Wednesday, April 7, 2010

U.S. Continues to Block Visa for Irish Anti-Renditions Activist

Originally posted at The Seminal/Firedoglake

UPDATE: 8am Wednesday, April 7: I have been told that Dr. Horgan will be able to get his visa! I don’t believe he has it in hand, as I write, but reportedly the promise is there. Apparently, with some quick adjustments with airfare, he should be able to make the Duke conference.

It’s been almost three weeks now since I wrote about the U.S. decision to revoke the visa of prominent Irish anti-renditions activist Edward Horgan, and not much has changed. The revocation came only a month before Dr. Horgan was slated to visit the United States to attend a major conference at Duke University on the battle against the government’s use of extraordinary rendition.

According to conference organizers:

[Scott] Horton’s keynote opens the conference, "Weaving a Net of Accountability: Taking on extraordinary rendition at the state and regional level." Bringing together legal experts, grassroots activists, students and human rights workers, the two-day event explores North Carolina’s role in torture and extraordinary rendition. Participants will discuss setting up a grassroots “commission of inquiry” aimed at creating transparency and accountability.

But it’s looking increasingly like Dr. Horgan, who is the International Secretary of the Irish Peace & Neutrality Alliance , co-founder of the anti-renditions group ShannonWatch, and a well-known Irish activist, as well as former Irish Defense Force officer and election observer for the European Union, will not be able to attend. He was to be a featured speaker at the Duke event. Unless a visa comes through in the next day or two, it will impossible for Horgan to attend. If he can’t be there in person, there are plans to have him speak to attendees via video feed.

Horgan’s group, ShannonWatch, has documented the use of the airport as a stopover for CIA rendition flights (see their page documenting such flights).

According to my sources, Dr. Horgan has the support of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Dublin. But it appears the U.S. State Department and Department of Homeland Security back in Washington D.C. have slowed down the process to ensure that Horgan, a respected peace activist and retired Commandant with the Irish Defence Forces, cannot speak face to face with Americans, and meet with his associates in the international anti-renditions, anti-torture movement.

Dr. Horgan told the Irish Times back on March 20, “What has happened to me is an indication that anyone who dares criticise US foreign policy will have difficulty getting into the country."

As I wrote back on March 16:

It seems reasonable to assume, lacking any other evidence, that Horgan is being politically targeted by the Obama administration. This is the kind of behavior we came to expect in the days of Bush and Cheney. But it goes with the territory. Barack Obama decided in the first weeks of his administration to maintain the previous administration’s rendition program, complete with fig-leaf assurances that U.S. authorities would receive no-harm promises from Egypt, Morocco, Jordan, and other rendition destination sites known for wide-spread use of torture. No human rights organization believes that promise, and U.S. State Department Human Rights Country Reports have strongly criticized many of these countries for their use of torture, arbitrary detention and prison conditions.

Meanwhile, Horgan’s plight has gotten some coverage back in Ireland. From Eithne Tynan in yesterday’s Sunday Tribune:

What an interesting coincidence, then, that in the very same week in which Obama was acknowledging our plucky commitment to the American war effort, Horgan’s 10-year US visa was unexpectedly revoked. Horgan had been due to speak at a conference against torture and extraordinary rendition at Duke University in North Carolina next month….

It need hardly be said that Horgan is a respectable man – not a terrorist suspect, nor a whining dreadlocked git, nor even a participant in any of those tiresome quilting and drumming workshops on the roundabout leading into Shannon [Airport] . However, he does point out, repeatedly, that the extraordinary rendition story has absolutely not gone away, despite the presence of a goodie in the White House. Shannon is still a US military zone, with 5,000 US troops passing through it every week, and, as Amnesty International points out, the government is still resolutely refusing to search suspected rendition flights landing there.

What does the Obama administration fear from the presence of Dr. Horgan? If there is fear, it is on the side of those who politically oppose U.S. policies, and see the revocation of Horgan’s visa as political retribution against policy critics. On the other side of all Obama’s pretty words about transparency and a new openness, the iron hand of the state is announcing it still holds its trump card, in the form of repression. And apparently, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and President Barack Obama are not afraid of using it.

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