Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern TD in response to Irish Human Rights Commission Report on Extraordinary Rendition
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD, responding to the Irish Human Rights Commission (IHRC) Review of Ireland’s Human Rights Obligations in regard to Extraordinary Rendition, today stated
• The Government is totally opposed to the practice of
extraordinary rendition anywhere.
• No evidence has been produced - despite the various investigations which have been carried out - that any person has ever been subject to extraordinary rendition through Ireland and this was acknowledged by Chairman Maurice Manning in his submission to the European Parliament.
• The IHRC report contains no new information or specific allegations to that effect.
• The Government is confident that under international law it is fully entitled to rely on the categoric and absolute assurances secured from the United States Government at the highest level that they have not engaged in extraordinary rendition through Ireland.
• The Garda Síochána already have full powers to search civil aircraft of the type alleged to have been involved in extraordinary rendition where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting illegal activity
• They have investigated a number of allegations and found no basis on which to proceed (see annex).
• No other European country has an inspection regime as proposed in the IHRC report. The Commission are asking Ireland to do something that no other State is doing.
• The Government has taken a lead at EU level in calling for the review of the regulation of civil aviation with a view to identifying possible further measures to counter any possibility of extraordinary rendition.
The Minister went on to say:
“Over the past two years my Department has had extensive dialogue with the IHRC. During that time, both my officials and I have repeatedly made clear the Government’s total opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition anywhere. The basis for our view that we are fully in compliance with our international obligations on extraordinary rendition has also been explained in very great detail. In taking this view, we have had available to us the specialised expertise in international law of the Legal Division of the Department of Foreign Affairs.
Acceptance that there has been no extraordinary rendition through
It is very important to recall that at no stage has any evidence ever emerged, or even a specific allegation made, that any person has ever been subject to extraordinary rendition through Ireland. Indeed, the President of the Commission, Dr. Maurice Manning, has himself acknowledged this reality in his evidence to the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on the subject.
I am very disappointed that, despite the lengthy dialogue that we have had, the Review itself fails to reflect adequately the extent to which the Government have been active on the issue of extraordinary rendition both domestically and on the international stage. It also fails to do justice to the Government’s position on the main areas of difference between us.
Contacts with the US Government
Both I and colleagues in Government have on many occasions fully explained our approach on the issue of extraordinary rendition in the Oireachtas. In particular, the Taoiseach and I have proactively raised the issue with the United States Government at the highest levels; indeed, I was the first EU Minister to do so. The Taoiseach raised the issue at meetings with President Bush and I have done so directly with the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. In response, we have received uniquely clear and categoric assurances from the US that no extraordinary rendition has taken place through Ireland. Moreover, and at my direct instigation, the President of the EU Council of Ministers also took up the issue on behalf of the EU with the US authorities.
European Parliament Committee
As one of only two EU Foreign Ministers to agree to appear before the European Parliament’s Temporary Committee on Extraordinary Rendition, I was subsequently disappointed to find that process, to some extent, was hijacked was for party political purposes, with exaggerated figures of allegedly suspicious flights through this country and a call on Ireland, uniquely and quite extraordinarily among all EU Member States, to ban all so-called CIA flights. Unfortunately, and disappointingly, the IHRC’s Review regurgitates some of these unbalanced points without giving due prominence to its own President’s acknowledgement before the same European Parliament Committee that no evidence of extraordinary rendition in Ireland has ever emerged.
Council of Europe
In the Council of Europe context, our report to the Secretary General of the Council on Ireland’s approach to extraordinary rendition was one of only nine Member State reports, out of forty-six submitted, judged not to require any follow-up enquiry.
Differences on assurances
The IHRC and the Government differ on the significance to be attached to the assurances we have received from the US Government. There has been much debate on so-called “diplomatic assurances” and therefore it is necessary to be clear what we are talking about. The US Government has given to the Taoiseach and to me and to our officials unqualified assurances that clearly set out a factual situation in relation to which it has full knowledge and control: quite simply that no detainee has been or would be transferred through Irish territory as part of the US extraordinary rendition programme. There is no ambiguity nor is there any room for legal interpretation or debate about these assertions. If any evidence were to emerge that the assurances are not being complied with, we, the Irish Government, would deal immediately with the situation. I would add that similar high-level and categorically factual assurances have not been given to other European states.
In arguing that the assurances received from the US are inadequate,
the IHRC has sought to rely on international jurisprudence relating
to very different types of assurance. The IHRC acknowledges,
however, that there is a fundamental difference of opinion between
the Government and the IHRC as to the correct interpretation of
this jurisprudence. While the IHRC disagrees with the Government,
it concedes that “clearly, this distinction can be made.”
Indeed, the IHRC in its deliberations would also appear to give more credence to a self-appointed "activist group" than to the categoric and unqualified assurances of the democratically elected government of the US..
The IHRC argues that a specific inspection and monitoring regime should be introduced for certain aircraft alleged to have been involved at some point in extraordinary rendition. The IHRC also proposes that any complaint to the Garda, whatever the evidence provided, should result in a search of an aircraft.
As the Government has repeatedly made clear, the Garda Síochána already have full authority to search civil aircraft in any circumstances where they have reasonable grounds for suspecting illegal activity, such as extraordinary rendition, and to carry out any necessary investigations. Beyond this existing, fully adequate power, there are serious questions over the effectiveness, practicality, proportionality and reasonableness of any inspection regime, whether random or, as the IHRC proposes, in relation to specific aircraft. The position of the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform on this issue was set out in the Dáil in an adjournment debate on 29 November 2007. Moreover, in the seven cases investigated by the Gardaí, no evidence emerged justifying any subsequent legal action. I would note that no other EU Member State has introduced such an inspection regime.
Action by Government
Having set out where I differ from the IHRC, let me reiterate once more that the Government remains determined to take all possible measures to counter the practice of extraordinary rendition. At EU level, I have already called for a review of the Chicago Convention governing civil aviation with a view to considering whether there are further steps which could be taken to counter any possibility of extraordinary rendition and I am glad that this is now acknowledged by the IHRC. The domestic implementation of the commitments in the Programme for Government is, of course, a matter for my colleagues the Ministers for Justice, Equality and Law Reform and the Minister for Transport.
I am pleased to draw attention to the fact that, on the instructions of Minister Brian Lenihan, the Garda Síochána have been formally requested to ensure that all members are appropriately trained and familiar with the relevant legislation to ensure that the Programme for Government commitments on extraordinary rendition are complied with. Also, in the context of the Programme for Government, the Department of Transport intends to host a meeting of a regional subgroup of Member States of the International Civil Aviation Organisation at which it will raise the question of a review of the Chicago Convention.
Let me conclude by reiterating that we are at one in our total opposition to the practice of extraordinary rendition, or indeed to any other form of torture or ill treatment.
11th December 2007
List of recent enquiries:
October 2004: Four active anti-war people made an allegation in relation to a Gulfstream jet – number N379P – claiming that it had been used to transport prisoners to places of torture and that it had transited through Shannon on several occasions. Inquiries were conducted into this complaint by the Garda Síochána; all four complainants were interviewed; the investigation concluded that the complainants were basing their assertions wholly on the contents of a Swedish television documentary. A file was submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions, but there was no evidence to support the charge of torture.
December 2004: Allegation was made by letter that the same Gulfstream jet, number N379P, was used to fly terrorist suspects and that it transited through Ireland. The complainant was contacted and he acknowledged to the investigators that his complaint was based almost entirely on media reports. He produced no further evidence when asked. A file was forwarded to the Director of Public Prosecutions; a prosecution was not warranted.
November 2005: An anti-war campaigner alleged that an unmarked white aircraft carrying war munitions landed at Shannon Airport. The complaint was investigated and it was found that the plane was used on that particular occasion to transport racehorses from Shannon to Dubai.
November 2005: A member of the Oireachtas contacted the Gardaí to complain about Gulfstream N379P at Shannon Airport. The Garda Commissioner was asked to investigate the matter fully. He appointed a detective superintendent from Garda headquarters. The Detective Superintendent met the member. He asked the member to produce evidence; he was unable to do so and appeared to be relying on reports from other jurisdictions in respect of the activities of certain aircraft, but not anywhere Ireland. He declined to make a statement. He was contacted again in March and indicated he had nothing further to add. Again the Garda could not pursue those activities.
February 2006: A member of the Oireachtas produced copies of documents gathered by staff in his office as to possible breaches of international and domestic law allegedly occurring on CIA planes. A detective superintendent was appointed to contact this member. At a subsequent meeting, the member informed the Detective Superintendent appointed that he had no specific evidence in support of these allegations.
May 2006: Anti war campaigner complained about a plane, N44CX. It was found that this plane was privately owned and was operating in the context of a corporate business flight.
September 2007: Concerns raised about jet registered N259SK which landed at Shannon. On investigation it was learned the occupants of the aircraft were in Ireland on a golfing holiday.Top