"Very senior people" would be asked to answer the allegations of human rights violations on EU territory, said Sarah Ludford, vice president of an investigation into the alleged prisons being conducted by the European Parliament, on Thursday.

 

"I don't see why we should not invite Donald Rumsfeld and Dick Cheney," Ludford said. "I'm sure they would be very welcome and they would be heard with great interest, or (US Secretary of State) Condoleezza Rice perhaps, why not?"

 

But Ludford, a British Liberal Democrat party member, acknowledged that the parliament had no legal power to subpoena them.

 

"I would not be over optimistic but I don't think it's completely off the planet to think that they might come to see us," she said.

 

First meeting

 

The parliament committee held its first meeting on Thursday, electing Portuguese Conservative Carlos Coelho as its president and three vice-chairs, including Ludford.

 

"I hope that we will be inviting very senior people from governments, from non-governmental organisations and people who have knowledge of the intelligence community," said Ludfurd. "If they are seen not to cooperate then I think we can draw conclusions."

 

Coelho refused to be drawn on specific names he would favour, but said the committee as a whole would decide who to ask to attend the meetings. After this, a report will be drafted and presented to EU governments, some of which, it is claimed, are complicit in allowing the US secret agency to set up retention camps on their territory.

 

The committee's work is to last for four months, Coelho said.