Diplomatic cable on US-COJUR meeting in 2006 sheds some light on EU reason not to support anti-Guantanamo Resolution at the UN Human Rights Commission

Wikileaks published a cable yesterday (06BRUSSELS524) on a meeting which has interested many legal scholars which work on the fight against terrorism. On February 7-8 2006 US Legal Adviser John Bellinger met  with a comprehensive array of EU interlocutors in Brussels  to discuss U.S. views on the legal framework for the war on terrorism. Unfortunately the cable isn’t a transcript, so we don’t find out more about the legal discussions that took place. But there are two interesting quotes in the cable: one on renditions, and one on EU support for anti-Gitmo resolution in the (then) UN Human Rights Commission in 2006.

According to the cable, Bellinger started giving his well known views on the nature of the GWOT, detention issues, treatment of prisoners, review of detainees, renditions etc. On renditions the cable says the following:

Bellinger sought to dispel allegations that  hundreds of people had been kidnapped from European streets.  He pointed out that there is no evidence for such  allegations, and that the United States respects the  sovereignty of European governments. On renditions, CIA flights, and other intelligence operations, the U.S. will not confirm or deny specific allegations, in order not to compromise the confidentiality of intelligence operations as  such. Bellinger noted that denying five out of six such  allegations would in effect confirm the sixth. The U.S.  trusts that European governments will continue to follow the  same policy.

It is now well-known of course that the US kidnapped Abu Omar in 2004 in Milan, two years before this meeting took place.

Interestingly, some EU interlocutors “expressed concern” at the meeting that some EU member states would support a Cuban resolution against U.S. actions in Guantanamo at the upcoming UN Human Rights Commission.

Bellinger warned that European support for a Guanatanamo resolution would be a serious setback to U.S.-EU cooperation against terrorism, and give the unacceptable impression that the EU was aligned with Cuba against the U.S. EU Council Director-General for Common Foreign and Security Policy, Robert Cooper, said some EU member states might feel obliged to support the resolution because they had agreed last year not to in return for U.S. commitment to allow the UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Novak, to visit Guantanamo; now, the U.S. had gone  back on that agreement.

Bellinger explained that the U.S. had invited Novak to visit, but that Novak had chosen  publicly to reject the U.S. offer (to visit under normal conditions, but not to able to interview individual detainees, as only the ICRC may do that). Cooper said the EU, having cooperated with the U.S. in resisting Chinese attempts to impose conditions on visits of Special Rapporteurs, was having difficulty justifying the U.S. attempts to impose conditions on Novak’s Guantanamo visit. Both sides agreed that the U.S. and EU needed to consult further in order to avoid a train wreck at the Human Rights Commission on this.)

The cable concludes with the US assessment of the meeting:

It is clear  that many Europeans continue to believe that Article 3 of the  Geneva Conventions can be applied to enemy combatants, and  still afford the United States the flexibility it seeks. It  is also apparent that lingering concerns (fed by negative  public perceptions) remain about the treatment of detainees,  and protection against wrongful detentions. Some governments  remain focused on renditions, and the possibility that there  will be negative revelations that impact on them directly.

That said, the visit was very helpful in beginning to  dispel European misunderstandings and misgivings about our  pursuit of the war on terror. Continued engagement on these  issues is critical in the coming months to persuade EU  governments to stand more firmly and publicly in the face of  their public’s concerns and suspicion regarding Guantanamo,  renditions, and the legality of U.S. actions against Al  Qaeda. The Austrian Chair of the COJUR meeting, Ferdinand  Trauttmansdorf, concluded the meeting with the following  message: “We leave this discussion with the notion that  America is carefully considering these difficult questions in  good faith.” He said also that the fight against terror was  a burden shared by the EU, and that the U.S. has as much of a  right to ask questions of the EU, as the EU does of the U.S.  On the upcoming Human Rights Commission, urgent consultations  with the EU will be necessary to avert the possibility of EU  support for a Cuban Guantanamo resolution.

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