Europe still suppressing evidence of US rendition programme

Transport planeLondon/Madrid, 19 December 2011. Access Info Europe and Reprieve have released a new report, Rendition on Record, detailing how many European countries are suppressing evidence of their role in the USA’s notorious rendition programme.

The Rendition on Record report, by Access Info Europe and legal-action charity Reprieve, reveals how 28 countries have responded to 67 requests for information about specific rendition flights carried out between 2002 and 2006.

While six European countries and the USA responded by releasing data, 16 others have either refused or failed to answer questions about their complicity in the CIA’s illegal detention operations. The European air traffic management body Eurocontrol also refused on the grounds that it has no transparency obligations to the public.

In response to Access Info Europe’s requests, the USA’s Federal Aviation Authority released 27,128 flight records on 29 November 2011 – a significant addition to resources available to researchers and lawyers working to get to the bottom of human rights abuses committed during the “war on terror”.

Reprieve investigator Crofton Black said: “It’s a shocking indictment of European complacency that, while the USA will gladly release over 27,000 records, Europe’s air traffic manager Eurocontrol won’t even release one. It’s equally unacceptable that countries such as Austria, France, Italy, Latvia, Romania, and Spain simply ignore requests for data relating to serious human rights abuses.”

Access Info Europe and Reprieve are calling on Canada, Portugal, Sweden and Eurocontrol to reconsider their refusals and to release the requested data.

The research has also revealed that the data is not held indefinitely by air traffic control authorities; Denmark, Ireland, Slovenia and the UK have told the researchers that data is destroyed after around five years. In some countries the data is held by private bodies which have no obligation to the public to retain it.

“It is imperative that the data be made public before it is destroyed, in order to permit full accountability for these violations of human rights,” added Medland.

The Rendition on Record report can be downloaded from:

For more information, please contact:

Helen Darbishire, Executive Director, Access Info Europe
+34 667 685 319

Notes for Editors

1. In 2005, investigators, law enforcement officials and journalists became aware of the widespread use of private US-registered aircraft, illegally to transport (‘render’) individuals captured by the US and other governments in the context of the ‘war on terror’. The programme, rumoured to have cost tens of millions of dollars, saw prisoners routinely transported by this method, held incommunicado and tortured, in contravention of the European Convention on Human Rights, the United Nations Convention against Torture, the Geneva Conventions and the domestic laws of all European countries.

2. A list of such aircraft was collected and published in two Council of Europe reports, in 2006 and 2007. Owing to the ongoing evolution of the CIA’s rendition and detention programme, however, the Council’s data remained incomplete.

3. For the last twelve months, Reprieve and Access Info Europe have been building a more comprehensive overview of aircraft involved in the renditions programme, and their flight routes. The list includes aircraft active before the Council of Europe reports but unknown to Council of Europe investigators, and aircraft active after the Council of Europe reports. It currently includes 54 aircraft, all of which have substantive documentary connections to entities involved in CIA rendition operations.

4. All information accessed under this project will be collated and made available by The Rendition Project, a joint research project between the University of Kent and Kingston University, and funded by the UK’s Economic and Social Research Council.

Reprieve, a legal action charity, uses the law to deliver justice and save lives, from death row to Guantánamo Bay. Reprieve investigates, litigates and educates, working on the frontline, to provide legal support to prisoners unable to pay for it themselves. Reprieve promotes the rule of law around the world, securing each person’s right to a fair trial and saving lives. Clive Stafford Smith is the founder of Reprieve and has spent 25 years working on behalf of people facing the death penalty in the USA. Reprieve’s current casework involves representing 15 prisoners in the US prison at Guantánamo Bay, assisting over 70 prisoners facing the death penalty around the world, and conducting ongoing investigations into the rendition and the secret detention of ‘ghost prisoners’ in the so-called ‘war on terror.’

Access Info Europe is a human rights organisation dedicated to promoting and protecting the right of access to information in Europe and globally. Access Info’s mission is to advance democracy by making the right to information work in practice as a tool for defending civil liberties, for facilitating public participation in decision-making, and for holding governments accountable. Access Info Europe’s Access for Rights project includes work on issues of freedom of expression and media freedom in the context of anti-terror laws, freedom of assembly, and protection of privacy in particular on the issue of retention of personal telecommunications data.

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