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Saturday 2 December 2023 Dublin: 5°C
Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

Report shows Ireland facilitated CIA rendition programme

The report indicates that flights involved in the transportation of some high profile detainees are suspected of having refueled at Shannon.

A REPORT PUBLISHED today shows that some 54 countries helped to facilitate the CIA’s secret detention, rendition and interrogation programme in the years after 9/11, including Ireland.

The report by the Open Society Justice Initiative said the countries participated in these operations in various ways, including by hosting CIA prisons on their territories; detaining, interrogating, torturing, and abusing individuals; assisting in the capture and transport of detainees and permitting the use of domestic airspace and airports for secret flights transporting detainees.

It also said some provided intelligence leading to the secret detention and extraordinary rendition of individuals; and participated in interrogating individuals who were secretly being held in the custody of other governments.

Foreign governments also failed to protect detainees from secret detention and extraordinary rendition on their territories and to conduct effective investigations into agencies and officials who participated in these operations, according to the report.

The report comments on Ireland permitting the use of its airspace and airports associated with CIA extraordinary rendition operations and references several examples since 2002.


The European Parliament, the Council of Europe and the United Nations have all expressed concern over the years about Ireland’s alleged cooperation in the CIA rendition program.

A 2007 European Parliament report expressed serious concern about the 147 stopover made by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports that on many occasions “came from or were bound for countries linked with extraordinary rendition circuits and the transfer of detainees”.
U.S. court records from a lawsuit involving Richmor Aviation, a company that operated CIA extraordinary rendition flights, also show that at least 13 flights operated by Richmor involving U.S. personnel landed in Ireland between 2002 and 2004.

Richmor-operated flights were involved in the extraordinary rendition of the Egyptian cleric Abu Omar, and are also suspected of having refueled at Shannon before transporting Abd al Nashiri, alleged to be the mastermind of the bombing of the navy missile destroyer the USS Cole .

Diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks in 2010 revealed that former Irish Foreign Affairs Minister Dermot Ahern told US Ambassador Thomas Foley that he was “quite convinced that at least three flights involving renditions had refueled at Shannon Airport before or after conducting renditions elsewhere.”

Government “acted to ensure continued US military transits”

Other cables revealed that former U.S. Ambassador James Kenny noted in 2006 that the Irish government had “acted to ensure continued US military transits at Shannon in the face of public criticism” despite public concern that the airport was being used for extraordinary rendition flights.

The government responded to concerns by the Irish Human Rights Commission in 2005 that inspections were not necessary because it had received assurances from the United States that detainees had not been and would not be transported illegally through Irish territory.

In 2011 the UN Committee against Torture also said it was concerned about the “inadequate response by the government with regard to investigating theses allegations.

The report recommends that the governments involved refuse to participate in the CIA’s detention and rendition programme and disclose all information relating to human rights violations. It also urges governments to conduct investigations into human rights abuses and provide compensation as well as putting safeguards in place to ensure it does not happen again in the future.

Commenting on the report today Amnesty International Ireland Executive Director Colm O’Gorman welcomed the report, which confirmed the findings of the organisation’s own report in 2010. He said:

It is undeniable that the Irish government knew rendition flights transited Ireland and that they knew this breached the legally binding international convention on torture. Yet they did nothing. Official Ireland was prepared to ignore our role in kidnap and torture for the sake of maintaining good relations with the United States government.

“We have repeatedly called for an independent investigation into the use of Shannon airport. This investigation must also make clear who knew that we were complicit in torture and why they failed to act,” he said.

Related: Plane used to transfer unlawfully detained man landed at Shannon>

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