Lawsuit lodged: CIA flights

The International Federation for Human Rights and the League of Human Rights, both based in Paris, said in a joint statement they wanted light shed on at least two instances in which planes believed to be used by the CIA set down at French airports.

“Big fears can be expressed over the transport of CIA prisoners on these flights,” they said.

“The FIDH and the LDH consequently ask that all necessary investigations be made as soon as possible by legal authorities,” they said.

French responsibility

The statement said the rights groups “intend to underline the responsibility of French authorities, have the incidents investigated and to prosecute those responsible.”

A lawyer for the international federation, Patrick Baudouin, told AFP the lawsuit had been lodged at a court in the Paris suburb of Bobigny, which is responsible for one of the airports named in the documents, Le Bourget, just outside the capital.

The other alleged CIA flight was believed to have set down at the Guipavas airport outside the western city of Brest.

Le Figaro newspaper reported earlier this month that a twin-engined Learjet coming from Keflavik, Iceland, landed at the Brest airport on March 31, 2002
and then took off for Turkey.

On July 20, 2005, another suspect flight landed at Le Bourget airport from the Norwegian capital Oslo.

French Foreign Minister Philippe Douste Blazy subsequently confirmed that two “civilian flight plans” related to those planes had been notified, but said French authorities had no information about the flights.

Media reports that the CIA used European airports as transit points for transporting detainees deemed terrorist suspects has proved a major international issue.

Some prisoners were allegedly sent to either secret CIA prisons in eastern Europe or possibly to countries with a history of practicing torture, according to the reports.

US response

US Secretary of State Condoleezza
Rice, on a recent trip to Europe, refused to confirm or deny the existence of the CIA flights or the presence of prisoners on board.

She instead insisted that the United States was using “every lawful means” to wage its “war on terror” and said US President George W Bush did not sanction the use of torture against suspects in US custody or those handed over to third countries.

European governments have appeared reluctant to make an issue of the reports, but public opinion and media scrutiny have put pressure on them to launch investigations, several of which have now been started.