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Last week’s universal periodic review (UPR) of Ireland’s human rights performance at the UN shone a welcome light on issues that must be addressed by the incoming government.
These issues include the rights of people with disabilities, access to abortion services, the marginalisation of Travellers, racism, domestic violence, and non-Christian children’s access to education. However, one key issue that has been ignored is the lack of accountability for the facilitation of US rendition planes at Shannon.
Over the past decade recommendations made to various human rights mechanisms, including the UPR, by Shannonwatch and other organisations have called for three specific actions. Firstly the Irish Government should review and if necessary strengthen legislation governing the search and inspection of suspected rendition flights to ensure that its civil and police authorities have the necessary power in this regard. Secondly it should establish a robust and transparent system for identifying aircraft, operators, and crews using Irish territory or airports to commit or assist abuses of human rights, including renditions. Thirdly it should establish an independent and impartial inquiry into the use of Irish territory, and in particular Shannon airport, in renditions. The outcome of this review should be made public.
The focus of UPR hearing was on what had been achieved since the last hearing in 2011, and Ireland has wilfully ignored the renditions issue since then. It is therefore not surprising but it is hugely disappointing that rendition had been dropped from the human rights agenda at the UN. It is equally disappointing that it was not highlighted in the submission to the UPR by the Irish Civil Society Coalition, Your Rights. Right Now. That submission included a list of the key recommendations on renditions in Annex F of the document, on the basis of input provided by Shannonwatch to the Coalition. The people who have been tortured by the failure to implement these recommendations deserve more than their relegation to an annex at the back of a human rights submission.
It is important to remember that about 780 people have been illegally held at Guantanamo Bay detention centre since it opened in 2002 and that 80 still remain. The planes and crews involved in the kidnapping and torture of many of these men passed through Shannon Airport or Irish airspace. It is incumbent on the human rights movement in countries like Ireland to demand redress and accountability for the role their authorities played in their rendition, intentionally or otherwise.
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