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Alleged secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers involving Council of Europe member states

Parliamentary Assembly
Assemblée parlementaire

AS/Jur (2006) 16 Part II
7 June 2006

Committee on Legal Affairs and Human Rights

Draft report – Part II (Explanatory memorandum)
Rapporteur: Mr Dick Marty, Switzerland, ALDE

C.       Explanatory memorandum

      by Mr Dick Marty, Rapporteur

4.        Secret places of detention

215. After the publication of allegations by the Washington Post and Human Rights Watch179, we centred our search on certain sites in Poland and Romania.

4.1.        Satellite photographs

216. We obtained from the European Union Satellite Centre (EUSC) in Torréon a number of satellite photographs of the sites concerned180, some taken at different times. We studied these with the assistance of an independent expert.

217. These photographs do not constitute conclusive evidence. With the expert's help, we were able to identify several specific locations at a civil airport and a secret services base (in Poland) and at military airfields (in Romania) which would be very suitable for the secret detention of persons flown in from abroad. There are however hundreds of equally favourable locations throughout Europe. As the EUSC did not have available, for most of the places concerned, sequences of photographs which would have shown whether physical structures (huts, fences, watchtowers, and so on) had been altered (added or dismantled) at certain relevant times, the satellite photographs do not enable us to reach any conclusions with a high degree of certainty.

218. On the other hand, they did enable us to request certain clarifications from the Polish and Romanian delegations. All the replies we received, in my opinion, show a lack of transparency and genuine willingness to co-operate in the authorities concerned181.

4.2.        Documented aircraft movements

219. As we showed above, the information received from Eurocontrol and certain national air traffic control authorities, confirmed by witnesses' accounts, makes it possible to be sure that certain flights were made between known detention centres and the suspected places in Poland and Romania. The geographical position of these places making them unlikely to be used for refuelling, the period spent on the ground in these places by these aircraft, and in particular the fact that the landings in questions belong to well-established ‘rendition circuits’182, allow us to suspect that they are or were places of detention which form part of the ‘spider's web’ referred to above.

4.3.        Witnesses' accounts

220. Accounts given by witnesses to Amnesty International183 make it look very likely that a relatively large place of detention had to be located in a European country, without any more detail.

221. A journalist working for German television184 interviewed a young Afghan in Kabul who said that he had been held in Romania. This witness, very frightened and unwilling to give direct evidence to a member of my team, was reported to have been told by a guard to whom he had complained about his conditions of detention that he was lucky in fact to be in Romania.

222. Let us recall also – as mentioned in my information note in January 2006185 - that according to a fax sent by the Egyptian Ministry for European Affairs to the Egyptian Embassy in London and intercepted by Swiss intelligence services, such centres had existed in Romania, Bulgaria, Macedonia, Kosovo and in Ukraine.

223. Both sources from inside the CIA referred to by the Washington Post, ABC and HRW are said to have named Poland and Romania, but without indicating specific places186.

4.4.        Evaluation

224. Whilst to date, no evidence in the formal sense of the term has come to light, many coherent and convergent elements provide a basis for stating that these secret CIA detention centres have indeed existed in Europe, and we have seen that several indicators point at these two countries. As explained before, if these elements are not evidence, they are sufficiently serious to reverse the burden of proof: it is now for the countries in question to address their ‘positive obligations’ to investigate, to avoid endangering the credibility of their denials.


179 See above, para. 7.

180 The following sites were captured in the satellite photographs: Cataloi, Fetesti and Mihail Kogalniceanu in Romania; and Szczytno / Szymany in Poland.

181 In Poland's case, we detected, at an airfield said not to have been used for military purposes since the end of World War II, a very well-maintained double fence around a structure identified as containing munitions bunkers. Our question as to the reason for keeping this double fence in perfect condition did not receive a convincing reply. Where Romania is concerned, the authorities first stated that the construction works at the airbases concerned were merely being carried out to maintain existing infrastructure; only when the question was raised again, backed up by the only single-site photo sequence available to us, clearly showing the building of a new hangar and an extension of the aircraft parking area, that the Romanian authorities confirmed that some new building had also been done.

182 See para. 52 above

183 See para. 184 above, the case of Mr Bashmila and Mr Ali Qaru.

184 Ashwin Raman, one of the makers of an ARD documentary shown on the ARD channel on 1 March 2006 and on SWF on 8 March.

185 Information note dated 22 January 2006, para. 5 and 52

186 Ibid, see para. 7.