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Tuesday 19 August 2014

Labour Senator Susan O'Keeffe chief defender of government actions at Shannon Airport

This blog post is about an oireachtas petition re Investigation into US Military and CIA use of Shannon airport and Irish airspace submitted 20 Nov 2012, Ref Number P00072/12, submission document, submitted by Dr Edward Horgan on behalf of Shannonwatch. I have nothing to do with them this is just my own opinion on the process and the issue.

The first thing to note it was 470 days (2012 to 2014) from the submission of the petition till it was publically discussed at the committee. Apart from a brief mention at a committee meeting on 27th November 2013

Report on the alleged use of European countries by the CIA for the transportation and
illegal detention of prisoners

Welcomes the testimony given to the Temporary Committee by the Irish Minister for Foreign Affairs on behalf of the Irish Government as well as his unequivocal criticism of the process of extraordinary rendition; notes the fact, however , that he failed to answer all the questions in relation to the concerns that Irish airports may have been used by CIA aircraft travelling to or from extraordinary rendition missions (as in the case of Abu Omar);

Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions Debate Shannon Airport Landings Wednesday 18 June 2014
Senator Susan O'Keeffe: I wish to draw the attention of the witnesses to the letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade to this committee regarding Ireland's appearance before the TDIP committee. The letter states very clearly that Ireland's reply was one of only 13 responses from 45 submissions which did not require further clarification.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe: That is not an answer to the question I have just asked. The letter made clear that Ireland's reply was one of only 13 responses from 45 submissions which did not require further clarification. Therefore, the suggestion from the Department is that it's house is effectively in order. I am asking what the Department is saying there because the witnesses are obviously not in agreement with it on that point. What did Ireland say in its submission that made the EU committee say, "That's grand, thanks very much. That's fine". What I am saying is that the witnesses are drawing the TDIP committee in too and accusing it of not doing its job. I just want to be clear that this is what the witnesses are actually saying.

Dail inquiry into Irish role in extraordinary rendition needed. Proinsias De Rossa Labour. 5 November 2009.

"In 2007, following a year-long, detailed investigation, a special European Parliament Committee of Inquiry into CIA activity in Europe, in which I participated, concluded that there were 147 stopovers at Irish airports by CIA-run planes proven to have been used in the rendition circuit. It named nine men including Abu Omar that were illegally detained and transferred for torture to third countries on planes, some of which are known to have landed in Ireland. And it criticised the then Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern TD, for failing to answer all its questions in relation to the concerns that Irish airports were used by CIA aircraft travelling to and from extraordinary rendition missions (as in the case of Abu Omar) when he appeared before MEPs in November 2006.

O'Keeffe demands of the public access it couldn't possibly have.

Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions Debate Shannon Airport Landings Wednesday 18 June 2014

Dr. Edward Horgan: We have written directly to the current Attorney General and she has refused to release it.
Senator Susan O'Keeffe: Yes, so have the witnesses made a freedom of information request?
Dr. Edward Horgan: We have not gone down that route.

The Attorney General will not release government legal advice through FOI, Senator Susan O'Keeffe knows that.

Susan O’Keeffe gives the state line and then demands of the public documents the public couldn’t possibly have access too.

Wednesday, 12 March 2014 - Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions Debate

Senator Susan O'Keeffe: The Government has made its position clear in regard to this matter. It is completely opposed to these practices. We start from that position and, therefore, the claims made by the petitioners are very serious, not least in respect of the allegation that gardaí at Shannon Airport were advised by the Attorney General not to search or investigate aircraft. This is a serious matter and the petitioners have invested considerable effort in investigating it, but they are saying it is still not resolved. The Department sent us a detailed response but it does not answer all of the questions arising. I agree that we should invite Dr. Horgan and, perhaps, some of the other petitioners to give evidence but I suggest that they be asked to clarify the claims made to allow us to study them prior to their appearance before us. We might also invite the Tánaiste to come before the committee separately.

Senator Susan O'Keeffe: All petitioners will argue that they have been meticulous, and we will treat them as such. We will treat each of them as meticulous, but in their meticulousness they must provide sufficient evidence to back up any claim they make, whoever they are and on whatever occasion they come here, and in that case they would, hopefully, get a fair hearing.

Petitions Committee to visit Shannon Airport

..2 years! after petition submitted, and ten years after it became an issue.

Little point going to Shannon, they need to merely visit the nearby Attorney Generals office and ask what advice was given on Shannon.

I suspect the advice was to ignore it as long as the torture doesn't happen in Ireland, (in a similar way to Canada) which doesn't follow international law, one must actively prevent torture where ever it happens.
When states are tempted to finesse their obligations, they should consider a statement by the U.N. Special Rapporteur on Torture:

“I remind governments around the world that they are not only obliged to refrain at all times from using torture — they also have a duty not to transfer persons in their custody to countries where they are at risk of being tortured; a duty to refrain from encouraging torture anywhere in any way; and a duty to actively prevent torture, inter alia by bringing torturers to justice.”

UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak 26 June Statement 2006
Reem Bahdi: Tort Torture and Terror pg239 (pg 5)

Full text of speech UN Special Rapporteur on Torture, Manfred Nowak 26 June Statement 2006, UN International Day in Support of Victims of Torture.

Who benefits, ask the US and the government

Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions Debate Shannon Airport Landings Wednesday 18 June 2014

Senator Susan O'Keeffe: I understand that but, as I have said, that is a separate issue. To be clear, effectively what the witnesses have drawn is a conspiracy which involves the Garda Síochána, the Attorney General, the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade and GSOC, among others. It is an enormous conspiracy of silence that the witnesses have painted and I am not saying I do not believe them. What I am saying is that if such a conspiracy exists, which is so long-lasting, there is usually a benefit to somebody but I cannot see how the witnesses would not know what that benefit could be to Ireland or if they do know, they are not saying it here.

I suggest the Senator reads what the (former) American Ambassador to Ireland thinks if she does not believe the witnesses.

Ambassador James C. Kenny: Shannon remains a key transit point for U.S. troops and materiel bound for theaters in the global war on terror, while yielding diplomatic benefits for the Irish Government and significant revenues for the airport and regional economy.

Shannon: Significant Benefits
In 2005, roughly 340,000 U.S. troops passed through Shannon on nearly 2,500 contract carrier flights; about 450 equipment-related/distinguished-visitor transit milair flights and thousands of airspace overflights also took place. Approximately 220,000 troops have transited to date this year. For Ireland, U.S. military transits not only demonstrate bilateral cooperation in support of U.S. objectives in the Gulf/Middle East, but also generate significant revenue for Shannon Airport and the regional economy. In 2005, the airport turned a euro 2.9 million profit after earning roughly euro 10.3 million from services for transit flights, including landing, parking, catering, and fuel. The economic gains for the Shannon area are less easily calculated, but would include, at a minimum, payments for hotels, food/beverages, transportation, and cultural activities that come with 8-10 overnight stops per year for roughly 200 soldiers each time.

and then read this

Shannonwatch Report Outlining Costs Associated with United State Military Use of Shannon Airport (January 2012)

they make money keeping Shannon busy with the Civilian Air Reserve Fleet troop landings but lose it in the costs associated with facilitating military landings by not collecting fees, and security costs but anyway surely Susan O'Keeffe believes the US and their "assurances"

US Diplomatic Cable James C Kenny US Ambassdor to Ireland

The only people who can know are people with access to the planes, and that's not the public.

Convention Against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

International covenant on civil and political rights

HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE Ninety-second session New York, 17 March - 4 April 2008

Please indicate how the State party addresses concerns about the use of Irish airspace and airports for so-called renditions. Does the State party continue to accept diplomatic assurances in that regard? Does the State party intend to initiate a public inquiry into renditions?

Assurance from US government is no assurance

Joint Committee on Public Service Oversight and Petitions Debate Shannon Airport Landings Wednesday 18 June 2014

Senator Susan O'Keeffe: Finally, I wish to refer back to the letter from the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. It states that the Government received clear and categoric assurances from the US that no transfers of prisoners subject to extraordinary rendition had taken place through Ireland. Effectively, the witnesses are profoundly disagreeing with that and saying that it is not true.
Dr. John Lannon: Yes and we are disagreeing on a number of grounds. One is that the assurances may be interpreted as meaning that no prisoners were taken, shackled, through Shannon Airport. We have said repeatedly and state again today that there does not need to be a prisoner on board the plane in order for it to be complicit in torture, human rights abuse and extraordinary rendition. We know from reports by the likes of Amnesty International, including Breaking the Chain: Ending Ireland's role in renditions, that there have been at least four - or six according to other researchers - incidents where planes that were directly involved in rendition circuits used the facilities at Shannon Airport.

Amnesty International
In the cases of four men, Abu Omar, Khaled al Maqtari, Khaled el Masri and Binyam Mohamed CIA agents used Shannon Airport as a launching pad for rendition operations.

Breaking the Chain: Ending Ireland's role in renditions

Fourth periodic reports of States parties Ireland 25 July 2012

234.It is acknowledged that a small number of commercially leased aircraft that have travelled through Shannon Airport in pursuit of legitimate commercial activities may also have been involved at various other times in activities related to extraordinary renditions.

22 November 2013 List of issues in relation to the fourth periodic report of Ireland

18.Please provide further information on specific and concrete steps taken, beyond official assurances, to ensure that aircrafts used for the purpose of extraordinary rendition, whether they carry prisoners on board or not, do not pass through the territory of the State party. What measures are taken to investigate past allegations concerning the use of the State party’s territory for the purpose of extraordinary rendition flights?

Ambassador Thomas C. Foley: He (Dermot Ahern MOJ) seemed quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere.


Programme for Government

The Fine Gael Labour Programme for Government 2011.

We will enforce the prohibition on the use of Irish airspace, airports and related facilities for
purposes not in line with the dictates of international law.

In what way are they enforcing this? Dail Human Rights Issues Tuesday, 21 February 2012.

Deputy Eamon GilmoreWe have a procedure in place. It is not just a question of accepting assurances. There is a procedure in place whereby if prisoners are to be transported through any of our airports, the permission of the Irish Government must be sought and obtained. No such permission has been sought or granted and I have made it absolutely clear that under no circumstances will we grant permission for the transport of prisoners who are subject to extraordinary rendition

So if anyone asks they'll say no. This does not go so far as actively preventing torture, by preventing a country known for torture and kidnapping from freely use our airports to stop off to and from kidnapping runs in aircraft known to have been used for kidnapping.


Enda Kenny:
If we do not have a majority, we cannot do that. How do I know what the members will do?
Dail 10 June 2014

People can change in 25 years, they can become the thing they fought against particularly when they are around power.

Susan O’Keeffe: Haughey would be proud Public Enquiry/Anthony Sheridan

susan o'keeffe just said doesn't know Andrew Kearns story #rtedl March 25, 2014

This was after she questioned the Minister of Justice and the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission about GSOC, the most un-curious of reporters and politicians.

Shannon Excusers take state line at Oireachtas petitions committee

Interpretation Of Torture In The Light Of The Practice And Jurisprudence Of International Bodies

OHCHR Torture Prevention Guide

Council of Europe Report

Ministers keep making the point that that Council of Europe investigated Extraordinary Ordinary and when reported had no further queries for for Ireland. They seem very proud of this but it doesn't seem Europe and Ireland should be proud of its facilitation of kidnap and torture.

Eamon Gilmore (Tánaiste; Minister, Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
We have co-operated fully with an investigation of the Council of Europe of the various allegations made in regard to secret prisons and extraordinary rendition. Out of 46 responses received, Ireland's was one of nine that was adjudged to be sufficiently comprehensive not to require additional clarification. Recent reports on extraordinary renditions do not provide any new information or evidence to support the assertion that Ireland permitted such activity.
Report by the Secretary General on the use of his powers under Article 52 of the European Convention on Human Rights, in the light of reports suggesting that individuals, notably persons suspected of involvement in acts of terrorism, may have been arrested and detained, or transported while deprived of their liberty, by or at the
instigation of foreign agencies, with the active or passive co-operation of States Parties to the Convention or by States Parties themselves at
their own initiative, without such deprivation of liberty having been acknowledged


80. Most States Parties give a clear and complete reply to the question as formulated:
Armenia, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Hungary, Iceland, Ireland, Liechtenstein, Luxembourg, Malta, Moldova, Netherlands, Portugal, Romania, [the Russian Federation – see paragraph 82 below] San Marino, Sweden, Turkey, United Kingdom.

All these replies state that there has been no involvement of the kind mentioned in question 4, at least not to the knowledge of the authorities.

Questions in respect of which further explanations will be requested.
Ireland None

A quest for accountability? EU and Member State inquiries into the CIA Rendition and Secret Detention Programme

CoE ‘Dick Marty’ 2006 1st Report
CoE ‘Dick Marty’ 2011 2nd Report
European Parliament 2007 ‘Fava’ Report
European Parliament 2012 ‘Flautre’ Report Lack of effective investigation
National Ongoing national judiciary inquiries
ECtHR cases