recently published Council of Europe report, compiled
by Swiss senator Dick Marty, has exposed the active
and passive collusion of several European countries
in a CIA operated "global spider's web"
of rendition flight paths, stopover facilities and
secret detention centres.
The report has named Ireland as a key stopover point
in the CIA-operated rendition programme.
The CIA devised the concept of extraordinary rendition
- the abduction and transferral of people to countries
where they are interrogated under torture - during
the later years of the Clinton administration.
Over recent years, rendition has primarily been
used against militant Islam, even though it has
been declared illegal under international law.
Since March 2003, the Dublin government has permitted
US military and CIA-owned flights to land and refuel
at Shannon Airport.
This represents a radical departure in established
government policy. For the previous fifty years
foreign military aircraft had been denied overflight
and landing facilities if they were carrying armaments,
aerial photographic equipment, engaged in intelligence
gathering or military exercises.
In the face of wide-ranging criticism, the Dublin
government has continually claimed that no evidence
has emerged to prove that detained Muslim prisoners
have passed through Shannon in US military or CIA-owned
But how could any evidence emerge when the Dublin
government has deliberately refused to check any
US military or CIA-owned flights that have landed
at Shannon over recent years?
Dick Marty pointed to European governments "having
tolerated or having been negligent in fulfilling
their duty to supervise". The Dublin government's
approach is a classic example of this criticism.
The Department of Foreign Affairs points to repeated
US assurances that no illegally detained prisoners
have passed through Shannon. However, the Bush administration
believes that it is legally entitled to arrest and
detain any person it designates as a terrorist suspect
anywhere in the world.
According to the Washington world-view, rendition
is legally justifiable and an abducted and bound
Muslim prisoner landing in Shannon on a CIA-owned
flight is not defined as an illegally detained prisoner
in US eyes. Hence US assurances to the Dublin government
concerning the involvement of Shannon in rendition
Last month a contract cleaner boarded a US military
flight in Shannon and observed a US military prisoner
shackled inside. The cleaner reported this observation
to the Airport authorities. This was the first the
Dublin government learnt of the issue, as the US
government had not obtained the necessary permission
to land the military detainee at Shannon.
How many other bound detainees, Muslim or US military,
have passed through Shannon undetected by contract
cleaners, our only source of information on this
matter, since the Dublin government has abjured
its responsibilities in this regard? We can only
But what is certain is that numerous flights involved
in rendition have landed in Shannon on the return
leg of CIA abduction operations. For example, a
CIA Gulfstream IV jet [call sign N85VM], which was
involved in the abduction of Abu Omar in Milan on
16 February 2003, landed and refuelled at Shannon
at 0552 on February 18. Another CIA Gulfstream jet
[call sign N379P], involved in abducting Ahmed Agiza
and Muhammad el-Zary in Sweden, has also landed
at Shannon on numerous occasions over recent years.
This is only a small sample from a comprehensive
list compiled by Amnesty International and the Irish
Despite assertions to the contrary, the Dublin government
has been facilitating an illegal CIA intelligence
gathering operation that is founded on abduction
It is time for the Dublin government to end obfuscation
in relation to this matter by complying with international
law and by withdrawing landing and refuelling facilities
from all US military and intelligence aircraft and
all chartered flights transporting US military and