Italian prosecutors continue to build their case against 26 American diplomats and CIA agents accused in absentia of kidnapping and assault. For the Bush Administration, which refuses all cooperation with the criminal case and refuses extradition of the indicted conspirators, it was an “extraordinary rendition”; the figure “rendered” was an Egyptian cleric, Abu Omar, who was snatched off the street in Milan, taken to a nearby American air base, and then taken to Egypt where he was repeatedly tortured with the apparent connivance of Bush Administration figures.
Today, a Swiss prosecutor, previously praised by the U.S. Justice Department for his distinguished and courageous work in the suppression of narcotics trafficking, testified about the Bush Administration’s extraordinary rendition program:
Dick Marty, Rapporteur of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) on the “illegal transfer of detainees and secret detentions in Europe”, testified as a witness at the Milan court hearing the trial of CIA agents and Italian secret service agents involved in the kidnapping of Abu Omar. He was questioned closely on the result of his inquiry. In particular, he showed how the Abu Omar affair was part of a global CIA strategy involving several European states, a strategy “beyond any legal framework and in grave violation of the European Convention on Human Rights”.
“As in the US and Germany, the doctrine of ‘state secrecy’ has been invoked by the Italian government to try and block the judicial procedures aiming to establish the truth about serious human rights violations committed under its responsibility. State secrecy is not being invoked to protect secrets – because the facts in question are largely known – but rather to protect the civil servants and politicians responsible for these abuses. This is unacceptable and unworthy of a state governed by law. Let justice take its course!” said Mr Marty.
Marty’s statements about the abuse of state secrecy are correct. In theory, state secrecy exists to protect a nation’s military and diplomatic secrets. In this case it is being used to shield government actors from prosecution on account of their criminal conduct. No military or diplomatic secrets are plausibly involved. All of the conduct has been exposed, and is no longer secret. Moreover, if the charges brought by the Italian prosecutors are correct, the defendants also committed crimes under American laws for which they could also be charged and tried in American courts. Someday, we can hope, justice will take its course.