Nosemonkey's EUtopia

In search of a European identity

Ireland and extraordinary rendition

The always tip-top Jim Bliss has a follow-up to my post of yesterday, with some intriguing points about the constitutional implications of the Republic of Ireland’s apparent involvement with secret CIA flights:

“An independent neutral republic not only has a right, it has a duty, to regulate any foreign military traffic that crosses its border…. So that we are not complicit in acts inconsistent with our international obligations. If a US airforce plane lands in Shannon and it contains people snatched from the street by the CIA en route for torture in an Uzbek detention centre, the Irish authorities have an absolute legal obligation to detain that flight and prevent a crime against humanity.”

Of course, as pointed out before, under UN resolution 47/133 (and we all remember how seriously breaches of UN resolutions are taken by Bush and Blair, right?), both the UK and the US also have an absolute legal (and, indeed, legally-reinforced moral) obligation to detain such flights…

Update: Davide also has more. The final report is being presented at a press conference this morning (though not voted on by MEPs until February), so perhaps the big boys of the proper press might get on to this at last…

Update 2: the Lib Dems and SNP have today called for an enquiry into the British government’s involvement with the flights, as well as the official government line on using information extracted under torture.


  1. Not sure about this, but as I understand it Britain is under no legal obligation to enforce UN resolutions, as a feature of our duallist legal system. Until an Act is passed it means nothing.

  2. I'm not too sure of the constitutional connotations of UN obligations, it must be said. Certainly it would be fairly simple to pull out of aspects of UN declarations (just as we have with the European Charter of Fundamental Rights), and there would be little the UN could feasibly do to force us into complying – expecially not while we (and in this case, the US) maintain a seat on the Security Council.

    My basic understanding / approach to the UK's international treaty obligations can be found in this old post from February last year, if you're interested.

  3. Ireland does seem to be more prepared to do something about rendition flights, or at least talk about doing something (despite being third in the league of shame with 147 stopovers). Back in June I posted on the Irish government's threat to get tough on rendition flights by carrying out random inspections on US aircraft landing in its territory. Since then I've heard nothing more until this post. I wonder if the Republic of Ireland will actually carry out its threat.

  4. As I understand it, dredging some international law out of my head, the treaty obligations are on the UK as a nation state as against other nation states. They don't become enforceable internally until an Act of Parliament is passed but that does not mean that treaty obligations mean nothing, it just means individuals cannot successfully take the government to court for breaching them. The obligation is international not intranational, if that makes any sense.