15 February 2006

McDowell to be called before EU 'torture flights' inquiry

BN.ie

15/02/2006 - 08:30:45

Justice Minister Michael McDowell is to be called before a special European Parliament committee to answer questions about whether CIA "torture flights" are passing through Irish airports.

The committee has been established to investigate claims that several EU countries have allowed their territory to be used as part of the controversial US "extraordinary rendition" programme.

Under the scheme, the CIA has been detaining suspected Islamic militants in several countries before transferring them to secret interrogation centres around the world.

Many victims of the programme have turned out to be innocent after months of alleged torture in countries such as Syria and Saudi Arabia.

The Council of Europe, the continent's leading human rights watchdog, has already concluded that the CIA is using the programme to "outsource" torture as the practice is banned under US law.

The council has also concluded that EU governments are turning a blind eye to the fact that several victims of the scheme have been kidnapped by the CIA on European soil and transported through EU airports.

The European Parliament has set up a special committee to question each member state about their knowledge of the practice.

Irish anti-war activists claim planes used in the CIA scheme have landed at Shannon Airport on numerous occasions in recent years.

They have been demanding inspections of US flights at the airport, but the Irish Government says it accepts US assurances that no detainees have ever been moved through Shannon.

Irish MEP Simon Coveney, a member of the parliamentary committee, has said these assurances are not good enough and Mr McDowell will be asked to tell MEPs exactly what the Irish Government knows about the contentious flights.

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