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Plane used to transfer unlawfully detained man landed at Shannon

The plane used by the CIA landed in Shannon Airport on its way to Macadonia to pick the man up.

File photo of Shannon Airport
File photo of Shannon Airport
Image: Graham Hughes/Photocall Ireland

THE EUROPEAN COURT of Human Rights has, for the first time ever, held a European state to account for its involvement in the CIA’s detention and rendition programme in a case that is linked to Shannon Airport.

The European Court of Human Rights held unanimously today  that the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (Macedonia) was responsible for the unlawful detention, enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment of German national, Khaled El-Masri.

The court also found Macedonia responsible for El-Masri’s transfer out of Macedonia to locations where Amnesty International Ireland today said he “suffered further serious violations of his human rights”.

It has emerged that the plane used by the CIA to transfer the man landed at Shannon Airport on 17 January 2004 on its way to pick him up in the Macedonian capital of Skopje.

Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland, said this judgement is an “important step towards accountability for European complicity in rendition and torture”.

But Macedonia is not alone. Many other European governments colluded with, and in the case of Ireland facilitated, the United States to abduct, transfer, ‘disappear’ and torture people in the course of rendition operations.

“The Irish Government knew that the CIA used Shannon Airport as part of their renditions operations,” O’Gorman said. “The plane used by the CIA to take Mr El-Masri out of Macedonia, to be tortured in a US-run prison in Kabul, came via Shannon.”

Today Amnesty International Ireland called for a full, independent investigation into the use of Shannon Airport to support CIA rendition operations.

In December 2003, the Macedonian authorities arrested El-Masri, who is of Lebanese descent, after he entered Macedonia from Serbia. They held him until January when they handed him over to CIA agents who then transferred him to a detention facility in Afghanistan.

There he was held unlawfully in secret, not charged with any crime and his detention was not subject to judicial review, Amnesty said.

He did not have access to a lawyer and his whereabouts were not acknowledged. While in Afghanistan he was subjected to torture and other ill treatment. In May 2004 El-Masri was put on a plane and flown to Albania where he was released.

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