Gardai Out in Force at Shannon - But Not to Search Planes

10 Guards, six activists - and a dog

Activists get accustomed to the presence of police at or near their demonstrations. But today's unnecessary presence of Gardai (police) at Shannon - where they outnumbered peaceful protestors by two to one - seemed strange and unnecessary. It was not a once off occurrance though; we've been holding peaceful vigils on the second Sunday of every month for three and a half years but in the last few months the state's reaction has become much more heavy handed. Is it coincidental that there has been a more determined effort to impede peaceful opposition to Shannon Airport's role in U.S. military and CIA operations since the present government and Minister for Justice took office?

Irish Government Fails Once Again to Acknowledge Ireland's Role in Renditions

Shannonwatch is disappointed, but not surprised, that the Irish Government has missed yet another opportunity to address violations of human rights at Shannon Airport, given that they are knowingly in breach of human rights there. Ireland’s National Report under the United Nations’ Universal Periodic Review process which was published this week fails to even mention the repeated use of Shannon by U.S. rendition aircraft and their crews, or the ongoing movement of troops and weapons through the airport and Irish airspace without investigation of their possible involvement in war crimes. Complicity in torture, which has been happening at Shannon, is a serious breach of human rights and of the UN Convention Against Torture.

Under the UPR process the human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years. Ireland's record will be reviewed for the first time in October of this year, and as a result the government has now submitted its blinkered report to the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Shannonwatch Recommendations to the Universal Periodic Review of Ireland's Human Rights Record

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is a United Nations process whereby the domestic human rights records of all 192 Member States are reviewed every four years. Ireland’s first review under UPR will take place on 6 October 2011. It will be the first time that Ireland’s human rights record is reviewed by other UN Member States, rather than expert groups such as the UN Treaty Monitoring Bodies. [For more information on the UPR see].

Shannonwatch have submitted a report to the UPR process which addresses two main areas of concern. These are Ireland’s role in the U.S. rendition programme and the transit of munitions, weapons and armed soldiers through Irish airspace and territory. In addition to Ireland’s human rights obligations, it recognises the State’s responsibilities as outlined in Article 2 of the Charter of the United Nations, the Geneva Conventions and other instruments of international humanitarian law, and the Hague Conventions of 1899 and 1907.

UN Committee Against Torture Tells the Irish Government to Investigate the State's Role in Renditions

We are pleased to note the recent recommendations from the UN Committee against Torture that Ireland needs to investigate allegations of involvement in rendition programmes and to ensure that these human rights violations will not occur again in Irish airports or airspace. These recommendations were made in the Concluding Observations of the Committee's review of Ireland’s implementation of the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. This review took place on the 23 and 24 May 2011.

The UN Committee against Torture is comprised of independent experts and is mandated by the United Nations (UN) Convention against Torture to monitor states’ implementation of the Convention. It joins a long list of reputable bodies that have called for Ireland to investigate its role in renditions.

Wikileaks Ireland Cables: Time for Government Action

Recent wikileaks revelations show that successive Irish governments were more worried about being caught lying over renditions and Shannon than they were in stopping kidnapping and torture. International law and human rights were never even mentioned as Irish politicians looked after their own careers and provided unwavering support for U.S. foreign policy and wars.

The present government now has a responsibility to immediately end the use of Shannon Airport for purposes not in line with international law, as they promised in their programme for government. This should not only cover renditions; it should also deal with breaches of humanitarian and neutrality law. And the only way to do this is to end the U.S. military use of Shannon.

Shannon, the US Military and the Irish Constitution

In making an agreement with the U.S. President in relation to the use of Shannon Airport by U.S. forces, Taoiseach Enda Kenny may be contravening the Irish Constitution Article 29.5.1 which states "Every international agreement to which the State becomes a party shall be laid before Dáil Eireann" and Article 29.5.2, "The State shall not be bound by any international agreement involving a charge upon public funds unless the terms of the agreement shall have been approved by Dáil Eireann."