EU to censure Ahern over rendition role


EU:The European Parliament is expected to censure the Government strongly for allegedly failing to respond adequately to the rendition of terrorist suspects by the CIA. The Government rejects a report from the parliament as "political point scoring".

The parliament will also urge the Government to set up a parliamentary inquiry to investigate the use of Irish airports by the CIA as part of its rendition circuit in a final report due to be published next month.

MEPs investigating the illegal transfer and detention of suspects by the CIA in Europe, voted yesterday to strengthen the draft report's criticism of the Government, and specifically, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Dermot Ahern. The report now notes that Mr Ahern "failed to answer all the questions in relation to the concerns that Irish airports may have been used by CIA aircraft travelling to or from extraordinary rendition".

It also regrets the Government's decision not to follow the advice of the International Human Rights Commission (IHRC), which argued that the State should not rely solely on US assurances over CIA rendition.

MEPs voted in the committee by 28 votes to 17 in favour of the report, which is expected to be adopted at February's parliamentary plenary session.

The final report is considerably tougher than the original draft report prepared by Italian socialist MEP Claudio Fava. Amendments to the text mean it now notes the absence of parliamentary scrutiny of either Irish or foreign-based intelligence services in the Republic and urges the Government to agree to launch a full parliamentary inquiry into the use of Irish territory as part of the CIA rendition circuit. It also calls for all CIA aircraft to be banned from Irish territory unless the Government institutes a proper random inspection regime at airports as recommended by the IHRC.

At least one of the suspect aircraft identified in the report stopped off at Shannon to refuel after taking part in the rendition of Egyptian cleric Abu Omar, who has been detained without trial in Egypt and subjected to torture. The report notes there were 147 stopovers made by CIA-operated aircraft at Irish airports between 2001 and 2005.

The Government angrily rejected the amendments to the draft report, which criticised 11 states including Poland, Sweden and Britain for their role in CIA rendition.

In a statement Mr Ahern criticised the report for indulging in "political point-scoring" and failing to acknowledge that he was the first EU minister to raise the issue of CIA renditions at the EU council of ministers and with the US on a bilateral basis.

"The suggestion, for example, that Ireland should institute a ban on all CIA-operated aircraft is extraordinary, especially given that Ireland is the only one of 27 member states to which this recommendation is addressed," added Mr Ahern.

Last night, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties welcomed the report and criticised the Government. "The Irish Government has attempted to muzzle the work of this EU rendition committee, and that has backfired," said director Mark Kelly.