IF a bunch of fanatics had not flown planes into the Twin Towers on 11 September 2001, Niall Connolly would not now be due 17 years in a jail in Colombia.
What has happened since 9/11 is that governments of varying democratic pretences and none, have set aside the most fundamental tenets of justice at will mainly at the behest of the Bush regime.
Guantanamo Bay is the biggest affront to the American Republic since the 13 original states declared independence. An administration has deliberately kept people in the custody of the forces of the republic from the judicial arm of the republic. It is nothing short of a repudiation of the lessons of the Enlightenment.
In Britain the government, chiefly the late departed autocrat David Blunkett, decided they had the right to lock people up at a whim. At least the British courts had the guts to tell them where to get off.
In Ireland, we have been huffing and puffing about American soldiers using Shannon Airport when there is evidence of a far more sinister use of Shannon by the Bush regime. There is serious concern that planes under the control of the American intelligence agencies have been using Shannon as a stopping off point while transporting detainees whose detention is, at best, questionable. Some of these unfortunate people have been delivered to regimes where torture is an everyday occurrence.
The trial in Colombia received a lot of reportage here. One of the surprising aspects, apart from the original verdict, was the complete absence of any convincing evidence against the men. There is no physical evidence whatsoever that they trained FARC guerrillas.
It goes without saying that none of the parties to the Colombian war have a good record of human rights. It should also be pointed out that the Colombian state has been up to its neck in murder. When it is not using its army to kill, its close friends in the right-wing paramilitaries, a gathering of the dregs of the Colombian underclass in the pay of the Colombian landed elite, does its dirty work.
Given the wretchedness of Colombian society it would be a miracle if the justice system was to function at anything nearing fairness. But there is much evidence that the system serves the same small clique of the super rich that runs the Colombian state.
Up to now they would do what they liked to their own dispensable peasants, trade unionists and human rights workers but they wouldn’t dare do it to foreigners. But 9/11 has loosened basic human rights right across the board with the nod of the US.
The Irish government has a vital role in protecting our citizens abroad, especially when they are in the custody of a bunch of thugs in the pay of the Americans. The Government should immediately set up an inquiry into the whole case to ensure that all the facts are before the Irish public, so that we can see whether these men are victims of a miscarriage of justice.
The ‘War on Terror’ has become a sick joke where basic human rights can exist only if the interests of the present US administration come first.
I wish the three men a speedy journey home.