A place for Chechnya in the CIA’s secret prisons

1340.jpgThe PACE hears one of the most controversial reports in its history Mikhail Zygar.

European lawmakers hear a report on CIA secret prisons – and Chechnya; The Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has heard a report on CIA secret prisons in Europe. The rapporteur said that there are similar prisons in Chechnya. Chechen separatist envoy Ahmed Zakayev was present when the report was delivered.


Dick Marty has reported to the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on his investigation into CIA secret prisons in Europe. The Swiss senator said that there are similar prisons in Chechnya. Chechen separatist envoy Ahmed Zakayev, who is on the international wanted list, was present when Marty delivered his report.


“Dick Marty’s report includes no evidence! Only assumptions. One other detail: how come only half a page in the report was dedicated to Chechnya? Is it a less relevant problem? That’s Auschwitz! That’s Sachsenhausen!” said an outraged Polish lawmaker when Marty’s report on CIA secret prisons in Europe was discussed. “If we are serious about promoting human rights, then we should wonder that a Council of Europe country proceeds with deliberate extermination of a whole people!”


Other delegates disagreed with the Pole and praised Marty’s report as the best investigation in PACE history. Best or not, it is certainly the most scandalous. Marty grew interested in covert CIA operations in Europe several years ago. This was his second report to the PACE on the subject, one where Marty claims he compiled evidence of how the CIA kidnapped people and put them into illegal jails in Europe, Afghanistan, and Arab countries and how some European secret services aided the Americans in their unlawful activities.


Marty’s report names the governments of Romania and Poland as particularly enthusiastic assistants of the CIA.


Marty claims that a reliable CIA source told him: “Want to know why Romania and Poland? Because they are the only genuinely pro-Western countries in Eastern Europe.” According to the rapporteur, former Polish Alexander Kwasniewski and former and current Romanian leaders Ion Iliescu and Trajan Besescu should be held accountable for the abduction and detention of terrorist suspects. Along with them, the list of CIA’s willing assistants includes the authorities of Macedonia, Italy, Germany, and Bosnia.


There is more to the controversy than the scathing criticism of the United States and European countries. Marty criticized Russia as well. The report pointed out that the United States is not the only country that abuses human rights under the pretext of waging an uncompromising war on terrorism; the government of the Russian Federation is practising similar violations in the Caucasus. Referring to an investigation run by the European Commission for Torture Prevention, Marty announced that secret jails exist in Chechnya as well – in Tsentoroi and Grozny. To say that the debates that followed were heated is to say nothing. Representatives of the accused countries, however, behaved differently.


Polish and Romanian delegates were outraged – just like the Russians several years ago when criticized for Chechnya.


The Russian delegation took Marty’s report with remarkable equanimity. “It is a tradition with the PACE. If they failed to criticize Russia for anything, the day was wasted,” said Mikhail Margelov, chairman of the Federation Council’s Foreign Affairs Committee. “Many people around here owe their careers to the topic of Chechnya, and they’ll never admit that the subject is closed. Hence the persistence they show in returning to it. It’s just that someone on Marty’s staff inserted the traditional ‘Carthage must be destroyed’ into the report.”


The Russians lost their equanimity only when someone noticed Ahmed Zakayev among the audience. They chose to ignore him.


Zakayev told us that he had come to the PACE meeting in his official capacity as foreign minister of Ichkeria, had met with some people (he refused to identify them) and listened to Marty’s report with rapt attention. Zakayev called Marty’s investigation “interesting indeed.” “Right, we should be fighting terrorism, not civilization,” he said and proceeded to describe the arguments the Poles and Romanians had used as “unconvincing.”


Leonid Slutskoi, deputy head of the Russian delegation, promised to ask the French authorities why they had allowed a man wanted by Interpol to enter the PACE building.


Finding out who Zakayev had met with wasn’t exactly difficult. Rudolf Binding, ex-rapporteur on Chechnya, admitted to “a meeting with Mr. Zakayev in the cafeteria” where he “asked him questions about what he thinks of the situation in Chechnya, the relative tranquility there, and Ramzan Kadyrov.” According to Binding, Zakayev also spoke with Andres Gross, organizer of the roundtable conference on Chechnya.


“Work on a new report on Chechnya will begin soon,” Binding said. The report is to be informational only – that is, without any resolutions adopted on its basis. Marty, the PACE golden boy, will write and deliver the report.


When approached, Marty confirmed that he would take up the subject of Chechnya when the CIA in Europe investigation was finally over. “Can’t say anyone on our Committee on Legal Affairs volunteered to take it up,” he said. “So it falls to me, as the committee chairman.”


However, Marty may turn out to be more cautious when working on the Chechen report than he has been so far. Binding claims that the PACE is waiting for ratification of Protocol 14 by Russia (the court is all but paralyzed without its ratification by Russia) and the delay with its ratification is directly linked to Chechnya. “Russia knows what it is that we need from it. It knows that we depend on it,” Binding said. “So Russia is trying to use this dependence to make sure that we don’t raise the topic of Chechnya.”

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