Wikileaks: Irish Government Knew They Were in Violation of Torture Conventions

Slowly but surely the entire shameful truth is coming out about Shannon airport, CIA renditions, and the lengths the Irish government went to avoid the evidence. One of the first Dublin embassy cables from Wikileaks confirmed that the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern knew about the CIA’s use of Shannon for its renditions. The latest Dublin cable (full text below) shows that they knew this meant they were in violation of torture conventions. Yet they did nothing to uphold their legal and moral responsibilities, preferring instead to avoid political difficulty.

According to a cable released by Wikileaks on 14 January, an unnamed individual who met with the U.S. embassy’s deputy chief of mission (DCM) in Dublin told the embassy

“were a plane to include Shannon in an itinerary that also included transporting prisoners, GOI [government of Ireland] lawyers might be forced to conclude that the GOI itself was in violation of torture conventions”.

So an Irish government minister was quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions. The government’s lawyers were telling them they were likely to be in violation of the legally binding Convention Against Torture. But what did our government do? They vehemently denied any involvement of Shannon in the CIA’s renditions programme, and they went to the U.S. embassy to make sure they were not found out. Or as the cable puts it, their main concern was that what they were saying would not be found "to have holes in it".

The person quoted in the cable who seemed to be speaking on behalf of the Irish government also said that there would be enormous political pressure on the government if it was discovered that the U.S. were taking prisoners through Shannon.

It is shameful that the Irish government would put diplomatic relations with the U.S. and their own political survival over the rule of law and the lives of people who were being kidnapped and tortured. They repeatedly asked for evidence, despite being presented with it by activists at Shannon and organisations like Amnesty International. Yet the Gardai steadfastly refused to inspect suspect planes at Shannon. On one occasion a Garda even cited a “policy decision” not to inspect a plane when it was formally brought to his attention (see comments under Torture Plane Crew N54PA “resting at Shannon”?

This policy decision is consistent with the policy of ministers at the highest level of the Irish government.

Meanwhile it is encouraging to note that the painstaking research and campaigning by a few activists at Shannon over the past decade has had some impact. “Parliamentarians [in Ireland] draw on allegations from journalists, activists' web sites and tail spotters to suggest the USG has used Shannon for nefarious purposes” according to the U.S. embassy cable. Giving the lengths that the Irish governments have gone to in order to avoid investigating CIA and U.S. military flights through Shannon it is not surprising that the “allegations” are not dismissed. They have been – and Shannonwatch hopes still are - putting the government under pressure to stop telling lies and to end their complicity in human rights abuse.

While the cables are over four years old, the government cover-up and the continues. It must surely make John Gormley, leader of the Green Party, and minister in the current government quite uncomfortable. In February 2007 he said

“there is no way Dermot Ahern is going to spin his way out of this. The Government's reliance on diplomatic assurances from the US instead of active inspections is a farce” (see Ahern wildly off the mark on renditions report - Gormley)

He is now part of the farce.

Finally it is disappointing to note that the mainstream media in Ireland has once again avoided any coverage of the Wikileaks cables that might embarrass the Irish government and the U.S. It therefore falls to the likes of this Shannonwatch website to inform the public about one of the greatest shames of Ireland’s recent history, its involvement in international kidnapping, “disappearances” and torture.

[Picture shows a suspect CIA plane at Shannon on 21st April 2006]

See also Amnesty International statement: Government ignored the rule of law and misled the Irish public.

The Full Cable

S E C R E T DUBLIN 001739
E.O. 12958: DECL: 12/01/2014

1. (S) DCM met with XXXXXXXXXXXX issues surrounding U.S. use of Shannon airport. XXXXXXXXXXXX noted that while there always has been an element of Irish society that objects to the U.S. military's use of Shannon, the government feels increasingly under pressure. On a weekly basis, members of parliament question the ministers. While most of the criticism and pressure come from the opposition, the president of the Senate, from the PM's own party, also has entered the fray periodically. Parliamentarians draw on allegations from journalists, activists' web sites and tail spotters to suggest the USG has used Shannon for nefarious purposes. Particularly difficult have been questions in the last two weeks about a Gulfstream jet that allegedly has been used to transport prisoners and allegedly had its tail number changed. XXXXXXXXXXXX cited this allegation as both politically and legally difficult for the GOI. The political problem is that the government's defense of Shannon rests heavily on friendship with the U.S. and the Irish government saying it relies on the "good faith" of the USG. He said the allegations that the tail number has been changed raise suspicions and caused confusion within the GOI, along with the hope that there is a "benign" explanation about why the tail number was changed. He cautioned that if it were ever to be discovered that the U.S. was not good on its word or had transported prisoners through Shannon in the context of the war on terrorism, there would be enormous political pressure on the government. As for the legal issue, he said that were a plane to include Shannon in an itinerary that also included transporting prisoners, GOI lawyers might be forced to conclude that the GOI itself was in violation of torture conventions. His colleague cited breaking press reports of ICRC comments about Guantanamo as adding fuel to the fire.

2. (S) The DCM told XXXXXXXXXXXX that the USG would be in no position to respond to the detailed questions asked about particular planes, such as the Gulfstream jet, but stood by its commitment to abide by Irish law, consult with the Irish and avoid actions that would bring embarrassment to the Irish government. XXXXXXXXXXXX confirmed that there is no/no change pending to Irish policy allowing U.S. use of Shannon, but reiterated that some ministers feel they are going out on a limb defending U.S. use of Shannon and that the GOI is counting on the fact that the word of the USG is good and that the U.S. has not and will not transfer prisoners through Shannon or engage in any other activity that would place the government in legal or political difficulty. He said that the government consistently says the same thing and that this must not be shown later "to have holes in it." He also said it is critical that no "blue water" be found between statements that Irish and U.S. officials make. He said activists dissect statements and take any divergence as a sign that something is amiss. He said the recent assurances from the USG that prisoners had not been transferred through Shannon was helpful, as is, in general terms, the UNSCR resolution asking members to support Iraq. KENNY

Share this