Ministers who had Concerns about CIA Renditions and Shannon Must Help Address past Mistakes

Shannonwatch note the concerns that two former Irish ministers had in relation to the CIA's torture and renditions programme, as reported in the Irish Times of 22 December (2014). The Ministers in question are Dermot Ahern who was Minister for Foreign Affairs, and Michael McDowell who was Minister for Justice, when a report by Dick Marty for the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe identified Ireland and Shannon as a CIA stop-over point. Nonetheless they failed to take decisive action at the time, other than to ask the US government if they were taking prisoners through Shannon.

Given what they now know about the brutal and systematic nature of CIA torture, former ministers Ahern and McDowell should now reveal the full extent of their concerns, and enable a proper investigation of the CIA's use of Shannon Airport to get under way.

"The US government's response to questions from Irish government ministers can hardly have been a surprise" said John Lannon of Shannonwatch. "US officials or politicians were unlikely to divulge the extent of their illegal programme to another government, particularly if they were confident that their assurances would satisfy that government. An even better outcome for them would be the opportunity to use an airport like Shannon unimpeded, confident in the knowledge that their aircraft would not be inspected."

"This is exactly what happened, despite the Minister for Justice at the time being, in his own words, utterly hostile to the torture and abuse of people".

There were a range of options that could have been employed apart from banning all American flights to Shannon, although if that was deemed necessary to stop the crime of torture then it should have been done. The government could have sought to identify aircraft and operators that were linked to renditions and were using Shannon Airport. Indeed Ministers Ahern, McDowell and the rest of the Irish Government could not have been unaware of the many landings by suspect rendition aircraft. In 2005, Amnesty International provided flight logs to them showing that six planes known to have been used by the CIA for renditions made some 800 flights in or out of European airspace, including 50 landings at Shannon. In 2006 a series of further reports emerged documenting the use of Shannon by CIA-operated aircraft, and highlighting the consequent risk that it was being used in rendition circuits. And from 2004 onwards local activists made repeated requests to the Gardai to search suspected rendition aircraft that had landed or were expected to land at Shannon.

"The Irish government could have enacted legislation to permit random searches of these suspect aircraft. It could have improved the systems for collecting information on unscheduled civilian aircraft landings. And it could also have improved the oversight and control procedures so that aircraft operating as civilian aircraft but engaged in state activities were identified as such." said John Lannon

"None of these were done, and the CIA was allowed to continue to operate their brutal kidnapping and torture networks. The suffering and deaths caused to countless men cannot now be undone, but we owe it to them to find out how and why it was allowed to happen. This needs to be done in every country that facilitated and supported the torture, knowingly or otherwise, including Ireland".

It's not too late for Ministers McDowell and Ahern to admit that mistakes were made here in Ireland, and to take the lead in addressing those mistakes. Shannonwatch call on them to reveal the full extent of their discussions with the American government and to outline their concerns in full, so that Ireland does not continue to be a party to torture and other serious human rights abuses.

 

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