Ireland calls for investigation into forced landing of Ryanair flight in Belarus

Eamon Ryan seeks investigation after Roman Protasevich, Sophia Sopega detained

A sniffer dog checking the luggage of passengers in front of a Ryanair flight carrying  Roman Protasevich, in Minsk, Belarus. Photograph: EPA

A sniffer dog checking the luggage of passengers in front of a Ryanair flight carrying Roman Protasevich, in Minsk, Belarus. Photograph: EPA

 

Ireland has called for a full investigation into the circumstances surrounding the forced landing of a Ryanair flight in which a dissident journalist was seized in Belarus.

The Minister for Transport Eamon Ryan joined a meeting of International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) on Thursday where he made the call for an independent investigation. The ICAO has agreed to launch such an investigation.

Journalist Roman Protasevich and his girlfriend, Sofia Sapega, were arrested in Belarus on Sunday after a Ryanair flight from Greece to Lithuania was forced to land in Minsk, after reports of a bomb threat – an explanation which has been dismissed as “completely implausible” by German chancellor Angela Merkel.

Mr Ryan said that “many questions remain unanswered or are the subject of conflicting media reports, in particular regarding the security threat itself.”

He said that he remains “concerned about the facts of the case.”

“Given the number of ICAO states directly concerned in the matter, and the unusual circumstances of the case, Ireland fully supports the request made by Poland and endorsed by Lithuania under article 55e of the Chicago convention for an investigation to be carried out on behalf of this council by the ICAO secretariat.”

That article grants the organisation investigating powers.

“The purpose of this investigation will be to establish fully the facts and to assess whether and to what extent there has been a contravention of international aviation law and its established norms and practices. I urge the council to respond to this request positively and with appropriate urgency,” Mr Ryan said.

“Adherence to international principle norms is fundamental to ensuring the safety and security of aircraft passengers and crew,” he added.

Mr Ryan said on Thursday evening that the ICAO had agreed to launch an investigation.

Several EU countries, along with the US and UK, joined Ireland in calling for “swift action” to be taken against those responsible for the incident.

Mr Ryan said: “We fully support ICAO’s decision to carry out a transparent and independent investigation into the incident in Belarus and welcome the support of our international colleagues in ensuring this will be done.

“These unacceptable actions were an attack on European aviation security and put in danger the lives of the passengers and crew as they travelled between two EU capitals.”

The ICAO is now due to produce an interim report by June 25th.

Earlier this week the European Union agreed to impose fresh sanctions on Minsk and seal off its airspace to the Belarusian airline Belavia.

The 27 national leaders appealed for the immediate release of Protasevich and Sapega in joint conclusions as they met in Brussels to co-ordinate a response to an incident described by Ryanair as “an act of aviation piracy”.

European Commission president Ursula von der Leyen predicted that the ultimate sanctions would fall on individuals involved in the incident and on businesses that finance the Lukashenko regime.

Belarus opposition leader Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya said on Tuesday there was no doubt that Protasevich had been tortured, as she called for tougher sanctions against Belarus.

In a video posted online on Monday, Protasevich said he is in good health and confessed to instigating unrest. However, the prominent opposition reporter appeared visibly bruised and the comments were immediately dismissed by his allies as having been made under duress.