Senior Civil Servant Refuses to Discuss Renditions

The Director of the Human Rights Unit at the Department of Foreign Affairs (Ireland), Colin Rafter, seems unwilling to answer questions about human rights abuse at Shannon Airport. When questioned on the subject of rendition flights at a talk at the University of Limerick (UL), he simply refused to answer.

Mr Rafter was in UL on 16th November to talk about Ireland and the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) - Lessons, Domestic and International. He dealt with some of the issues raised at the UPR such as the Magdalen Laundaries and slopping out of prison cells by prisoners. And he referred a few times to the "CAT" (Convention Against Torture), but without explaining that the T in CAT means torture.

When he asked for questions, Edward Horgan, a member of Shannonwatch, obliged. Edward explained that Shannonwatch had made a submission to the UPR process (available here) and pointed out that torture was facilitated at Shannon and being ignored. He noted that Shannonwatch have been monitoring CIA associated aircraft at Shannon Airport, and that it is firmly established that at least 7 such aircraft were refuelled there either just before or just after they were involved in the rendition of specific prisoners. He also said that CIA associated planes were likely to be still using Shannon Airport without any checks or inspections, and that Shannonwatch are also monitoring US military planes, some of which may well be transporting US special forces involved in targeted assassinations.

Edward also pointed out that the Department of Foreign Affairs and the Human Rights Unit in particular have specific duties under the Convention Against Torture and its Irish enabling legislation. These obligations included preventing Irish territory from being used to facilitate such human rights abuses. He said it was clear that they had failed to do so, and were continuing to fail to do so. And finally he asked Mr Rafter, as the senior civil servant in charge of the Department of Foreign Affairs Human Rights Unit, to explain their failures in these matters. 
 
The Director of the Human Rights Unit's reply was simply to say he had come to address a group of students, and that he was not going to deal with that issue.

It is hugely disappointing that despite all the evidence of Shannon Airport's involvement in renditions that a senior civil servant will still refuse to even discuss the issue. Is it because he has been told by the Minister not to discuss it? Or because he knows there is no defence for the appalling failure of his Department and successive Irish governments to investigate and end rendition flights through Ireland? 

Suely Mr Rafter cannot feel at ease ignoring such serious human rights abuse as forced disappearances and torture.

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