EU-US : The secret meetings on anti-terror policy
Today’s Le Monde has exclusively revealed a series of fourteen meetings on the principles of the ‘war on terror’, held between senior EU legal advisers and a US team led by John Bellinger, former Legal Adviser to the Secretary of State. The meetings began under the Bush administration and one has been held since Obama assumed the Presidency.
The investigation reveals the existence of an eight-point plan encapsulating a common EU position to counter such practices as ‘black sites’ and ‘extraordinary rendition’.
…”Because the ‘Bellinger dialogue’ pushed the Europeans to formulate their own, united position. They produced a document that would be useful for future discussions with the Obama team. “I told them,” John Bellinger recalls, “OK, you think we’re wrong, but what rules are you proposing in the face of an external terrorist threat that presents new challenges for all of us.”
Thus, in September 2006, a document entitled “The Elements” was produced, whose vague name reflects the concerns held by the EU regarding its association with the foreign policy of the Bush administration.
Le Monde cites the eight points as follows:
Europeans reject the paradigm of a “war” on terrorism. The President of the United States, Barack Obama, has not abandoned it. On the 21st May, he spoke of a “war against Al-Qaeda.”
The Common Article 3 of the Convention and Article 75 of the Protocol must be respected in the event of armed conflict. Mr Obama has not clarified his position.
Illegal enemy combatants
Europeans completely reject this concept, launched by the Bush administration. Prisoners always have rights.
Human rights and international humanitarian law are complementary, not mutually exclusive. The United States have their doubts.
The necessity to maintain procedural law for detainees, who must be able to protest their innocence before a court of justice.
Insistence on the extraterritoriality of human rights law. In particular, the 1966 Pact on Civil and Political Rights, which the United States disputes.
In harmony with the overarching European position on torture, no person may be transferred to a country where he/she risks being tortured. Including from one Third country to another.
It is forbidden. Mr Obama agrees.”
From an Irish or British perspective, we can see potential issues arising on the areas of extraordinary rendition, secret detention and thus torture. The case of Binyam Mohamed also suggests British complicity in the Military Tribunal system invented by the Bush administration. Regarding extraterritoriality, there has been much debate, which will reach the House of Lords, on whether the Human Rights Act applies to armed forces serving overseas. There has been contradiction between David Miliband and Gordon Brown on the language of the “war” on ‘terror’. It seems this follows, embarrassingly closely, the confusion in the White House on the issue. In general, we might observe that both Ireland and the UK appear to fall closer to the US position under Bush than that of the EU. Whether this weakens their relationship with Obama remains to be seen; the meetings are expected to continue.