European Media See an American Gulag
From Iceland to Turkey, The Washington Post's Nov. 2 story, "CIA Holds Terror Suspects In Secret Prisons," has elicited denunciations and denials in the online media.
While every East European government denied the presence of secret CIA detention centers within their borders, Human Rights Watch's statement that it believes two such prisons are located in Poland and Romania was also widely reported in Europe. Together, the stories revived reports from last spring about flights of CIA-owned planes through various European airports that raised the possibility that so-called "torture flights" were transporting suspected terrorists to a European destination.
What rankled most commentators is the possibility that European governments have been made complicit in the U.S. policy of secret detention and interrogation unbound by international law, especially East European democracies that only threw off communism 16 years ago.
"The reaction can hardly be strong enough if the United States has sneaked the serious violation of the European view of human rights inside the EU's door," said the Copenhagen daily Politiken (in Danish).
In Poland, Peter Gentle of Radio Polonia said the Post story came "as a bit of a shock to Poles. Most - maybe all - people I have spoke to just can't believe a word of it. A Guantanamo Bay type prison in the middle of northern Poland? Don't be ridiculous. "
Gentle described the evidence to support the claim of a prison in Poland as "dodgey, to say the least," adding that Poles "won't believe that there are any [secret prisons] in Poland until physical evidence of these camps is uncovered before their very eyes."
The headline on his column evoked incredulity: "CIA Gulags--in Poland?"
Hungarians "were already aware of the fact that the United States was keeping people captive in secret locations without charging them, without judicial control or time limits," said Gabor Horvath, writing in Nepszabadsag (in Hungarian), a Budapest daily. "The new information is that, with the President's knowledge, the CIA has kept this secret even from US legislators and that it has also involved East European democracies in this."
Horvath doubted that the prisoners had been held in Hungary, merely transported through its borders. Nonetheless, he said President Bush "owes an apology and detailed explanations not just to US voters but also to the friends of the democratic United States. He has already caused enough headaches to the latter."
In Turkey, a columnist for the Yeni Safak newspaper said "human smuggling sponsored by governments is gradually becoming a nightmare for the entire world... Are we going to cover up operations, unlawful acts, and crimes against humanity committed by the CIA or on its behalf in this country?" Ibrahim Karagul predicted the "secret torture centres" in Eastern Europe will be recorded in history as "the United States' Auschwitzs."
In Slovakia, a columnist for the influential left-of-center daily Pravda (not to be confused with Russia's Pravda) quoted President Bush as saying, "Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impartial rule of law, instead of selectively applying the law." Now, says Miloslav Surgo, Bush's CIA "is keeping people without trial in secret prisons ... in countries that are so proud of having rid themselves of secret prisons a few years ago."
In France, Le Monde asked "has the United States, which has defended human rights and the moral values of democracy throughout the world for such a long time, come to ask European countries, NATO members and protagonists in the European Union, to do 'the dirty work' on exported jihadist detainees? . . . Such an attitude toward the Old Continent would be one of utter arrogance and even contempt."
The Bush administration's "eloquent refusal to comment," wrote Artur Blinov in the Russian daily Nezavisimaya Gazeta, makes it "increasingly obvious that these scandalous prisons do exist, and on the territory of the former Eastern bloc." The headline on his column: "Washington's GULAG in Eastern Europe."
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