Ireland offered ‘covert support’ to CIA renditions

Ireland is one of 54 countries identified as colluding with authorities in the US to operate the CIA’s controversial programme of extraordinary rendition in the aftermath of the Sept 11 attacks in 2001.

Dermot Ahern, then foreign affairs minister, had told the US ambassador, Thomas Foley, he was "quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refuelled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere".

A report by the New York-based Open Society Justice Initiative (OSJI) claimed the practice was covertly offered support by about 25% of the world’s governments.

It claims 136 prisoners were secretly detained and interrogated by the CIA in prisons located outside the US, known as “black sites”, where they were subjected to torture and other abuse.

The OSJI said the Government had permitted the use of its airspace and airports for flights associated with the CIA’s extraordinary renditions operations.

It cited a 2007 report by the European Parliament which expressed concern about 147 stopovers by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports, mostly at Shannon.

They included aircraft linked to the extraordinary rendition of several high- profile detainees including Khaled El-Masri and Abu Omar.

According to Amnesty International, an aircraft that transferred Yemeni national, Khaled al Makhtari, from Iraq to Afghanistan refuelled at Shannon the day before the transfer.

The report noted US court records showed at least 13 extraordinary rendition flights landed in Ireland between 2002 and 2004.

Diplomatic cables released in 2010 by Wikileaks revealed Dermot Ahern, then foreign affairs minister, had told the US ambassador, Thomas Foley, he was “quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refuelled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere”.

The OSJI recommended that countries like Ireland should refuse to participate in the use of extraordinary rendition by the CIA. It also urged the Government to disclose information on associated human rights violations, and that Ireland conducts an investigation and provides compensation to those subjected to secret detention and extraordinary rendition operations in which it had participated.

Amnesty International Ireland’s executive director, Colm O’Gorman said it was undeniable the Government knew rendition flights had transited in Ireland.

“Official Ireland was prepared to ignore our role in kidnap and torture for the sake of maintaining good relations with the US government,” he said.

He called for an independent probe into the use of Shannon to highlight who was aware that Ireland was complicit in torture and why they failed to act.

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