A submission to The European Parliament, Temporary Committee on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transport and illegal detention of prisoners (TDIP)
by Edward Horgan (20 April 2006)
Since the end of 2001, Shannon Airport in the west of Ireland has come to be used as a military base of key strategic significance for the United States in its prosecution of its wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.
At the time of writing, the Irish Department of Transport's figures for troops passing through Shannon Airport indicate that almost all of the American troops in Iraq have transited through this civilian airport, back and forth between the United States and Iraq, several times (The latest official figures confirm that over one thousand three hundred armed US troops are passing through Shannon airport each day). Much military hardware has also passed through the airport.
At the same time, flight logs of aircraft owned or operated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) show that Shannon Airport has served as one of the most important nodes in a network of airports used by the CIA to conduct its programme of "extraordinary renditions". Under this programme promoted by the administration of President George W. Bush, more than 10,000 people have been abducted in the course of the last four years and transported to and from various sites in a global network of prisons, including prisons in Afghanistan and Iraq, an internment camp at Guantánamo Bay in Cuba, and secret "black sites" in Eastern Europe. At these prisons, the abducted prisoners have been subjected to various forms of torture, which have been sanctioned by the administration.
Flight logs also implicate other Irish airports, including Dublin and Baldonnel, in crimes of torture related to the programme of extraordinary rendition. Airports in at least 30 other European countries have also been implicated in these crimes, as documented in reports in the international media.
Some of the abducted prisoners have been sent ("rendered") to countries such as Egypt and Syria, where they may be subjected to particularly harsh torture, even to the point of death.
At the time of writing, it is a matter of particular urgency that hundreds of undocumented prisoners are in danger of suffering summary execution in order to conceal crimes of torture committed under the United States' programme of extraordinary renditions. It is most likely that some have already been murdered.
The United States' programme of extraordinary renditions represents a backward step for humanity, by which various regimes around the world justify their own practices of torture. This represents a threat to the security of all of us, including, most strikingly, American citizens kidnapped, tortured and beheaded in Iraq. Two Irish citizens have also been abducted and murdered in Iraq.
All of the above-mentioned activities associated with the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and with the programme of extraordinary renditions (which is intimately related to those wars) are in breach of Irish and international law. In particular, the Irish Government has committed repeated, frequent breaches of Ireland's obligations as a neutral state under the Hague Convention, of the UN Convention against Torture and of Irish legislation that incorporates the Convention against Torture.
Despite the outright illegality of these activities, the Irish state, including both elected government ministers and high-ranking public servants, has actively colluded in facilitating the use of Shannon Airport for the conduct of the United States' unlawful wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, and for the transport of prisoners abducted under the programme of extraordinary rendition for torture. The government has granted explicit permission for aircraft in the service of the United States' armed forces and of the CIA to transit Shannon Airport, and has effectively granted such aircraft immunity from being searched, or investigated.
The government has eagerly accepted worthless assurances and reassurances from the White House that Shannon Airport has not been used for purposes of torture, and, in the course of a visit on St. Patrick's Day, prime minister Bertie Ahern has requested the administration to provide information about some of the flights, with view to mollifying the Irish citizenry, who are overwhelmingly opposed to the torture programme.
Statements from government ministers fall short of denying knowledge of the use of Shannon Airport for the programme of extraordinary rendition for torture, presumably because the ministers are well aware that these crimes have been committed.
In a perversion of justice, members of government have demanded that concerned citizens, including the author of this submission, present evidence of crimes of torture committed at Shannon Airport, while directing airport security staff and members of the Garda Síochána to harass, detain and arrest these same activists in their attempts to gather such evidence.
Government ministers have repeatedly stated that, if the concerned citizens will only produce evidence of crimes, then the government will conduct an investigation into the torture flights. This kind of false reassurance is clearly a disingenuous tactic by which they seek to blur the distinction between "prima facie evidence" and "conclusive proof" - a distinction of which Minister for Justice Michael McDowell in particular, being a practising barrister, must be acutely aware.
In accordance with its duties, the Intelligence Section of the Irish Defence Forces has probably conducted an investigation into these abuses at Shannon Airport - though without publicising its conclusions - and so we must presume that high-ranking members of the Defence Forces are also aware of crimes of torture committed or facilitated at Shannon Airport. Senior members of the Garda Síochána (Irish police force), Civil Aviation Authority and other key organs of state are presumably also privy to specific details of these crimes of torture.
The response of the Irish Government to a request from the Council of Europe, in accordance with its Article 52, constitutes a fraudulent attempt to conceal its crimes. While the government in this official reply to the Council asserts that it is in compliance with its obligations to investigate and prevent crimes of torture, it is clear that it has in fact failed to protect the victims of torture. The government has not only failed to prevent the "unacknowledged deprivation of liberty" of victims of torture, but on dozens of occasions abused its powers to unlawfully deprive protesters and peaceful observers of their liberty. As recently as 16 th April 2006 four peace activists were arrested at Baldonnel military airport near Dublin.
This submission documents the misuse of Shannon airport by the US military and provides detailed flight logs of almost one hundred landings of CIA aircraft at Shannon. These confirmed CIA landings represent only some of the CIA use of Shannon airport, because the complete set of flight logs, which are available to the Irish Government, are not available to peace activists so far.
In view of the failure of the United Nations to effectively intervene to enforce the rule of law as regards crimes of torture, the European Union must intervene as a matter of utmost importance and urgency. The TDIP Committee must call at least four Irish Government ministers to face questions about the abuses at Shannon Airport (and other Irish airports): Ministers for Justice, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Defence and Minister for Transport.
Download text of full submission (PDF file, 189 kb): EHorganEUParliament200406.pdf
Edward Horgan, Commandant (Retired) of the Irish army, former UN military peacekeeper,
Manager, Centre for Care of Survivors of Torture,
213 North Circular Road, Dublin, Ireland.