Wednesday, 14 June 2006
Human Rights Issues: Motion (Resumed).
—the national and international legal consensus that a state cannot rely on diplomatic assurances alone to discharge those positive obligations, and, in particular, the statement of the secretary general of the Council of Europe that 'mere assurances by foreign states that their agents abroad comply with international and national law are not enough. Formal guarantees and enforcement mechanism need to be set out in agreements and national law in order to protect ECHR rights';
—the Legal Affairs Committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe has adopted a report from Senator Dick Marty to the effect that the United States has progressively woven a clandestine 'spider's web' of disappearances, secret detentions and unlawful inter-state transfers, spun with the collaboration or tolerance of Council of Europe member states;
—the Marty report concludes that certain Member States, including Ireland, could be held responsible for active or passive collusion (in the sense of having tolerated or having been negligent in fulfilling the duty to supervise), involving secret detention and unlawful inter-state transfers of persons whose identity so far remains unknown, and that Ireland in particular could be so responsible for permitting Shannon to be used as a stopover for flights involving the unlawful transfer of detainees;
—the secretary general of the Council of Europe has commended the Marty Report and stated: 'Senator Marty has made some serious allegations about the involvement of several European countries. I note that some governments have immediately denied these allegations but I think that they should make clear whether they have investigated these allegations before rejecting them';
—the Irish Human Rights Commission has stated that: 'the report of Senator Marty is persuasive if not conclusive, and gives credence to the concerns already raised by the Irish Human Rights Commission. It strengthens the case for a fundamental rethink, especially on the reliability of diplomatic assurances. Reliance on diplomatic assurances is at the very heart of the Irish case and in this context the Human Rights Commission is strongly of the view that the only form of diplomatic assurances that could meet our constitutional and international human rights obligations would be ones which were fully legally enforceable and were accompanied by an effective regime of monitoring and inspection of aircraft suspected of involvement in the rendition of prisoners.';
—committed to full engagement and co-operation with other states to counter international terrorism and in that regard recalling the EU Presidency statement of the 11th May, 2006 that: 'We share the view that effective counter-terrorism measures and the protection of human rights are not conflicting goals, but complementary and mutually reinforcing. Our fight against terrorism must be placed within a rule-of-law framework and conducted in full conformity with international law, in particular human rights law, refugee law and international humanitarian law';
—satisfied that there are real and substantial grounds for concern as to the lawfulness, in terms of both Irish and international law, of actions carried by or on behalf of the United States that are under inquiry and that a principle of trust in formal diplomatic assurances does not justify a refusal to have any regard to those allegations:
—establish a credible independent investigation into the existence of any secret and extralegal arrangements, agreements or understandings, whether formal or informal, between the Irish authorities and the authorities of any other State, including at senior political level, as regards over flights, stopovers and extraordinary rendition;
—use the full powers available under the Air Transport and Navigation Act, and to make such amendments as are appropriate in such Acts for the vindication and guarantee of human rights, and to use such powers and powers under the Chicago Convention to introduce an appropriate regime of inspection of civilian aircraft, rather than relying solely on Garda powers relating to crime investigations, and
—the Government have responded urgently from the outset to allegations of extraordinary rendition, including by consistently raising the matter with the US authorities from the very earliest stage, and through the Minister for Foreign Affairs urging that the EU pursue the issue actively with the US;
—the Government have co-operated fully with both the Council of Europe and the European Parliament in their investigations, such that Ireland's explanation of its law and practice in this area to the Council of Europe was one of only nine, out of 45 received, that the Secretary General of the Council of Europe judged to be sufficiently comprehensive not to require further clarification;
—commends the Government for fulfilling their legal and constitutional responsibility, and their obligations under international law, to take all appropriate steps to ensure that the territory and facilities of this State are not used for illicit purposes and especially not for human rights violations by any other state;
I will speak for approximately ten minutes. The other Deputies will speak for approximately five minutes each and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, will conclude.
I welcome the opportunity to open the second night of debate on this motion. Although yesterday evening's debate was characterised by some heated exchanges, I am encouraged by an emerging consensus that evidence, expert opinion and common sense do not support the suggestion that any prisoner has ever been brought through Irish territory as part of an extraordinary rendition operation.
The debate, it seems, is rather about the best method of ensuring that Ireland's obligations under international law are fulfilled. Some of those on the opposite side of the House have argued this should be done by searching aircraft randomly. As my colleague, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, outlined cogently yesterday evening however, despite the cosmetic attractiveness of such a course of action, its efficacy at preventing this sort of action is deeply flawed. It could not be said, in any meaningful sense, to fulfil the Government's positive obligations under international law. I will come back to this point later in my speech, but I will first reinforce a point made last night about the assurances Ireland has received from the US authorities in this area.
The assurances that Ireland has received from the US authorities in the area of extraordinary rendition lie at the heart of the Government's policy in respect of extraordinary rendition, and with good reason. Ireland is in the fortunate position, partly because of the urgency it attached to the matter, of having obtained assurances from the US authorities that are unparalleled, both in terms of their content and the level at which they have been confirmed. It is not possible to conduct a debate on this matter without acknowledging that fact, and those who attempt to group Ireland with other countries in Europe without giving due weight to this fact, as I am sorry to report that Senator Marty appears to have done, undermine public confidence in the comprehensiveness and credibility of their investigations.
The Government has made it clear from the very beginning that it will co-operate fully with the Council of Europe and the European Parliament in their investigations into this matter. In particular, we were pleased to have an opportunity to set out in great detail our approach to these matters for the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Mr Terry Davis. Copies of this document were, of course, distributed to all Deputies. At no stage did the Secretary General indicate that he took issue with Ireland's approach. Senator Marty, on the other hand, conducted his investigation without once contacting the Irish Government. As a result, we feel his remarks about Ireland were based on an incomplete understanding of the facts of the Irish case.
The contrasting approaches of the Secretary General and Senator Marty — of engagement on the one hand and isolation on the other — underline the value of our policy of engagement with the United States on this issue. Through this policy we have a channel to express our concern in a number of different frameworks and to ensure that our concerns are met in respect of this matter. This type of approach — engagement rather than confrontation — creates an atmosphere in which concerns can be raised openly, and incidents, such as the inadvertent transfer of a US marine through Shannon last weekend, can be discussed frankly, to ensure the appropriate remedial steps can be taken. It is also, as I have already stated, the best way of ensuring the fulfilment of our positive obligations under international law in respect of this matter.
Some of yesterday's speakers argued strongly in favour of searching aircraft to ensure they are not carrying, and have not carried, prisoners. However, it is clear from what was said yesterday, and from a number of international reports, that the aircraft that are alleged to have been involved in this activity are identified months, at the very earliest, after they land. Furthermore, civilian aircraft of the type in question are not under international law required, as the Minister for Transport has explained to the House on several occasions, to apply for permission to land. This means that a transited State such as Ireland may have very little notice of the arrival of such aircraft. In this context, a regime of random search and inspection would clearly be of very limited value in achieving the desired goal, and questions would rightly be raised about its efficacy in meeting a State's positive obligations. Moreover, given that at most the allegations are that such aircraft passed empty through Ireland, it is impossible to see how, even if such aircraft were to be identified and searched, the outcome of such searches would shed any particular light on the matter.
It is the Government's firmly held view that our positive obligations in this area are best met by our approach of having obtained at the earliest opportunity clear, unqualified assurances from the US authorities. These assurances have since been confirmed by the Secretary of State of the US, Condoleezza Rice. This twin package of specific, bilateral assurances, combined with confirmation from the highest levels of the US Government, fulfils in the most effective manner the Government's positive obligations in this area. To the best of my knowledge, no other State is in the fortunate position of having its assurances confirmed in this manner.
I urge Members, therefore, to endorse the policy of the Government in this area, built on its prompt, early action, by registering their support for this amendment.
I welcome the opportunity to speak on this matter but first offer sympathy on the death of the former Taoiseach, Charles Haughey.
I thank Deputy Michael Higgins for raising this matter and for giving us the opportunity to respond. I listened very carefully to what the Minister said last night, which sums up the Government position:
The Government's position on the issue of extraordinary rendition is, therefore, quite clear. We utterly condemn it, we in no way facilitate it and we are willing, with our partners, to consider carefully any practicable and specific proposals which the Council of Europe, the European Parliament or any other body may make to reduce the possibility of future cases occurring. At the same time, we do not accept that we have failed to meet our obligations. We utterly reject allegations of collusion, either passive or active, with this practice. I believe we have done and are doing all that is possible and practicable.
I welcome those words. I have made it very clear on other occasions in the Dáil that I utterly condemn violence and war. My grandfather died in war and other members of my family suffered. It is very important that colleagues on the other side understand that I share concerns which they have expressed. I, my colleagues from the west and the Minister of State at the Department of Health and Children, Deputy Tim O'Malley, from Limerick, are always careful to acknowledge that America is our friend. I am probably the only Member of the House who has never been to America and I do not know whether I will correct that in my lifetime. I see that country as a friendly nation. I have had many contacts with American politicians and I know where we stand in that regard. At the same time, this issue is such that we must say to the Government that spot checks are required. Having read the reports over recent days, I wondered how a cleaner could just ramble onto a plane and see that situation. If this man only stole some clothes and was being brought home, I cannot understand the American logic as to why he had to be chained and handcuffed. It seems to me that the Americans might be watching too many movies. I do not think it would happen in most places, including Ireland, but if they have nothing to hide, that is fair enough.
I was cheered up by the front page of The Irish Times this morning which reported that US military-linked flights might face inspections at Shannon. We should record the fact that the Government is to reconsider introducing inspections on US military related flights.
I am relating what I have read and I will listen quietly to what the Deputy says. In fairness, the Government has made its position clear and I am glad the Minister of State has reiterated that. We should dispel the myth that colleagues on this side of the House would condone wrongdoing. We should speak out about it. I am glad the Minister of State has given us assurances in that regard. Like other colleagues, I will follow it through. We can all get hysterical about these issues and, while I am not suggesting that the Deputy would do so, we should be clear about the matter.
I listened carefully to the Minister yesterday and the Minister of State today. I am bound to say that they know more than I do about this matter and I am impressed by the assurances they have given. They are making it clear to the American authorities that it is not good enough. It was a profound act for the Minister to summon the American ambassador and seek an explanation from him. The ambassador's assurances were sought on the matter, which will please many people. We are a sovereign state and are entitled to do that.
While I would not say we are dependent on America, we do have a friendly relationship with that country. By the way, I would not vote for George Bush either. A US presidential election is due in two years' time, so when I have a minute to spare, I check the computer to try to figure out who the next US President will be. It concerns me greatly that we do not have a clue.
Yes, I know who it cannot be. I do not want to be flippant about this matter, which is a serious business. It is important to support the Government amendment. The Minister has made his position clear and has not been weak about it. His actions yesterday demonstrated the Government's intent. We should support the Government's position.
I thank my colleagues for sharing their time on this important debate. I welcome the opportunity to address the issue of extraordinary rendition, a practice which is virtually unknown outside the context of the US war on terrorism. The concept of extraordinary rendition is alien to me. It is also alien to the legal system which we operate in Ireland. As a country, we cannot agree in any shape or form with the movement of people from one jurisdiction to another other than by international legal agreements, that is, by extradition, not extraordinary rendition. The debate is welcome because it gives us the opportunity to re-state that position or, perhaps, to state it in the House for the first time.
At the heart of this debate is a wider discussion on the central allegation that, either passively or actively, Ireland has colluded with the practice of extraordinary rendition. As a country, we wholly reject that practice. The Labour Party's motion refers strongly to this fact in the preamble. Notably, it makes no specific allegation that extraordinary rendition has occurred here. If we were to be found guilty of colluding in extraordinary rendition, we would also be guilty of gross hypocrisy, not alone because of our expressed opposition to extraordinary rendition but also because of our long-standing and steadfast opposition to collusion in Northern Ireland.
Members of the Committee on Justice, Equality, Defence and Women's Rights have examined the issue of collusion regarding the Dublin-Monaghan bombings and other incidents including the security forces in the North. We have a clear insight into what constitutes collusion in this respect. It leads directly to the question of how one defines collusion in the context of this debate concerning extraordinary rendition. The Labour Party motion refers to active or passive collusion "in the sense of having tolerated or having been negligent in fulfilling the duty to supervise". The question is whether we have a duty to supervise or, in other words, to board and inspect flights. Regardless of whether it exists, that duty is at the heart of this debate.
In the same way, it is simply not permissible in this country for our authorities, in any shape or form, to enter and inspect any property or premises without due cause. They can only do so when there is concrete information on the basis of a warrant obtained through the judicial process. Are we to abandon the concepts we apply to entering property in this State and apply different ones for aircraft entering and leaving the country?
In the absence of definitive information to the contrary, are we entitled to rely on the categorical and unequivocal assurances of a friendly country? That question is at the heart of this issue and how we answer it is fundamental to this debate. The situation is not clear cut and needs ongoing monitoring depending on the information and reports available, such as the one we are discussing. On balance, I believe we can and should rely on such assurances. We should also be in a position to apply the same standards for aircraft as we apply to inspecting and entering property in our country.
I wish to address the episode that occurred in Shannon the other night. That matter was regrettable and we object to it in the strongest possible terms. However, it would be wrong to confuse that with the much more important debate centering on the Labour Party motion. While the episode at the weekend was regrettable and ought not to recur, it is in a very different category. In that context, I welcome the Minister's remarks yesterday when he said the Government was willing carefully to consider with its partners practical and specific proposals which the Council of Europe, the European Parliament or any other body may have to reduce the possibility of such cases recurring. At the same time, we do not accept we have failed to meet our obligations under international law and we utterly reject the allegations of active or passive collusion. For the reasons I set out earlier, I do not believe we are involved in collusion, which is the allegation of which we, as a country, stand accused. We are not guilty of collusion in these circumstances.
I wish to preface my remarks by stating that this is my first contribution in the Chamber since the death of the former Taoiseach and leader of Fianna Fáil, Mr. Charles Haughey. I wish to associate myself with the tributes paid to him yesterday. He was a constituent of mine, as well as everything else. Ar dheis Dé go raibh a anam.
Before anybody from this side of the House speaks on an issue such as this, particularly on a motion tabled by Deputy Michael D. Higgins, it is appropriate to pay tribute to him for his long career in the area of human rights and the passion he brings and has always brought to the issue. As a mere spectator for many years in the sport of politics, I found his contributions were not only worth listening to but also worth re-reading and giving due consideration. I pay tribute to him for that. However — after those opening remarks, there must be a "but" — this unusual issue seems to be black and white. There is little grey area. The Government's position is clear, although the Opposition position appears, to it, to be clear.
The clarity of the Government's position deserves to be repeated, and it can be set out in a few short and simple sentences. It is that, first, the Government is totally opposed to extraordinary rendition and has made this clear to the US authorities at the highest level — it was made clear to President Bush by the Taoiseach and to Secretary of State Rice by the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern. Second, in the context of extraordinary rendition the Government has received clear, factual and categorical assurances from the US authorities that prisoners are not transported through Ireland. That position is simple and is summed up in those two sentences. To suggest otherwise is an injustice.
My colleague, Deputy Carey, put the case particularly well earlier in the debate. He stated:
Extraordinary rendition is an issue on which the Government has taken a great deal of unwarranted flak, largely I suspect at the hands of people who are determined to look more at rumours than at facts. In the matter of extraordinary rendition, having received assurances, as the Minister has, of unsurpassed quality obtained early on from the US authorities and confirmed by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice, the Government is in an extraordinarily strong position, especially in the European context. Are we to ignore these on the basis of a series of unsubstantiated allegations? I believe we cannot do that.
In tandem with Deputy O'Connor, I am no apologist for George Bush or his regime. Even if he were standing again and I was in a position to offer electoral support, it would not arise.
I had better make it more simple for Deputy McGrath. When I stated "Even if he were standing again and I was in a position to offer electoral support, it would not arise", to those of us from the leafy suburbs of north Dublin, that meant I would not vote for him.
Ireland has a long and noble tradition of adherence to fundamental human rights and freedom. One aspect of this commitment is our membership of the Council of Europe, a parliamentary assembly to which the Oireachtas sends representatives. The European Convention on Human Rights has become a cornerstone of European policy in this area and its basic tenets were also to be enshrined in the draft EU constitution. Another aspect of Ireland's foreign policy has been its policy of military neutrality, a policy to which the vast majority of Irish people subscribe.
The Government and, through it, the Oireachtas, has received assurances at the highest diplomatic level that Shannon is not being and has not been used for the illegal rendition of terrorist suspects. These assurances have been given in good faith and should be accepted in good faith. Ireland and the USA have a long and valuable history of friendship and solidarity and there is an obligation on us to accept assurances when they are given at such a high level. In this context, I welcome the Minister for Foreign Affairs' speech in this debate and I applaud his active role in raising this matter with the US Government.
At European level, the recent report from the Council of Europe with regard to rendition flights throughout Europe simply cannot be ignored. Most of us agree that many aspects of this report are disturbing. From an Irish standpoint, it is clear there has been no collusion between the Irish authorities and the US authorities with regard to illegal rendition. The Minister for Foreign Affairs correctly pointed out that Senator Marty's report produces absolutely "no new evidence to implicate the Government in the practice" of extraordinary renditions. However, given the paramount importance of the fundamental issue of human rights, there is an obligation on all of us to examine this issue very closely indeed. Accordingly, I have suggested that the Joint Committee on Foreign Affairs and the Joint Committee on European Affairs should invite Senator Dick Marty to a joint meeting of the two committees, where his investigation and its findings can be examined.
As Europeans, we must be concerned with alleged human rights abuses on our Continent. As Irish citizens, a close scrutiny of this report would provide us with the opportunity to close the door on this issue once and for all. If Senator Marty has any evidence of Irish involvement he should let us know this in plain language. If he does not, it would provide us with the opportunity of slaying this particular dragon and moving on to other business.
In any event, the time has come for new protocols to be established with regard to the usage by US and other military authorities of Shannon or other Irish airports. These protocols should contain a clear and transparent set of rules, setting clear guidelines for the transfer of military personnel through Irish airports. This should allay public anxiety that Shannon is being used directly or indirectly for purposes which are inconsistent with the principles contained in the European Convention on Human Rights.
Neutrality is not a passive concept. It is an issue that must be actively nurtured and safeguarded — likewise, the promotion and protection of fundamental human freedoms. In the words of Edmund Burke, all that is necessary for evil to succeed is that good men do nothing. I commend the amendment to the Labour Party motion.
Sinn Féin supports this motion. I believe all Deputies with a conscience will vote in favour of it and against the Government amendment. Sinn Féin actively pursued this issue since it was first brought to light by human rights NGOs and concerned individuals monitoring flight patterns.
I brought a book of evidence to the Garda Síochána earlier this year and held a meeting with two members of the force to discuss what could be done by them to stop Irish complicity in the US illegal rendition programme. The outcome of that meeting was very disappointing. It became clear that an unsatisfactory catch-22 situation exists. The gardaí said they need the very evidence that they might find on the aeroplanes to get permission to search them in the first place. This grave shortcoming is recognised by the motion.
However, I would go even further. At this stage and in recognition of the fact that the US assurances have now been proved untrustworthy by the incident in which a prisoner, albeit a US marine, was spotted in chains on an airplane in Shannon Airport without the required prior notice being given to the Irish authorities, we should simply refuse the use of Irish airports and airspace to every and any flight associated with the US military or the CIA. After all, we are purportedly a neutral country.
Extraordinary rendition is just one part of Bush's self-styled, so-called war on terror. The facilitation of this illegal war compromises our neutrality, which requires that belligerents not move munitions of war across the territory of a neutral state. We must also ask what else we are involved in through Shannon Airport. Documentation that has come into my possession shows that not only is Shannon Airport being used as a pit stop for US troops on their way to and from their war in Iraq and that it has been used by aeroplanes involved in the illegal extraordinary renditions programme but also that it facilitates the sale and transfer of arms to human rights abusers throughout the world.
The arms embargo on the Indonesian Government, for example, and other arms embargoes have been breached. In September last year, at least six months before the lifting of the embargo on Indonesia, the Office of Antiterrorism Assistance in the United States State Department ferried ammunition, explosives and arms through Shannon Airport, via Canada, and onwards on a chartered military transporter to a Bulgarian airport used by the military. From there it was flown to the US Embassy in Indonesia. This was supposed to be for an anti-terrorism training course for a government whose human rights violations, according to Amnesty International, remain a serious concern.
According to Amnesty International's report, this year in Papua cases of torture and arbitrary detention were reported and across the country the police use excessive force against demonstrators. Ill-treatment in detention facilities and police lock-ups was widespread. At least two people were executed by firing squad and at least ten people were sentenced to death. According to a large number of human rights NGOs, the Indonesian military remains unreformed, wielding tremendous political power and terrorising the very people it is supposed to protect.
Other flights involving the same airplane during September and October last year, for which I do not have complete details, suggest that this is regular traffic with 2,600 kg of dangerous goods going back and forth from Canada, via Shannon to Bulgaria. The exact origin and final destinations of these flights cannot be confirmed at this stage. They occurred on 15, 17, 21 and 28 October. On 3 September another one of these flights had an undisclosed content of three boxes weighing 6,985 kg. On 8 October, M16 rifles were ferried through the airport. Sikorsky helicopters were also ferried through Shannon Airport to another human rights abuser, Turkey, on 30 October. This is in addition to details which emerged of Shannon Airport being used to facilitate the sale of Apache attack aircraft to Israel from the United States last February.
Will the Minister clarify whether the Government and the Ministers for Transport and Foreign Affairs are aware of the details I have disclosed? Did the Department of Transport give the required authorisation for the activities I have outlined? Did the Department of Foreign Affairs, upon consultation as required under the 1973 order, approve the use of Shannon Airport for those activities? Does the Minister agree that the role played by this State in the sale and transfer of arms to human rights abusers is absolutely unacceptable and must cease immediately? What steps will he take to ensure that this affront to Irish neutrality is brought to an immediate end?
As an elected Member of the House for County Clare, I am keenly aware of the depth of feeling regarding the matters to which this motion refers. I welcome the business and income generated by the use of Shannon Airport by the US military. This business led to the establishment of many American industries in the mid-west and helped sustain Shannon Airport for decades, in far tougher economic times. However, I do not condone the use of Shannon Airport for rendition flights, refuelling of such flights or such flights travelling through its air space.
It is all very well for Members of the House to state that they accept assurances given by Condoleezza Rice and other US representatives. However, if there is nothing to hide, why not invite gardaí to inspect their aeroplanes and finally put suspicion to rest? The Marty report clearly states: "There is no formal evidence, at this stage, of secret CIA detention centres in Council of Europe member states, even though serious indications continue to exist and grow stronger." Much of the rhetoric of the report is based on the evidence of insider sources, past employees, innuendo and media reports.
Since the 11 September 2001 attacks on America and subsequent attacks throughout the world we have a duty as politicians to robustly attack terrorism. Our citizens expect this of us. However, plans and legislation put in place to do so must respect undertakings given in previous international treaties. If we are to defeat terrorism we must do so while maintaining national and international rights, integrity and values.
As members of the EU the stance we share on torture is clear: it is wrong, in all circumstances. We should not forget that in late 2005 the US Congress passed a ban on torture and on any treatment that is inhumane or degrades an individual. To ensure rendition flights are not accommodated in Shannon, the Minister for Foreign Affairs should arrange with the US authorities for random checks of aircraft by gardaí to be allowed. At present, such checks can only be carried out if gardaí are invited to board the airplane. If we allow actions in our country which erode human rights, we will shatter our integrity, independence and democracy.
Extraordinary rendition is an illegal act and is inconsistent with international law. It is inconsistent with our Constitution and is inconsistent with the American Constitution. It is no more than kidnapping and internment without trial. No legal framework allows it to occur.
Of the three detainees at Guantanamo Bay who committed suicide last week, one was 17 years old when he was taken into custody four years ago. He had neither been charged with nor convicted of a crime. The cage in which he was held in Guantanamo Bay was his life. Amnesty International has long been concerned that some prisoners at Guantanamo Bay are so psychologically damaged by being held for years without charge or trial that they are becoming suicidal. Three years ago the International Committee of the Red Cross stated its concern that the indefinite detention regime at Guantanamo was having severe psychological repercussions on the detainees.
The lack of humanity in the response by some US official spokespersons to the incident demonstrates a dangerous mind set. US Navy Rear Admiral Harry B. Harris stated that the detainees had not killed themselves as a result of depression but as an act of asymmetrical warfare. The deputy assistant Secretary of State for public diplomacy called the act a good PR move to draw attention. These are people to whom we are giving passive support by refusing to inspect flights.
If the US has nothing to hide, it should have nothing to fear. It should welcome inspections. We require and seek due process for our citizens. We should expect no less for the citizens of the world. The least we should ensure is that we are fully compliant with international law. That cannot be done by diplomatic assurances alone.
I commend the Labour Party, especially Deputy Michael D. Higgins, on bringing forward this motion. "Hear no evil, see no evil" and "out of sight, out of mind" appear to be the policy of this Government. It does not have the moral compass required properly to address this critical situation. Like doubting Thomases, its members want to put their hands into the wounds before they will believe.
This Government is not about people but about supporting big business and superpowers. If there is even the slightest chance that somebody is being tortured or rendered, we must deal with it. However, like ostriches, we have been burying our heads in the sand. We will not deal with it just as we will not deal with other situations here. This Government will not deal with people dying on hospital waiting lists. Thousands of people on waiting lists for eight or more years develop cancer and die due to neglect because of the Government. Half the population got a service while the other half did not and hundreds will die in the meantime when money, which is not being made available, would put it right. Successive Governments ignored all these issues just like when thousands of beds were taken out of the system in former years and they thought nothing would happen and expected everybody to be well and to live happily ever after.
If the shoe was on the other foot and if we thought there was something wrong with our planes going through Kennedy Airport we could not fault the Americans for wanting to check our planes. The evidence is there but the Minister says it is not. It has been proven that Ireland is part of the CIA network. Just because nobody is necessarily caught on a plane does not mean nobody was on the plane shortly before or afterwards. We know some planes were used to transport people for rendition and these have stopped in Ireland before or after that. That is a fact with which we must deal.
I support the motion. The Council of Europe report refers to secret and unlawful inter-state transfers of prisoners but the Government amendment bases its case solely on assurances from the United States that unlawful transfers have not happened and do not happen on Irish territory and that they would not do such a thing without our permission. This is totally contradictory and farcical. If something is secret and unlawful would those involved readily admit to it? Would they seek our permission to do it? What a load of nonsense. This is what the Government amendment terms "all appropriate steps to ensure that the territory and facilities of this State are not used for...human rights violations". How ironic that the dishonesty of the United States authorities and the meaninglessness of our Government's disposition was exposed yesterday by a vigilant cleaner who discovered the manacled prisoner on a US plane at Shannon.
The Government is contemplating reinvigorating verification procedures when such procedures simply do not exist. The only way to deal effectively with this important issue as the motion states is to introduce an appropriate regime of inspection of aircraft at Shannon. Why has the Government been so reluctant to do this? Why all the meaningless lip service? Is the Irish Government reluctant to offend the United States? The failure of the Government to act decisively on this issue already amounts to passive collusion. If rendition is not happening, if there is nothing to hide, what is the problem with an inspection regime?
I declare an interest, I speak as a member of the parliamentary assembly of the Council of Europe. In that capacity I regret that the Marty report is being given much more credence in Ireland than it deserves and specifically I object to its conclusion, claim or innuendo that Ireland is guilty of collusion in extraordinary rendition. There is absolutely no shred of evidence in his report to support such a claim. In my view Senator Marty has undermined substantially the credibility of his report by making such unfounded, unsubstantiated claims in regard to Ireland.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe in commending the Marty report stated, "Senator Marty has made some serious allegations about the involvement of several European countries". By that phrase the credibility of the report is further undermined. The Secretary General of the Council of Europe is commending a report simply because it makes serious allegations, not because it has come up with evidence or proof of wrongdoing. I regret the assertion in the Marty report on Ireland. Such a charge is reckless in the extreme, recognising the instability of some of the elements involved in international terrorism and how they might react to such an assertion.
While I welcome the debate on extraordinary rendition in the Labour Party's Private Members' time, because of the unfounded claims made in the Marty report in regard to Ireland it is unfortunate the Labour Party has used it as a basis for Private Members' time. By so doing a certain credence is being bestowed on it that it does not deserve.
I have listened to the Minister for Foreign Affairs speak on behalf of the Government on this matter and I accept the assurances given by him on extraordinary rendition.
If that is so then the United States which is also a republic has abandoned the rule of law, dispensed with the niceties of international treaties and tramped roughshod over human rights legislation. At the meeting the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform assured the audience that if there was any evidence at all that the United States was acting in bad faith the Irish Government would not be found wanting. The evidence does exist despite what the previous speaker has said. The evidence has been outlined by Amnesty International and we did have to wait on the Marty report.
There is doubt about whether there were prisoners on board because we have not checked. This is the issue. I say directly to the Minister that these planes landed and refuelled at Shannon. Did the Government facilitate this? I find it difficult to believe it did not. The Government must have known. Amnesty International has a list of CIA plans as long as one's arm. Is the Government saying it did not know? If the Government knew nothing it stands indicted of negligence, incompetence and culpable ignorance. If it did know it is guilty of straightforward collusion. We need some commitments from the Government.
Will the Government maintain and update a register of aircraft operators whose planes have been implicated in rendition flights and require them to provide detailed information before allowing them landing or flyover rights? I have a list from Amnesty International of CIA planes and their registration numbers.
Recently I travelled to the United States and had to go through some rigmarole to get in. We should demand the same from the United States. Irish people are finger printed at Shannon. Why are Americans not put through the same wringer? This is only something we should expect. Will the Minister ensure the detailed information includes the full flight plan of the aircraft, including onward stops and full itinerary, full names and nationalities of all passengers on board and the purposes of their travel? If any passengers are listed as prisoners or detainees, more detailed information about their status and the status of their flight should be required, including their destination. Will the Minister refuse access to airfields and airspace if the requested information is not provided?
Regarding diplomatic assurances, as they have become known, will the Minister make these assurances, or the correspondence comprising such assurances, public as Amnesty International has requested? Up to now that request has been refused. Will he affirm that such assurances are not an effective substitute for the Irish State's responsibility to exercise due diligence in the prevention, investigation and punishment of violations of international human rights law? Will the Minister and the Government disown any arguments that the Irish State's economic and diplomatic interests in maintaining good relationships with the United States should be the paramount interest here? Will he state clearly that international law and human rights standards must be upheld and that statements made by Senators from his party, when an investigation by the Seanad into CIA flights was scuppered earlier in the year by Fianna Fáil Senators, are not reflective of official practice? Did Senators Dooley and Mooney reflect Government policy when they claimed a select committee on the matter would "insult a friendly nation" and that it would be "extremely dangerous" to the relationship between this country and America to challenge what was going on and that jobs and economic interests would be jeopardised? This is what they said and that is at the root of it. This is why the Government has turned a blind eye to human rights abuses.
"Extraordinary rendition" is an invented phrase used to disguise the brutal transfer of prisoners and the defamation of human rights. In its motion, the Labour Party expressly calls on the Government to recognise its legal responsibility to ensure that the national territory is not used to facilitate human rights abuses. We also call for a fully independent investigation into whether any agreement. formal or otherwise, was made between Irish and American authorities on these flights.
Ireland is one of 14 European countries named in the recent report drawn up by Dick Marty of the Council of Europe as having colluded with the CIA in the operation of secret flights delivering terrorist suspects for interrogation to places, including Afghanistan, where they may face torture. It was reported that, while not actively involved in rendition flights, many EU countries, including Ireland, "ignored them knowingly or did not want to know".
Growing concerns that Shannon Airport may have hosted, and may continue to host, CIA rendition flights carrying prisoners to countries where they could be tortured requires an urgent and thorough investigation. It is an obligation of this State to protect people from torture, not just under international law. This is a right guaranteed under the Constitution for every person in the State. The Government cannot and must not be allowed to turn a blind eye for political expediency, or in this case to remain friendly with the current US regime.
The Irish Government also has obligations under the EU Convention on Human Rights not only to ensure people are not tortured but also to ensure that allegations of torture are properly investigated. Instead, this Government has hidden behind a wilful excuse of lack of information.
The recent case where a US military prisoner was found held in chains on board a civilian aircraft that landed in Shannon Airport is a clear example of the difficulties on relying on assurances by the US that prisoners "had not been nor would be transferred through Irish territory without the express permission of the Irish authorities". That is a quote from a letter sent by the Minister of Foreign Affairs to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe on 20 February 2006.
Even though it was a civilian aircraft which was involved, the Irish Government has claimed it could not board a plane to investigate allegations of torture in this country, but this case has shown that a cleaner in Shannon Airport could do so. This Government is clearly hoping that someone else will mop up this mess. The Government has hidden behind international air law by saying it cannot board foreign state aircraft, but the Government could also make it clear that it reserves the right to protect fundamental human rights for all persons travelling through this State. It should be made clear that only planes that allow for such investigations are welcome in Irish airspace.
It is interesting to use the comparison that if Ireland were extraditing people in the same manner as the US is alleged to be rendering prisoners, it would be illegal under Irish law. At present, Ireland cannot extradite someone to a country where that person may be tortured. This includes sending someone to death row in the United States, for example. This is illegal under both the European Convention on Human Rights and the UN Convention against torture. Similarly, under Irish deportation law, Ireland cannot return someone to a country where that person may be tortured. This is under the principle of refoulement which ensures that no refugee or asylum seeker should be driven back from the country of refuge or asylum to any country where he or she is likely to face persecution or personal danger to life or security or torture. By using this analogy, another country should not be allowed to use Irish facilities to do the same such things.
The Government's choice to ignore the brutal reality of these flights has been a conscious one. The Labour Party is determined to hold the Government to account for that decision and to ensure the practice is put to an end. Reassurances, diplomatic or otherwise, do not take away from people's suspicions. People feel actions are taking place on the margins of legality and worse. Diplomatic assurances are no longer sufficient. The Government must now take proactive steps to ensure that information gathering takes place to allay fears and ensure torture and other forms of ill-treatment are not taking place during or after these flights.
As a small, neutral country which has a Constitution and commits itself to freedom and human rights, Ireland must have a position which seeks to vindicate fundamental principles of human rights as manifested in the Constitution, in international law and in the various treaties to which Ireland has signed up. We also have a long-standing framework of support for the institutions of the United Nations and the instruments associated with that body. There is a duty on our Government to vindicate, in so far as it can and in the most active way possible, the protection of human rights of all those who may be on our territory at any time.
There is a broader political context. The war in Iraq was wrong and the Irish Labour Party said so repeatedly. The Government eventually indicated it was opposed to the war but in effect it looked both ways. It sought to offer some reassurances to the position of the United States while also offering an ear, so to speak, to the clear view of the majority of Irish people that the war was wrong. That is not to say that we do not have complete sympathy for the situation in which the United States found itself in the context of 11 September 2001 and the subsequent terrorist attacks on American soil.
The Government is right to acknowledge and remember the long-standing friendship between this country and America, and between people of all political parties in Ireland and the citizens of the United States. There is nothing wrong in that, but the Government should bear in mind that there is a great deal of legal, non-governmental organisation and political opinion in the United States which is equally opposed to the war in Iraq and to the manifestations to which it has given rise.
The extraordinary structure of detention which exists in Guantanamo Bay is wrong. In the long run, the very strong judicial and legal structures of the United States will uphold that view, as the courts have begun to do in the United States on a number of occasions when given the opportunity to do so. Extraordinary rendition as practised by the United States current Government is wrong. We need from our Government a clear statement of principle on the situation in which we find ourselves as a small, neutral country with a particular record and mandate on the defence of human rights and the prevention of torture.
When one waits for flights in American airports and sees groups of hundreds of young US soldiers bound for Iraq or sees them in Shannon Airport half-dazed from their flights back from Iraq and, it is hoped, going home in one piece, there is no one who does not feel for what has happened. However, this does not make the war and all the manifestations to which it has given rise any less wrong.
It is wrong for the Government to have a two-faced approach. On the one hand we accept the assurances of Condoleezza Rice because of her exalted position and our wish to have a positive dialogue with the US on the war. On the other, from the troop levels going through Shannon Airport and the worldwide documentation on extraordinary rendition, we know in our hearts it is wrong. The Government claims it is the friend of the US and it understands from where it is coming, yet it is trying to reassure a sceptical public that what it is doing is above board. The Labour Party has laid out a mechanism which meets the requirements of Irish and international law. It is regrettable the Government avoids discussing these proposals in a serious way.
I compliment Deputy Michael D. Higgins on tabling this timely and pertinent motion, particularly considering the recent revelation that a US marine soldier was discovered being transported through Shannon Airport. It makes a nonsense and a mockery of the Minister's assurances on Shannon Airport. He has assured the House that on the best authority no prisoners have been transported to the US through an Irish airport. It is ironic that it was cleaning staff, who boarded the aircraft during its refuelling stop en route from Kuwait to the US, who discovered a prisoner handcuffed and manacled on board. It transpired no permission had been sought or obtained from the Irish authorities. This is a serious infringement of Irish law. The US action was a crime against a sovereign state. A further irony is that on learning of the prisoner, the airport authorities contacted the US Embassy about the matter rather than the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform or the Department of Foreign Affairs. This speaks volumes. Why should the Shannon authorities decide to first contact the embassy rather than the Department with responsibility in this area?
The protestations by the Minister for Foreign Affairs that the US authorities had assured him repeatedly that no prisoners have ever been transported through Shannon Airport rings very hollow. The Minister can no longer insist to the House that Ireland is not a hub for extraordinary rendition. The Minister can no longer accept the word of the US authorities as gospel. The Government is obliged to conduct random inspections of aircraft passing through Shannon Airport.
In light of the recent Council of Europe report by Dick Marty that Ireland is engaging in passive collusion with the US Government on the extraordinary rendition of prisoners, combined with our international obligations and our neutral status, there is an urgency on the Government to introduce random inspection and monitoring procedures at Shannon Airport. We have been told a sovereign state does not question the word of another. We have done this for many years. However, when a suspicion arises, apart from the existing circumstantial evidence of rendition, Ireland, as a neutral state, is obliged to ensure it is above reproach on this matter. The Minister quoted a document sent by the Minister to the Secretary General of the European Commission, but it is more a work of fiction with circular arguments that do not address the issues. It merely states Ireland simply takes the word of the US Government. Real action is needed.
I commend Deputies Michael D. Higgins and Gilmore on proposing the motion. As a public representative from the Shannon region, I record my objection to the Government's simple reliance on diplomatic assurances rather than ensuring international law is observed at Shannon Airport. It is not enough to adopt the three wise monkeys approach — see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil. We need to be reassured that international law is being complied with at Shannon Airport. Enough evidence exists from Amnesty International, the Council of Europe and the Irish Human Rights Commission to indicate that just accepting the word of the US Government is not enough. We have an obligation not just to take a position that we are against extraordinary rendition but to establish the procedures to ensure it is not assisted in our airports.
Ireland's reputation as a staunch defender of human rights is at stake in this regard. Either we believe in international law or we do not, and if we do, we have specific obligations. As a friend of the US, we have an obligation to do all we can to ensure it obeys international law, especially on Irish soil. Deputies Gilmore and Michael D. Higgins stated airplanes with identifiable numbers have been used for the unlawful transfer of persons to places where torture has taken place. These airplanes have landed at Shannon Airport although it is not known who was on board. That is enough evidence to ensure inspections of all US planes using the airport. The Minister for Transport has acknowledged these planes landed in Shannon. Why then did the Government not ask the US Government what these planes were doing at the airport?
The Government's position has changed since yesterday's revelation of a prisoner on a US plane at the airport. If the cleaner in question had not gone on the plane, would the Government have ever found out about the contravention of the Irish regulations? This proves the case made by the Labour Party that it is not enough to take the word of a friendly country. An obligation exists for us to ensure international and Irish laws are not broken. In today's newspapers the Minister for Foreign Affairs is quoted as saying "we would put the gardaí on notice that perhaps they should start inspecting on a case by case basis". The Labour Party has succeeded in making its point to the Government that it is not enough to continue with the current approach.
Last week, the Minister for Transport repeated his mantra that the diplomatic assurances were given that nothing was going on at Shannon Airport. Reputable international organisations such as Amnesty International and the Council of Europe have clearly indicated it is not enough to simply accept diplomatic assurances. What is more, our international obligations, especially in regard to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, oblige us to do more than simply seek diplomatic assurances. We are obliged to ensure this kind of practice is not going on in our airports. As a representative of the Shannon region, I strongly urge the Government to change its approach on this matter.
As the final speaker on the Government side, I welcome the opportunity to support the counter-motion. A degree of clarity has emerged from the debate, and I especially welcome the emerging consensus that the use of Irish airports for the purpose of covertly transferring prisoners as part of an extraordinary rendition operation is highly unlikely to have taken place.
I wish to reiterate some key points made by Government speakers. The suggestion that prisoners may have been transferred through Ireland as part of an extraordinary rendition operation is not supported by any of the investigations, whether of the Government, the Council of Europe or the European Parliament. Essentially, as Amnesty International has emphasised, the debate is not about prisoner transfer, rather about how best to fulfil Ireland's positive obligations to ensure this does not happen.
On one side of the House, the argument is made for searches, that aircraft landing at Irish airports should be searched to ensure that they are not carrying, and have not carried, prisoners for the purposes of extraordinary rendition. However, the debate has shown that the aircraft that are alleged to be involved in this activity are identified only months, at the earliest, after they land. Furthermore, civilian aircraft of the type in question are not, under international law, required to apply for permission to land, meaning that a transited country may have very little notice of the arrival of such an aircraft. In this context, a regime of random search and inspection would be of limited value in achieving the desired goal.
Moreover, given that, at most, the allegations are that such aircraft passed empty through Ireland, it is impossible to see how even if such aircraft were to be identified and searched, the outcome of such searches would shed any light on the matter. It is the Government's firmly held view that its positive obligations in this area are best met by its approach of obtaining, at the earliest opportunity, clear, unqualified assurances from the US authorities in this area. These assurances have been confirmed by the US Secretary of State, Condoleezza Rice. This unparalleled combination of bilateral, specific assurances, combined with confirmation from the highest levels of the US Government, fulfils in the most effective manner the Government's positive obligations in this area.
On the incident on Sunday, where it transpired that a US marine convicted of a petty crime had inadvertently been transferred back to the US on an aircraft transiting through Shannon, while this was clearly not a case of extraordinary rendition, the Government, as Members have heard already, treated this incident with the utmost gravity. The US authorities are fully aware of the seriousness with which the Government treats this matter, and a thorough review of procedures, both in Ireland and on the US side, is under way.
While I take little consolation in the matter, the fact that even a critic of the Government's policy like Amnesty International could describe our response as "swift and decisive" indicates the Government's firm intention to ensure that all our obligations under international law are met. It is and will remain the Government's policy that we are opposed to the practice of extraordinary rendition.
We attach the utmost importance to fulfilling our obligations under international law, and it is our firm view that our current policy does this best. We have acted decisively over the past week to maintain the integrity of our systems, and Deputies can rest assured that we will do so again whenever necessary.
I thank all the Deputies who contributed to this debate. I will begin by referring to the speech of the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Deputy Dermot Ahern. Half his speech last night concentrated on recent events in Shannon Airport that were not germane to the main business of this motion. The event that took place at Shannon Airport involving a US marine who was in transit from Iraq to the United States is relevant to what I have to say only to correct the Minister for Foreign Affairs on a misleading matter to which he referred.
In the Article 52 questionnaire which the Government returned to the Secretary General of the Council of Europe, it was stated that there are only two grounds on which a prisoner can be transferred: extradition and an interstate transfer. This was stated unequivocally in the questionnaire that was returned to the Secretary General, Mr. Terry Davis, yet last night the Minister stated that what was wrong about Sunday's event was that permission had not been secured from the Minister.
The marine in question was always in the custody of the United States. It was not an interstate transfer, nor was it an extradition, but I do not have the time to waste on this matter except to suggest that whoever advised the Minister is making it up as they go along. They were either right last night or they were right when they submitted the questionnaire to the Council of Europe. They cannot have it both ways. It is simply wrong. It was not an interstate transfer, nor was it an extradition.
The nub of this matter is that we are asked to make a choice in a robust identification with the principles of international law, specifically two fundamentals in it: the prohibition against torture contained in the United Nations convention and Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights. That article, which is known as jus cogens, is part of those rocks of law and all the Community that subscribe to it and ratify it undertake not to participate in acts that are forbidden and to ensure they never take place anywhere.
I need not delay on matters on which there is no disagreement. In our motion, we did not accuse the Government of being involved in torture or of being involved in extraordinary rendition. However, I wish to place firmly on the record and to correct again the Minister's speech. We are not part of any consensus that something has been agreed to the effect that Ireland is innocent.
We are not in a position to say that we are not involved in the process because we have chosen not to know. Again, I speak about a matter of fact. The Chicago Convention, which governs the international passage of civilian aircraft, is very clear. It does not prohibit us from examining any aeroplanes. The Air Navigation and Transport Act 1988, the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998 and Article 49 of that convention allow us to inspect aeroplanes.
I did not have an opportunity to reply to the scurrilous remarks of the Minister for Foreign Affairs last night when he referred to my time as a Minister. He stated: "There is no legal bar to the search of civilian aircraft of the type allegedly involved." That is correct, but it is not what two senior gardaí told Senator Norris and me on 25 January. They took refuge in the fact that the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act 2000, in incorporating the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, had not given a right of entry, search and arrest. I do not say they were correct; I say that is what they told us. It appears that nobody can give clear instructions to the Garda. Neither the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, nor the Minister for Transport has established how the Garda is to act.
The Minister for Foreign Affairs also stated:
With regard to Deputy Michael D. Higgins's remark that the Government has not sent in the gardaí, he has a somewhat twisted view of the power of the Government. Perhaps it was the case that when he was a Minister he could send gardaí hither and thither[.]
That is a shameful remark. I never abused the Garda while I was a Minister——
That is something the Minister's colleagues cannot say.
I wish to turn to some of the fundamentals of this matter. Given that we are talking about basic principles of international law, one of those that has evolved, and includes all the family of nations in regard to torture, inhuman or degrading treatment and punishment, is whether and how we are compliant. The issue revolves around whether we can be satisfied with the diplomatic assurances.
Those who suggest we should not be satisfied with diplomatic assurances include the Secretary General of the Council of Europe; the United Nations Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; the Irish Human Rights Commission, which advised the Government to this effect last December; the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe, which comprises legal experts who advise signatories on how to comply with their legal obligations under the European Convention on Human Rights; and the temporary committee of the European Parliament. However, we are saying that none of these opinions matters. What matters is the assurance we received from the United States Government. It is such a valuable assurance it has never been put in writing, but it is apparently categorical and specific. We were told today that we are the only state to receive such an assurance but yesterday we were informed that three other countries enjoyed the same benefit.
I wish to correct something the Minister for Foreign Affairs said yesterday in reference to his correspondence with the Irish Human Rights Commission. On the question of the relevance of diplomatic assurances, he suggested the assurance we got from the United States is different to those arising in the two specific cases stated before the European court. Interestingly, the Minister did not refer to the Agiza case upon which he was specifically asked to comment by the Irish Human Rights Commission. Why will he not comment on this case, where the Egyptian Government gave specific assurances to the Swedish Government, including an assurance that the Swedish ambassador could visit Mr. Agiza in Egypt? These assurances were not honoured. Because it suited them to do so, the Minister and his advisers dropped the Agiza case from their correspondence with the Irish Human Rights Commission and the Minister did not refer to it yesterday.
A fundamental issue is at stake. In its approach to diplomatic assurances, the Government seems to say it is only necessary to dispose of such assurances when they are shown to be unsound. This means it is necessary to decide whether diplomatic assurances fit the issues in question. I am willing to accept the Government's good faith in many matters. Moreover, I accept it may well have raised the issue of extraordinary rendition with the United States Government.
However, the Government is required under its positive, non-derogational obligations to do more than rely on diplomatic assurances on an issue such as this, which involves the snatching of individuals. We must bear in mind the reality of every step in this process, from the moment of apprehension to the moment of detention, the destruction of habeas corpus and the absence of legal provision. It involves launching a person into an indeterminate disciplinary process and subjecting them to an uncertain detention. It has been established by one international lawyer after another that enforced disappearance is the equivalent of torture.
To ensure we are not complicit in this process, we must establish a regime that enforces three standards in this area. First, we must investigate what has been taking place in the past two years. Second, any permission given in regard to civilian, military or state aircraft must include a requirement that the recipient be in full compliance with international human rights law. Third, a system of monitoring and inspection must be in place to ensure we fulfil our human rights obligations. That is the substance of the motion we are discussing.
It is important to clarify that civilian aircraft are not immune. There is nothing in the Chicago Convention to prevent us from investigating civilian aircraft. This is an important issue but we have heard nothing of it from the Government benches. When is a civilian aircraft not a civilian aircraft? I understand the CIA leases 33 aeroplanes and the Minister for Transport, Deputy Cullen, has told us that some of them landed at Shannon Airport 15 or 20 times. We know the so-called "Guantanamo express" landed there 15 times.
We were not told yesterday, however, what any of these aeroplanes were doing when they landed at Shannon Airport. Instead, we got a type of theological argument to the effect that if the authorities had boarded the aeroplane and found no detainees, we would have wasted our time and that the subsequent discovery of the presence of a detainee would be, in any case, merely something that had taken place in the past. We know the flight plans of these aircraft from Euro Satellite information. We are aware that four of them were involved in extraordinary rendition.
I do not contend that Mr. al-Masri and others were on board when the aeroplanes landed in Shannon Airport. The question is whether we were part of the process of rendition. If the aeroplane that lands at Shannon Airport is returning home from a rendition task, does its presence at Shannon mean we are complicit in that task? The Government has taken refuge in the claim that the onus is on civilians to show there has been a breach of the law. According to international law, however, the obligation falls not on the civilian but on the state. Under domestic law, the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1988 and the Air Navigation and Transport (Amendment) Act 1998 give the State the capacity to take action in this regard. It is confusing that the Garda has investigated two out of five United States aeroplanes landing at Shannon Airport, asked cleaners and mechanics whether they noticed anything unusual and sent this information in a file to the DPP only for the latter to miraculously conclude there is no basis for any charge in this regard. That is nonsense.
Instead of making allegations against me in my time as Minister, the Minister for Foreign Affairs would be better served by answering questions about the purpose of the aeroplanes landing at Shannon Airport and why flights from Rabat, Cairo and Amman are landing there. It has been proved that these were routes used for the transportation of people for torture. Instead of making allegations against me, the Minister should set down rules in this area. Civilian aircraft must be included in new inspection procedures. This means we will be in perfect harmony with the Chicago Convention and it will allow the public, EU and others to know we are a country that values UN protections and that we wish to establish a distance between ourselves and those countries, including our neighbour Britain, which — although signatories to the European Convention on Human Rights — offered up their citizens to the indeterminate process that ends up in Guantanamo.
It is time for us clearly to say that the definition of Irish foreign policy is based robustly on the defence of human rights. It is important for us, for example, to be able to take a principled position in coming weeks in regard to the non-proliferation treaty, when we will be asked, as members of the nuclear suppliers group, to vote on the MBUs agreement. Is Irish foreign policy based on expediency, is it something to be trimmed and adjusted, something about which we can be clever? This is not a time for quibbling about whether we are compliant but rather a time for showing we are genuinely compliant, that we know what we mean about positive obligations. We must prove we are willing to say to friendly countries that they must operate within the framework of international law and that we will speak unequivocally against the idea of bringing into existence a parallel, extra-legal and inhumane system called rendition. No more than Guantanamo is a great blotch on the face of humanity, its appalling dark presence a reflection on the international community, so also is extraordinary rendition.
I have made no false accusation against the Government, I have simply said it has been appallingly negligent in not allowing us to say we have had no part in this process because we have chosen to know and we can prove that we were not part of it. That is not the position now.
I ask the House to support the motion.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 69 (Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, James Breen, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Michael J Collins, Paudge Connolly, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Noel Dempsey, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Jackie Healy-Rae, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Paddy McHugh, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 55 (Dan Boyle, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seán Crowe, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Martin Ferris, Eamon Gilmore, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Fergus O'Dowd, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kitt and Kelleher; Níl, Deputies Stagg and Kehoe.
Amendment declared carried.
The Dail Divided:
For the motion: 70 (Dermot Ahern, Michael Ahern, Barry Andrews, Seán Ardagh, Niall Blaney, Johnny Brady, Martin Brady, James Breen, Séamus Brennan, John Browne, Joe Callanan, Ivor Callely, Pat Carey, John Carty, Donie Cassidy, Michael J Collins, Paudge Connolly, Beverley Flynn, Mary Coughlan, John Cregan, Martin Cullen, John Curran, Noel Davern, Síle de Valera, Noel Dempsey, Tony Dempsey, John Dennehy, Jimmy Devins, John Ellis, Frank Fahey, Michael Finneran, Dermot Fitzpatrick, Seán Fleming, Jim Glennon, Noel Grealish, Jackie Healy-Rae, Joe Jacob, Cecilia Keaveney, Billy Kelleher, Peter Kelly, Séamus Kirk, Tom Kitt, Brian Lenihan Jnr, Michael McDowell, Tom McEllistrim, John McGuinness, Paddy McHugh, John Moloney, Donal Moynihan, Michael Moynihan, Michael Mulcahy, M J Nolan, Éamon Ó Cuív, Seán Ó Fearghaíl, Charlie O'Connor, Liz O'Donnell, Denis O'Donovan, Noel O'Flynn, Batt O'Keeffe, Fiona O'Malley, Tim O'Malley, Peter Power, Seán Power, Dick Roche, Mae Sexton, Brendan Smith, Noel Treacy, Mary Wallace, Ollie Wilkinson, Michael Woods)
Against the motion: 56 (Dan Boyle, Pat Breen, Tommy Broughan, Richard Bruton, Joan Burton, Paul Connaughton, Joe Costello, Jerry Cowley, Seán Crowe, Jimmy Deenihan, Bernard Durkan, Damien English, Olwyn Enright, Martin Ferris, Eamon Gilmore, Paul Gogarty, John Gormley, Tony Gregory, Tom Hayes, Séamus Healy, Joe Higgins, Michael D Higgins, Phil Hogan, Brendan Howlin, Paul Kehoe, Enda Kenny, Shane McEntee, Dinny McGinley, Finian McGrath, Paul McGrath, Liz McManus, Olivia Mitchell, Catherine Murphy, Gerard Murphy, Denis Naughten, Dan Neville, Michael Noonan, Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin, Aengus Ó Snodaigh, Fergus O'Dowd, Brian O'Shea, Jan O'Sullivan, Séamus Pattison, Willie Penrose, John Perry, Pat Rabbitte, Michael Ring, Seán Ryan, Trevor Sargent, Joe Sherlock, Róisín Shortall, Emmet Stagg, David Stanton, Billy Timmins, Mary Upton, Jack Wall)
Tellers: Tá, Deputies Kelleher and Kitt; Níl, Deputies Kehoe and Stagg.
Question declared carried.