Independent Media Centre Ireland

Monthly vigil at Shannon highlights the airport’s involvement in torture

category clare | rights, freedoms and repression | news report author Monday March 24, 2008 23:04author by John Lannon

The monthly Shannon vigil to highlight the airport’s involvement in acts of torture and war was held on Easter Sunday, 23 March 2008. Once again it was a dignified affair, attended by members of Amnesty International, Cosantori Siochana, and a wide cross section of public support.

The monthly Shannon vigil to highlight the airport’s involvement in acts of torture and war was held on Easter Sunday, 23 March 2008. Once again it was a dignified affair, attended by members of Amnesty International, Cosantori Siochana, and a wide cross section of public support.

Despite the chilly wind and the threat of rain – and the fact that it was a bank holiday weekend - an even bigger group took part in the Shannon vigil on 23rd March than in the previous vigils. Banners were erected and waved to passing motorists calling for an end to CIA torture flights through Shannon, and highlighting the airport’s role in a war that has caused 5 years of suffering in Iraq.
Sunday’s vigil was a reserved and dignified affair – no speeches, no shouting, no confrontation. The people of Iraq who have suffered carnage and despair since the 2003 US lad invasion and the many tortured prisoners that Shannon may have helped to “disappear” were remembered with a minute’s silent reflection. A few words were said to the assembled crowd encouraging further action – but in truth, it wasn’t necessary to say much. For everyone there, knowing the illegal and illicit use of Shannon airport was enough.
The vigil was held just one week after the release of an Amnesty report that confirmed Shannon’s direct involvement in the rendition of Khaled al-Maqtari in 2004. The report confirmed that the airport was used as a refueling stop by the plane that transported him from Iraq to a CIA “black site” in Afghanistan on 20 January 2004. Khaled al-Maqtari, who was never charged with any crime, was subsequently transferred from Afghanistan to an unidentified third country where he was held in complete isolation. His statements to Amnesty include reports of repeated beatings, sleep deprivation, other forms of torture and cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment.
Reports and flight data going back several years have shown that Shannon airport is repeatedly and systematically used by planes linked to the CIA’s international networks of torture. This usage continues; in this month alone there have been at least 5 refueling stops by planes linked with CIA missions (see Indymedia reports at and It is not known where these planes went after they left Shannon airport, what the purpose of their journeys was, or who was on board. Many landed in the dark of night, and in one case a tray of food was brought on board during a 30 minute stop.
The Amnesty report proves once again that Shannon serves as a staging area for disappearances, torture and other appalling forms of human rights abuse being committed as part of what is called the “war on terror”. It is also a staging area for hundreds of US troops going to and from Iraq every day. Since the 2003 invasion by the US-led forces, thousands of people have been killed or maimed in Iraq and communities that once lived in relative harmony have been propelled into open conflict. More than four million Iraqis have been displaced from their homes, and arbitrary arrests, detentions and torture continue to be reported. Two out of three Iraqis still have no access to safe drinking water and almost one in three of the population need emergency aid to survive.
Instead of providing the leadership that is required to try to end this ongoing suffering, the Irish government is providing the occupying US military forces with open access to its civilian airport at Shannon. Despite being faced with overwhelming evidence of torture in Iraq and with US failure to address this, Ireland continues to provide its taxpayers and citizens’ services to the US military and the CIA.
On the occasion of Sunday’s peaceful vigil at Shannon, the Irish taxpayers also paid for several cars and vans of an Garda Siochana who remained within close proximity of the peaceful vigil, some with their engines running. Even the traffic corp took time out from their busy weekend efforts to stop the carnage on our roads to be there. One man who is known to be a member of the Gardai but who refused to identify himself to this reporter seemed particularly interested in the vigil as he took a long series of photographs of the participants using a mobile phone. However they seemed disinterested in two unidentified men who strolled around in the proximity of the vigil with a camera.
Overall the taking of the photographs by the Gardai, the fact that one of the vigil participants was made to feel quite uncomfortable as he proceeded to the airport to meet his friend afterwards, and the requests to some (after they had got into their cars) to produce their insurance certs within 10 days at their local Garda station, seemed quite unnecessary.
Vigils will continue at Shannon on the second Sunday of every month (5 to 6pm). The next one will be on April 13.





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