NEWS

Renditions still a topical issue

Swiss politician Dick Marty was in Greece last month addressing a conference on human rights and anti-terrorism law, organized by the Maragopoulou Foundation. He spoke to Kathimerini on the CIA’s rendition and secret detention program. The CIA’s rendition and secret detention program and the blacklisting of suspects were at the forefront of the agenda at the conference in Athens. Two years ago, your report was front-page news and was considered one of the Council of Europe’s most important contributions. Suddenly, though, the matter has faded from the news. Where do we stand today? The topic remains valid. Many countries have launched investigations, albeit faced with great obstacles. New evidence is constantly revealed, validating the two reports’ conclusions on the rendition program in 2006 and secret incarcerations of 2007. It is true that in certain European countries, governments have not only been uncooperative, but have even attempted to interfere with the investigation. Nonetheless, I consider it imperative to persevere. The war on terror is being used to usher in grave attempts on individual liberties. Is Greece involved in the CIA’s rendition program? Are Greek politicians responsible and have there been cover-up attempts? Greece played a secondary role. The report found that other countries played the crucial roles. The Greek press, as well as other European journalists, ought to investigate the matter further. There can be no democracy without truth. The European governments acted – in my opinion – more disgracefully than the USA ever did. Washington reached a decision – albeit the wrong one – and stuck to it. Europeans sided silently with Washington and never admitted to it. This double standard is very annoying, coming from democratic states. Two years ago, you said that what shocked you the most was European passivity on the matter. Was it passivity or a case of voluntary obstruction? Today, it is safe to say that it was both. In Italy, for example, the government is actively sabotaging the investigation of the case of Abu Omar, a suspect who was abducted by the CIA in Milan. In Germany, we were faced with similar problems in the case of the abduction of Khaled al-Masri. In Britain, the government insisted at first that no rendition flights had landed at the Diego Garcia air base, a remote outpost in the middle of the Indian Ocean. We know today that Diego Garcia was used at least twice by US planes transporting suspects. The PM said he is «sorry,» but as The Times and The Guardian have written, «sorry is not enough.» Concerning your second report on the secret detention program, is there a «Balkan Guantanamo» in Kosovo? I’m referring to Camp Bondsteel. Kosovo is still a «black hole;» we don’t know what happened there exactly. There are suspicions, but nothing concrete, unfortunately. Which of the presidential candidates do you consider more capable of mending the USA’s human rights record? That is a very difficult question to answer. I must admit to a real sympathy for Mr Barack Obama. I believe he represents the best American society has to offer. Mrs [Hillary] Clinton’s election would also constitute real progress, although I am bothered by her position on capital punishment. Positions like hers should be totally unacceptable in modern societies. A visa is still required for Greek citizens visiting the USA, although this requirement is to be lifted by the end of the year. Do you believe Greece could succumb to pressure, giving out travelers’ personal data for example, in order to secure the visa deal? I am not familiar with the details of Greek-American relations. It is certain, though, that Europe was asked to acquiesce, giving out all travelers’ personal data, for example. All this is worrying. We must not forget that other global phenomena have caused many more deaths than terrorism, while no action is being taken to curtail them. The black market in weapons and the global human-trafficking networks are cases in point. Western inaction can be explained by the huge economic interests rooted in these unlawful activities. Have you seen the movie «Rendition»? Did you find it realistic? No, I have not seen it, but I was told it was accurate. Are you satisfied by the influence your report has wielded on public opinion, art and even the movie industry? Yes. I believe art plays an important part in society, while at the same time I feel shocked by our society’s indifference to such matters. I believe the reason is that most of us consider this matter to be relevant «only to Muslims.» They forget that today the rendition program concerns Muslims, but that tomorrow it might concern every one of us. This enmity toward Islam can only breed further terror. Do you believe that anti-Islamic feelings will surge in Europe? I am convinced that the majority of Islamists are moderate and peace-loving. This anti-Islamic atmosphere can push the moderates into the arms of extremists. It is a form of validation, and it is dangerous. For these reasons, the state and the government must not fight terrorism by illegal means, since that would make victims out of the perpetrators. Terrorists are criminals and must be dealt with as such, within the framework of the law.