Ireland is failing to live up to its human rights obligations by accepting US assurances that CIA flights used for smuggling prisoners to detention and torture centres are not passing through Irish airports, the Irish Human Rights Commission said on Tuesday.
Publishing a report on the subject today, the IHRC said assurances from the US authorities that aircraft landing in Ireland are not being used for the cross-border movement of captives and abductees -- so-called “extraordinary renditions” -- are not enough. It said an inspection regime must be implemented to ensure such flights are not passing through Ireland.
“‘Extraordinary rendition is an illegal practice which results in torture, and to meet its human rights obligations, the Irish Government must put in place an effective inspection regime to ensure that no foreign aircraft suspected of involvement in the practice land or refuel in Ireland,” said Des Hogan, Director of Enquiry & Legal Services of the IHRC.
Reacting to the report, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern, said no evidence had been produced that that anyone had been subject to extraordinary rendition through Ireland, and said there was no new information or allegations in the report that would challenge that.
“The IHRC and the Government differ on the significance to be attached to the assurances we have received from the US Government,” said Mr Ahern.
Sinn Féin Justice spokesperson Aengus O Snodaigh TD backed calls from the Irish Human Rights Commission for Garda inspections of US military flights going through Irish airports and airspace.
“The Government have repeatedly said that they are opposed to extraordinary rendition but they have failed to take any concrete action to ensure that the US is not transporting detainees illegally through Shannon airport,” he said.
“Non-binding assurances from the US are not sufficient and fly in the face of evidence that numerous planes involved in rendition have already gone through this country. The government need to act and ensure that the Gardai have the capacity to inspect planes landing at Shannon Airport.
“I also believe that the Government should refuse the use of airports and airspace to all planes associated with the United States’ rendition programme. This is a complete compromise of our neutrality, it is illegal and it is absolutely unacceptable.”
AHERN GETS INVITE
The Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi has announced that she will invite the Taoiseach, Bertie Ahern, to address the US Congress next year.
Ms Pelosi made the announcement at a lunch hosted by Congressman Richard Neal, chairman of the congressional Friends of Ireland for the North’s First Minister Ian Paisley and Deputy First Minister Martin McGuinness, which was attended by up to 20 congressmen from both political parties.
Ms Pelosi did not specify a date for the Taoiseach’s address to Congress.
The Taoiseach said he was honoured with the invitation “I consider it an honour for the country. To get an opportunity like this is obviously something that doesn’t happen too often,” he said.
“America is America and there’s special ties and special relationships and special contacts it has had with Ireland in the last century and a half.
“It makes it a special occasion so it’s something I look forward to some time in 2008.”