CIA is still using Shannon for torture flights

ACCORDING to a recent EU committee report, Ireland is the third worst offender in all of Europe, after Germany and the UK, in allowing torture flights to land and refuel, with 147 CIA flights identified at Shannon airport.

The report goes further by linking 14 CIA aircraft with Shannon refuelling stops and creating further linkages between these aircraft and actual transport of prisoners for torture and other landings in countries that habitually practise torture.

I have seen one of the most notorious renditions aircraft — N379P, known as the ‘Guantanamo Express’ — which was listed in the EU report at Shannon in January 2003. Not only had the CIA been abusing Shannon airport in the past, it is still doing so now. I photographed one of the CIA rendition aircraft listed in the EU report — N368CE — at Shannon as recently as July 8 last.

Claims by Department of Foreign Affairs spokesperson that at no stage has any prisoner been rendered through Shannon are clearly false given that it is confirmed that US military prisoners have been ‘rendered’ through Shannon and it is most likely to be proved in time that prisoners were rendered through Shannon to and from Guantanamo.

Foreign Minister Dermot Ahern’s statement that assurances he had received from US authorities were “factual and unqualified” is also likely to be proved false in time. This statement is not compatible with the contents of the EU committee report and is also contradicted by reports that gardaí and workers at Shannon have witnessed prisoners on board CIA-operated aircraft.

Shannon was used extensively by US military Hercules C130 aircraft up to June 2006 when they appeared to have been ‘warned off’ by the Government, possibly as a pre-election precaution. It is likely also that many of these military aircraft were used to transport prisoners to Guantanamo, from Afghanistan in 2002 and from Iraq in 2003.

Since the 147 CIA flights identified by the EU committee are unlikely to represent the total of such flights, and do not include any US military flights that are now known also to have been involved in the transport of prisoners, the number of rendition-related flights through Shannon is likely to be far greater.

Up to 50,000 prisoners were incarcerated in the US Gulag system that stretched from Guantanamo through Poland, Romania, Bosnia, across North African and the Middle East, and as far as Indonesia. Some of the most dreadful prisons existed, and are still in use, in Afghanistan. The abuse of prisoners in Abu Graib by US soldiers was just the tip of the iceberg. The number of these prisoners who have been tortured to varying degrees is likely to have exceeded 10,000, and an unknown number have died while in custody.

Ireland has failed in its duties under the UN Convention on Torture, and this report puts Shannon and Dublin at further risk of retaliation for our complicity in the torture of prisoners and in unlawful war deaths in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Edward Horgan

Newtown

Castletroy

Co Limerick

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