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Europe rights body urges new laws to control spies

Written by: Staff

STRASBOURG, France, Mar 2 (Reuters) European states need tougher laws to guarantee oversight of their spy services and better controls over foreign agents operating on their territory, according to a European human rights watchdog said.

But the report by the Council of Europe produced no ''smoking gun'' evidence that the US Central Intelligence Agency had run secret jails in Europe for al Qaeda suspects.

''The existing legislation and administrative framework for the activities of secret services appears to be inadequate in many of our member states,'' Council Secretary General Terry Davis said in a summary of his report, released at the body's headquarters in the French city of Strasbourg yesterday.

''We need an appropriate regulatory framework providing for effective safeguards against abuse, democratic oversight by national parliaments and judicial control in cases of alleged human rights violations.'' There was not enough control over the activities of foreign secret services and it was ''virtually impossible'' for states to know whether aircraft using their airspace or airports were doing so ''for purposes incompatible with the European Convention on Human Rights'' and international rights standards.

Last November, Davis gave the Council's 46 member states a three-month deadline to hand over information relating to suspicions that the CIA had run secret jails in Europe.

He also asked them to reveal anything they knew about secret CIA flights across Europe in which prisoners are alleged to have been transferred to jails in third countries where they faced torture and other abuses.

Dick Marty, a Swiss Senator and former crime-fighting magistrate who is also investigating the charges for the Council of Europe, said last month that European governments were probably aware of the secret transfers, known as renditions.

He estimated that more than 100 people had been subject to renditions, which he decribed as an ''outsourcing of torture'' by the United States.

But he said he had not yet uncovered irrefutable evidence to confirm allegations that the CIA operated secret detention centres in Europe. Washington has denied any wrongdoing and dismissed Marty's interim report as containing nothing new.

The allegations of CIA abuses, first made by newspapers and human rights groups late last year, have fanned concerns in Europe about US tactics and raised questions about whether European governments turned a blind eye to possible illegal activities.


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