Denials and excuses after EU torture flight report
The Dublin government has denounced the findings of a European Parliament committee that it aided the US in smuggling foreign citizens to secret torture centres.
A total of 147 kidnap flights passed through Ireland -- - the third highest number among European Union states -- with most of the landings taking place at Shannon airport in the west of Ireland.
The plane sometimes referred to as the ‘Guantanamo Express’, used by the CIA to transport abductees to unknown destinations and fates, was found to have passsed through Ireland on over a hundred occasions.
In particular, the plane landed at Shannon on February 17, 2003 while smuggling Egyptian cleric Abu Omar, who was kidnapped by CIA operatives outside a mosque in Italy. Omar is still being held incommunicado and tortured, according to the committee’s report.
Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern told the European Parliament committee that the plane has now been banned from landing at Irish airports.
However, Mr Ahern refused to hold an independent investigation into the use of Irish airports by CIA kidnap flights, saying he believed assurances he had received from the Bush administration that so-called “extraordinary renditions” were not taking place.
“The United States has stated authoritatively to us that prisoners have not been transferred through Irish territory, nor would they be without our permission,” he said.
These assurances were not legally binding and had not been received in writing, but they had been duly noted, he added.
Ahern, who has been branded a war criminal be peace activists, was the second European government minister to give evidence to the committee investigating the kidnappings.
Over two hours of bizarre denials and refutations, he claimed the 26-County government had no power to inspect flights landing at Irish airports, as this was the job of the gardai police.
Afterwards, furious MEPs insisted the evidence showed that the ‘Guantanamo Express’ stopped over at Shannon directly after the so-called rendition.
“It is indisputable that it landed at Shannon en route,” said Proinsias De Rossa, Dublin MEP and a member of the committee.
Speaking in the Dublin parliament this week, Sinn Féin Dail’s Caoimhghin O Caolain called on the Minister for Justice Michael McDowell to explain the government’s claim to have a policy of neutrality while making Shannon Airport available as a staging post for the war in Iraq.
“The invasion of Iraq has been an unqualified disaster costing tens of thousands of lives and plunging that country into civil war and it was launched on the totally erroneous pretext of non-existent weapons of mass destruction. The war policy of the Bush administration has been comprehensively rejected by the people of the United States yet this government persists in facilitating that war through the use of Shannon by the US military and the CIA.
“You must end that policy now. Or, if you will not close Shannon to the US military and the CIA, you must at least carry out inspections of their planes landing at Shannon to ensure that further breaches of international law and human rights are not taking place on Irish soil.”