo Bay, telling Truthout, “The violations are ongoing – the ill-treatment, the injustice – and nothing has been solved.”

Comparing Europe and the US, Kazatchkine told Truthout, “Definitely, we can say that there’s more of a record of accountability in Europe, looking at the court cases, looking at even however imperfect the inquiries have been made in a number of member states. And so Europe can say that it has done some things to address these issues. But the analysis is that no state has completed a full inquiry into this.”

She said that European Union member states often say that they need information from the US about the torture program, or that CIA torture is a US problem to solve. However, Kazatchkine argued that Europe has the capacity and legal foundation to – and should – do much more.

Torture and Extraordinary Rendition in Black Sites

From 2002 to 2008, the CIA detained 119 people in secret prisons known as “black sites” around the world, including Afghanistan, Thailand, Guantánamo Bay and the island of Diego Garcia. Based on the Senate report and previous reports by the International Committee of the Red Cross and CIA Inspector General, forms of torture and other abuses at CIA black sites include: waterboarding, shackling, stress positions, wall slamming, beatings, slapping, prolonged and forced nudity, sleep deprivation, food deprivation and restriction, blaring loud music, exposure to extreme cold and hot temperatures, anal rape and other forms of sexual abuse, threats to kill and rape loved ones, cramped confinement, use of insects and mock executions. Torture violates international law, particularly the Convention Against Torture – a treaty to which the US is a party.



Reprinted with permission from Truthout