EU Probes Claims of Secret CIA Prisons in Europe

The European Union will investigate reports that the CIA has set up secret detention centers in Eastern Europe to hold high-level terrorist suspects for interrogation. A major human-rights group says it has evidence that Poland and Romania are involved.

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MICHELE NORRIS, host:

The European Union says it will look into reports that the US has set up secret detention centers in Eastern Europe. The EU is responding to a Washington Post report that the CIA created the secret jails to hold and interrogate suspected high-level terrorist suspects. A major human rights group says that it has evidence that Poland and Romania are two of the countries involved. NPR's national security correspondent Jackie Northam reports.

JACKIE NORTHAM reporting:

For more than six months, Human Rights Watch says it has been slowly piecing together evidence that the CIA established a network of secret jails outside of the United States to hold terror suspects. Using sources and documents, the group tried to determine the location of these jails. Tom Malinowski, the Washington director of Human Rights Watch, says his organization received strong evidence that in 2003 the CIA used a large airplane to transfer detainees captured in Afghanistan to two former Soviet bloc countries.

Mr. TOM MALINOWSKI (Washington Director, Human Rights Watch): We'd looked at the flight logs and found this flight of a CIA-leased Boeing 737 on September 22nd going from Kabul to an isolated airfield in Poland that is adjucant(ph) to a Polish intelligence facility, then to Romania, then to Morocco and then to Guantanamo.

NORTHAM: Human Rights Watch says the group then found that this and dozens of other CIA-leased planes made numerous similar shuttles between Afghanistan and the two Eastern European countries from 2001 to 2004. The group matched the flight patterns with testimony from scores of detainees who have been released by the US. Both Poland and Romania denied the Human Rights Watch allegations.

Overseas there was quick response to the news of possible secret US jails in Eastern Europe. The UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council on Europe and the European Commission said they were investigating. Poland is already a member of the European Union; Romania is due to join in 2007. European Commission spokesman Friso Roscam Abbin said if the reports are confirmed, Romania could be breaking the protocol known as the Copenhagen Criteria that sets conditions for membership in the EU.

Mr. FRISO ROSCAM ABBIN (Spokesman, European Commission): The Copenhagen Criteria are rather clear, and I don't think the existence of secret prisons will be compatible with those Copenhagen Criteria.

NORTHAM: The International Committee of the Red Cross went directly to US authorities after first reports about the secret prisons were published. ICRC spokesman Simon Schorno says his group has long expressed their concerns about detainees being held in undisclosed locations.

Mr. SIMON SCHORNO (Spokesman, International Committee of the Red Cross): In the framework of our dialogue with the US authorities, we've repeatedly raised the issue of notification and access to persons held in undisclosed places of detention. But no agreement has been reached at this point.

NORTHAM: Schorno says it's essential that the ICRC have access to all prisoners held in US detention centers to monitor their well-being. National security adviser Stephen Hadley would neither confirm nor deny the existence of the secret jails.

Mr. STEPHEN HADLEY (National Security Adviser): While we have to do what is necessary to defend the country against terrorist attacks and to win the war on terror, the president has been very clear that we're going to do that in a way that is consistent with our values.

NORTHAM: Hadley says President Bush has made it clear that torture of anyone is not condoned. Jackie Northam, NPR News, Washington.

NORRIS: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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