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Rights chief urges probe of CIA detention centers

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BRUSSELS (AP) — Europe's human rights chief urged Lithuania, Poland and Romania on Monday to investigate the roles their governments allegedly played in the CIA's program of "secret detention and torture" of terrorism suspects.

"CIA rendition, detention and interrogation practices gave rise to the most serious categories of human rights violations on European soil," said Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's rights commissioner. "The governments concerned have favored concealment and cover-up," he said in comments emailed to The Associated Press.

Hammarberg alleges that officials in those countries lied to parliaments, made false statements to international organizations, and used judicial channels — including the invocation of state secrecy — to keep the most damaging revelations out of the public domain.

Lithuania, Poland and Romania either have, or are, investigating the issue, and none of them have admitted taking part in the CIA program.

During the past decade, hundreds of covert "extraordinary rendition" flights shuttled prisoners between CIA-run overseas prisons and the U.S. military base at Guantanamo Bay.

In a 2007 probe, Swiss politician Dick Marty accused 14 European governments of permitting the CIA to run detention centers or carry out rendition flights over their territories between 2002 and 2005.

A panel of the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly is due to discuss Marty's report and the alleged abuse of state secrecy at a meeting in Paris on Wednesday.

Although the governments involved promised to thoroughly investigate the abuses, their efforts have been halfhearted at best, Hammarberg said.

"There are no grounds for complacency," he said. "If we fail to account for these practices that systematically contradicted our common values and standards, then what is to prevent governments in future from resorting to the same abusive tactics?"

Among the interrogation techniques authorized by the U.S. government were forced nudity, shackling in stress positions, extended sleep deprivation, dietary manipulation, slapping, and waterboarding, Hammarberg said.

"The CIA's interrogation methods routinely crossed the threshold of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment, and in many cases constituted torture," he said in a separate statement released on Monday.

The Marty report alleged that Poland, Romania and Lithuania were particularly involved in the CIA program in total secrecy.

"Today, years later, darkness still enshrouds those who authorized and ran the "black sites" on European territories," Hammarberg said.

Romanian officials have denied they took part in CIA secret renditions in their country and said that an official investigation concluded this.

In Poland, where there is an ongoing investigation into the allegations, all the officials who were in power at the time of the CIA program have denied taking part in it.

Arvydas Anusauskas, the chairman of Lithuania's National Security and Defense Committee, dismissed Hammarberg's criticism.

"Lithuania did whatever it could investigating this affair. Now (America) can do more on this matter. We also felt a lack of good will (and) cooperation from human rights organizations during our investigation," Anusauskas said.


Associated Press writers Alison Mutler in Bucharest and Vanessa Gera in Warsaw contributed to this report.

Copyright 2011 The Associated Press.

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