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US assured State that CIA flights never used Shannon

Resource type: News

The Irish Times |

Original Source JOHN ZAROCOSTAS in Geneva THE GOVERNMENT received assurances from US president George Bush and his secretary of state Condoleezza Rice that no extraordinary rendition took place at Shannon airport, the Attorney General, Paul Gallagher has told a UN expert panel on human rights. Mr Gallagher said this week in Geneva that the assurances were given “unequivocally at the highest level of the US government . . .” He added: “They were specific factual and related to the very issue of whether Shannon was used by aircraft which are engaged in extraordinary rendition. And the Government made it clear that similar assurances had not been made available to other European states,” he said. He said the assurances “were confirmed by the president of the United States, and the secretary of state. Ireland has been assiduous in raising these issues”. Mr Gallagher made his comments at Monday’s session, and they were echoed yesterday by senior Irish officials following probing questions on the issue by an independent UN human rights panel examining Ireland’s compliance with the international covenant on civil and political rights. Mr Gallagher was not present at yesterday’s session, when the delegation was led by Seán Aylward, secretary general at the Department of Justice. Committee member Judge Rajsoomer Lallah (Mauritius) told the Irish delegation yesterday: “We have information of concrete cases of rendition taking place at Shannon airport” and use of Ireland’s air space by the CIA in several instances such as the case of Khaled al-Maqtari. Amnesty International said last month it believes the aircraft that took Mr al-Maqtari from Baghdad to Kabul in January 2004 had left Shannon the previous day. Mr al-Maqtari, who moved from his home in Yemen to Iraq in early 2003, was detained by US forces in Falluja the following January. On Monday, Mr Gallagher repeatedly stressed the Government is totally opposed to extraordinary rendition and that “freedom from torture of punishment is among freedoms protected by the Constitution,” and also by international instruments to which Ireland is a party. But he also conceded that the Government is aware “there are instances where diplomatic assurances can not be relied upon”. Mr Gallagher also told the expert panel that Ireland has responded to issues raised with it, and noted it had investigated those three instances. “I believe there had been three inspections of civilian aircraft that had been alleged to be engaged in extraordinary rendition.” One expert also posed the question why the Government was inquiring after the events had taken place and observed that even assurances at the highest level could not be relied upon, and asked why even now it was not possible to inquire about cases of what had happened in the past. In response, Mr Aylward reiterated the assurances that had been given at the highest levels of the US government. Three organisations, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), Flac and the Irish Penal Reform Trust, collaborated in preparing a shadow report to assist the UN committee in questioning the Government on its human rights record. After yesterday’s hearing, the director of the ICCL, Mark Kelly said the Government had responded to the committee’s “searching questions with a stoic reliance on diplomatic assurances, and by re-hashing policy statements which failed to engage with the substance of the committee’s questions. This has been a missed opportunity for genuine engagement between the UN’s top human rights experts and the State.” Meanwhile, Green Party TD, Ciarán Cuffe said he wanted to meet Minister for Justice Dermot Ahern about searching CIA chartered aircraft now that Ireland’s failure to do so has been questioned by the European Parliament and the UN committee. © 2008 The Irish Times

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