Davis criticised the failure of European states to monitor who and what is transiting through European airports. “Europe's skies appear to be excessively open”, he said.
Terry Davis also criticised the failure by European states to monitor the activities of foreign security services on their territory. Europe was “a happy hunting ground for foreign security services”, he said.
Davis said no Council of Europe member state had established any kind of procedure to assess whether civil aircraft were being used for rendition purposes, and that existing procedures did not provide adequate safeguards against abuse.
Davis was speaking at the launch of his report on alleged CIA renditions and detentions in Europe, in Strasbourg on 1 March. The report details the response of Council of Europe states to questions Davis had previously issued. The Irish Government had recently published its response to Terry Davis's questions.
The Government's report concluded that “a thorough examination of practice throughout the State... revealed no indication of the occurrence either of unacknowledged deprivation of liberty, or the transportation of any individual while so deprived of his liberty”.
The report restated the Government line on renditions: “The Government sought and received (from the US) assurances that prisoners had not been, nor would they be transferred through Irish territory without the express permission of the Irish authorities.”
Speaking in the Dail on 22 February, the Minister for Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern said the Government's report showed that “the constant assurances given by the Americans, from Condoleezza Rice down, are verified”. However, the report itself relied entirely on the assurances from the US to conclude that renditions were not taking place through Ireland.
The report did not address the wider issue of the use of Irish airports by CIA flights en route to or returning from rendition missions. As Village first revealed, Shannon airport has been used as a stop over on at least two occasions by CIA-run aircraft returning to base in the US from “successful” extraordinary rendition missions carried out in Europe/North Africa.
Answering a question from Green TD Trevor Sargent about specific landings by a CIA-run “civilian” aircraft at Shannon, Dermot Ahern said reports on these planes were “based on the retrospective imposition of a pattern of movement on flight data some considerable time after the fact”.
As Village has reported, the CIA rendition aircraft which landed at Shannon were identified from a combination of aviation industry flight logs, which detailed their flight itineraries, investigations into the ownership of these aircraft which established they were run by front companies for the CIA, and legal sources in European countries which have conducted official inquiries.
Dermot Ahern said the reports of CIA planes landing at Shannon on return from rendition missions “do not involve a claim of illegal activity on Irish territory”.
The report by Terry Davis is the first of three European-level inquiries into renditions. A further Council of Europe inquiry is underway, led by the Swiss senator Dick Marty on behalf of the Council's parliamentary assembly. Marty circulated European parliamentarians with a more detailed list of questions than those issued by Terry Davis to governments.
Labour TD Eamon Gilmore, who is on the Irish delegation to the Council of Europe's parliamentary assembly, has tabled Marty's questions in the Dail and expects to get answers shortly. These questions address not only the issue of whether prisoners have been transported through Ireland, but what knowledge the Government has of the activities of foreign secret services, in particular the CIA, in Ireland.
The European Parliament has also set up a temporary committee of investigation to look into renditions and detentions.
A proposed Oireachtas inquiry by a special committee of the Seanad has been stymied by Fianna Fail senators.
Seanad leader Mary O'Rourke had agreed to Senator David Norris's request to establish a committee to investigate allegations of rendition flights passing through Ireland. However, Fianna Fail senators recently made clear to Mary O'Rourke that they would not support a motion to establish an investigation committee, and O'Rourke dropped the proposal. The senators objected to the investigation for fear of jeapordising relations with the US and economic interests in the Shannon region, a source in the Seanad said.
At the Council of Europe, Terry Davis was heavily critical of a number of countries which had failed to provide “complete and adequate replies” to his questions.
Italy, Bosnia and Herzegovina and Macedonia had each been the subject of what Davis called “the most detailed and documented allegations of rendition known so far” but had failed to “dispel all doubts about their alleged misconduct”, he said.