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McDowell must investigate Amnesty evidence of "extraordinary renditions"

1 June, 2005

Sinn Féin spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights, Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister for Justice to investigate the evidence reported by Amnesty International that Shannon Airport has been used by the US to carry out 'extraordinary renditions' - that is, transferring people involuntarily across borders without due process and often in secret, sometimes to face torture, in violation of international law.

Speaking in response to the publication of an Amnesty report that makes reference to this evidence Deputy Ó Snodaigh said, "I have repeatedly raised this issue since last year, but the Government has been disturbingly evasive on the subject, with no fewer than four Ministers passing the buck in response to my questions.

"The Minister for Foreign Affairs told me he had no information to suggest that this was happening on foreign military aircraft, but declined to answer my question as to what steps the Government would take to prevent this from occurring in future.

"The Defence Minister has said that these claims 'do not stand up' but that he would 'monitor the situation closely'. Nevertheless, he refused to even take my question, referring it instead to the Minister for Transport.

"The Minister for Transport told me he was not required to ask about prisoner transport, but that he had received appropriate assurances from the US authorities -- though without specifying when these assurances were sought or received.

"The Minister for Justice also said he had no evidence that this was happening and accepted the assurances of the US administration, but he also told both the Dail and the Seanad that he would act on any such evidence that was brought to his attention.

"Each of these Ministers will be aware of documented evidence that the unmarked Gulfstream N379P on exclusive charter to the US military is regularly used to transport Al-Qaeda suspects illegally for interrogation in Egypt, Pakistan, Kuwait and Guantanamo Bay, contrary to the UN Convention on Torture, and that this plane also regularly passes through Shannon Airport. Yet it appears that this evidence of possible misuse of Shannon Airport involving violations of international law has not been investigated in any serious way.

"As far as I am concerned, the Garda authorities and airport police have failed to exercise their inspection powers under the 1973 Air Navigation and Transport Act, and the Minister for Justice has also failed to act on his responsibility to investigate this matter thoroughly.

"The time for evasion is over. I am now calling on Michael McDowell to:

investigate the matter thoroughly and produce a public report, including an explanation as to why the Gardaí have not previously inspected such planes landing at Shannon Airport; give a direct, personal guarantee that in future no plane used as part of the US covert programme known as Extraordinary Rendition, or any similar operation which involves the kidnap and torture of Al Qaeda or other suspects, will be allowed stop at Shannon or any other Irish airport nor to overfly Irish airspace; give a firm undertaking that such chartered civilian or military aircraft landing in Ireland will be inspected by Gardaí in future.

"These are the measures required to reassure the Irish people that their Government is not an accomplice to these violations of international law." ENDS

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