Government Responds to Council of Europe Questionnaire
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Dermot Ahern T.D., yesterday replied on behalf of the Government to a questionnaire sent to all Member States of the Council of Europe by its Secretary General, Mr Terry Davis, relating to allegations regarding secret prisons and so-called extraordinary rendition. The full texts of the reply and the questionnaire are attached.
The Government's response makes clear once again its complete opposition to the practices described in the questionnaire, which would plainly be in breach of international law, Irish law, and of the principles upon which the Council of Europe is founded, namely the maintenance and realisation of human rights and fundamental freedoms. It confirms previous statements by Minister Ahern recording the Government's “very deep concern” over allegations of the possible existence of secret prisons, and its “complete opposition to the practice of so-called extraordinary rendition”.
The Government's response sets out in detail the relevant legal arrangements in Ireland. It records the absolute prohibition under Irish law of the unacknowledged deprivation of liberty, and confirms that practice within the State fully conforms to this. It also sets out the numerous mechanisms which exist to prevent the unlawful deprivation of liberty, and inter alia makes clear that under Irish law An Garda Síochána's powers of search and inspection extend to civil aircraft of the type cited in allegations regarding extraordinary rendition.
The questionnaire asks whether any Irish public official, or other person acting in an official capacity, has been involved either by action or omission in the unacknowledged deprivation of liberty of any individual, or in the transport of any such individual. The Government's response is emphatically in the negative.
It outlines, in preparing a reply to the Secretary-General, the intensive enquiries made through inter-Departmental co-ordination and which have confirmed that no unacknowledged deprivation of liberty has occurred in any of the State's detention facilities as the result of the action or omission of any public official.
In relation to the issue of extraordinary rendition, the response again emphasises the clear, categorical and unqualified character of the assurances the Government has repeatedly received from the US authorities, including Secretary of State Rice. It is satisfied that, under the European Convention on Human Rights, it is entitled to rely on these assurances which, in the European context, are of particular clarity and completeness.
It concludes that a thorough examination of practice throughout the State in response to the Secretary General's request has revealed no indication of the occurrence either of unacknowledged deprivation of liberty, or the transportation of any individual while so deprived of his liberty. This is entirely in keeping with the Government's stated position on the matter.
21 February 2006