Statement by Commissioner Avramopoulos at the European Parliament debate on the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Study of the CIA


The Commission, which I represent here today for this matter is, like you, appalled by the findings of the US Senate Select Committee on Intelligence Study of the CIA's Detention and Interrogation Programme, part of which was released on 9 December (most of the inquiry remains classified).

This report raises important questions as regards serious violations of fundamental rights by the US authorities and by other persons at the service of the CIA between late 2001 and January 2009.

As President Obama rightly said this week, the actions taken under this CIA programme were contrary to the US values, recognising that one of the most effective tools to fight terrorism is to stay true to the values and ideals the United States stands for.

This is what led him in 2009 to unequivocally ban torture, an act we applaud. And I recall this because this is the real point about torture: it's just wrong. Not only wrong: it is a crime. And it should never be used. 

While shocking, the Senate Committee findings are not a complete surprise. The existence of secret detention facilities, rendition flights and the allegations of torture and ill-treatment of prisoners under CIA custody in the context of the fight against terrorism by the US have been a concern since they became public some ten years ago.

Since then, several UN human rights bodies and Special Rapporteurs, as well as the Council of Europe and the European Court of Human Rights, have been unequivocal in condemning the practices now documented in the Senate Committee Study.

This House has been engaging on this case since the start, with the decision to set up a committee on enquiry leading to two own initiative reports in 2007 and in 2012, condemning the practices in question and voicing the need to promote and protect fundamental rights.

And, as the EU, we have raised these issues with the US on several occasions, including in letters by the Presidency of the Council and in our regular dialogues on counter terrorism and on human rights.

The Senate Committee Study is a positive step in confronting publicly and critically the way in which the CIA's responsibilities were discharged in relation to the allegations of torture and ill-treatment against suspects during US custody abroad.

The Commission believes that full clarity should be brought to bear on those practices in accordance with international standards, including as regards the individual responsibilities for those facts.

The EU condemns all forms of torture and ill-treatment, under any circumstance and works towards the prevention and the eradication of all forms of torture and ill-treatment within the EU and world-wide, as a priority of its human rights policy.

As the Commission has repeatedly underlined, efforts to combat terrorism should be conducted in a manner that comports with the rule of law, respects our common values,and complies with our respective obligations under international law, in particular international human rights law, refugee law, and humanitarian law.

The Commission has consistently stressed since the beginning that all concerned Member States should conduct in-depth, independent and impartial investigations to establish the facts with regard to CIA activities.

They should have established responsibilities and enabled victims to obtain compensation for damages. This was recalled in a joint letter sent to all Member States in 2013 by then Vice-President Reding and Commissioner Malmström.

We note that the judicial authorities of several Member States have in the past undertaken investigations and the prosecution of persons, including CIA agents, involved in the abduction, rendition, illegal detention, torture and ill-treatment of suspects under the CIA detention and interrogation programme.

On the same day that the Senate Committee Study was released, we learned in the press that the US military Bagram detention centre in Afghanistan had been closed. Two of the prisoners, who have been turned over to Afghan authorities, were under US custody since 2002, including several years under CIA detention, without a trial. 

However, 136 detainees still remain in the Guantanamo Detention Facility, including detainees who will neither be brought to trial nor have yet been cleared for release.

The EU will keep monitoring the situation and keep raising the human rights–related aspects of the fight against terrorism with the United States.

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