23 December 2005

Govt pledges action if US lied about Shannon


23/12/2005 - 14:46:34

The Government today insisted they would take all necessary action if it emerged that US security agencies were carrying prisoners through Ireland.

With the Irish Human Rights Commission calling for inspectors to check CIA aircraft, officials from the Department of Foreign Affairs claimed they had clear and explicit assurances that no laws were being broken.

They insisted they had not permitted so-called extraordinary renditions.

“It has also been made clear that the appropriate authorities will act if there is specific and credible information regarding particular aircraft of the type in question,” it stated.

“Once again, however, the Government recalls that it has, on numerous occasions, received explicit, unambiguous and unqualified assurances from the US authorities that no prisoners have been transported through Irish airports, nor would they be, without the express permission of the Government.

“These assurances have recently been reiterated at a very high level.”

The IRHC urged the Government to urgently seek an agreement with US authorities to allow inspections of aircraft suspected of involvement in so-called extraordinary renditions.

In a statement the Department said they would study the recommendations.

But anti-war activists demanded the Government go further and bring in a blanket ban on CIA and American war planes at Irish airports.

Ed Horgan, retired army commandant and peace campaigner, said: “We welcome, belatedly, the pressure. But I would go further than that – all US military aircraft should be banned.

“I believe it is very likely that prisoners were transported through Shannon at some stage in the past and CIA planes were being used in the process of taking prisoners to be tortured.

“The CIA should be banned from going through for past offences.”

Mr Horgan, who was arrested and detained at Shannon yesterday as he travelled to England, said he was very concerned about reports that 2,000 unnamed and undocumented prisoners had been moved out of Europe in the last few weeks.

Dr Maurice Manning, IHRC president, said Irish officials had an obligation to prevent actions on our soil which could facilitate torture.

“In the Commission’s view, and in light of Ireland’s international legal obligations in this field, reliance on diplomatic assurances is not sufficient to protect against the risk of torture and other forms of ill-treatment,” Dr Manning said.

“Given the fact that the obligation on the state to protect against all forms of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment is an absolute one, and given the gravity of the allegations that have been made to date and which are under active investigation by the Council of Europe, it is not sufficient for the Government to rely on such assurances.”

Under domestic and international law Ireland is obliged to ensure prisoners do not travel through the state en route to countries where they may be tortured.

Dermot Ahern, Foreign Affairs Minister, pressed US secretary of state Condoleeza Rice on the matter in Washington earlier this month.

She insisted prisoners where not being transported through Shannon.

Richard Boyd Barrett, Irish Anti-War Movement spokesman, welcomed the recommendation but insisted US aircraft should no longer have free run of Shannon.

“The report makes it clear that it is not acceptable to turn a blind eye to the fact that Shannon may have been used to facilitate torture,” he said.

“It looks fairly clear that the US is involved in organising a very elaborate systems of kidnap and torture. It is good that there is more pressure on the Government to end its shameful connection with the US military at Shannon.”

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