Dáil debates

Tuesday, 13 June 2006

Human Rights Issues: Motion.


7:00 pm

Photo of Michael D HigginsMichael D Higgins (Galway West, Labour)

If one involves oneself in part of the process, one is in the process. Under the principle of non-refoulement, if one extradites a person, one follows the process through to where that person goes. It is the same principle in respect of a deportation. One cannot say that because one chooses not to know, one is not complicit in some way. This is the difficulty in which the Government has placed Ireland, which is referred to in the Marty report.

In the last paragraph of the Government's amendment, it speaks of enhanced verification arrangements that it proposes to make after today's press conference on the discovery by a cleaner of a man in handcuffs on a civilian aircraft with mostly military personnel on board. Such a person was entitled to international protection in terms of the way in which he was held, his access to legal opinion and so on. It is not simply a case of imagining this is America's business. The United States did not approach the Department of Foreign Affairs and say it needed to confess something but did not have the time to do so until now. Only when someone cleaning the plane saw the person on board and told somebody else was the process discovered.

The Government, in its reply to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, correctly suggested that people had protections under the law. For example, it drew attention to the civil aviation Acts of 1988 and 1998, but it did not tell the Secretary General that it did not implement that legislation in respect of the planes landing at Shannon Airport. It was entitled, under section 49 of the civil aviation and transport Act of 1998 to board a plane, but it never did so. Regarding the five complaints made and the two complaints sent to the Director of Public Prosecutions, the Government relied on secondary evidence for its files. Thus, it said that it asked the cleaner and the mechanic about the matter.

It is interesting that when Senator Norris and I met two senior gardaí and asked why planes were not being inspected, they suggested they did not have the power to enter or search planes or make arrests under the Criminal Justice Act, which transposed the United Nations convention into Irish law. While that may have been the case in respect of the Act in question, it was never the complete truth because the Garda had the power under the 1988 and 1998 Acts.


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