Human rights activists have expressed concern at news that the 26-County Minister for Justice Michael McDowell has signed an agreement that allows for the detention and interrogation of people in Ireland by US secret service agents.
The agreement also allows sweeping powers to be given to the US authorities on request, including the right to seize documents, check bank accounts and carry out searches of property.
The irish Human Rights Commission has said it is to examine the bilateral accord, signed by Minister for Justice Michael McDowell and the US Ambassador to Ireland James C Kenny last week.
“When we establish the facts, we will be looking to see if there are any implications for breaches of human rights,” said president Dr Maurice Manning.
The instruments, which were published on the Department of Justice’s website last week, clearly state that the requested party (Ireland) shall allow American representatives (such as CIA agents) to sit in on interviews of suspects arrested on Irish soil and ask questions.
The interrogations can be carried out in secret, and the costs of carrying them out, along with other US requests, will be borne by the Irish taxpayer under the agreement.
Sinn Féin TD Sean Crowe described the agreement as a ‘particularly sinister development’ in relation to civil liberties and human rights in this State.
The Dublin South West TD said, “The signing of this agreement is a particularly sinister and dangerous development for civil liberties and human rights in this State and indeed the sovereignty of the State itself.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that an organisation like the CIA, given the malevolent role it played in creating the war in Iraq and given its absolutely appalling record in relation to respect for international law and human rights, should be allowed by the Irish Government to conduct investigations and interrogations on Irish soil.
“This is not an agreement of ‘mutual assistance’ - this is all one way traffic. It is designed to aid the USA’s so-called war on terrorism - a war that has already seen the deaths of at least 25,000 civilians in Iraq, mostly at the hands of the US and British armed forces.
“The retrograde step that the US has taken in relation to protecting the rights of its own citizens and the erosion of fundamental freedoms following 9-11, which had included the internment of people without charge or access to a lawyer and the kidnapping of people from other jurisdictions must not be allowed to become part of the norm here. It doesn’t matter if other EU countries have signed up to this agreement -we should not - and certainly not without a proper public debate on the issue.
“Michael McDowell has already claimed he is against a rights based society. That claim takes on a much more alarming significance in light of this latest agreement he has signed.”