No Case to answer for Colombia Three?

Ashling Reidy, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, believes (sound file) the Colombia Three may have no case to answer under Irish law and that Mary Harney’s idea of charging them retrospectively under the Transfer of Execution of Sentences Bill 2003, which has “been gathering dust” for two years in the Seanad, simply won’t fly as there are “huge impediments”.

Reidy says that the only Act the men could be charged under is the 1998 amendment to the Offences against the State Act, which brought in directing terrorism as an offence.

However, the men were not found guilty of this in Colombia rather of
training FARC rebels. There is no charge of training terrorists.

Secondly, she also pointed out that Harney should realise that the Supreme Court is likely to throw out any attempt to make this law retrospective and cited its decision that attempts to pass retrospective decisions on nursing home charges was unconstitutional.

Reidy points out that the men can also not be charged with travelling on false passports and only with forgery or possession of forged documents.

They have already served their time for the possession on the outward journey so unless the Gardai have evidence of possession now, no warrant can be issued.

There is also an interview with Harney and her saying the Colombia Three should go and have a chat with the Gardai. She says she thinks they are most certainly looking for them but refused to be drawn on whether Gerry Adams should ask in public for them to call into their local Garda station.

She also refused to be drawn on whether they actually had a case to answer under Irish law.

  • Fergal Reid

    What about their entry back into the country? Was that legal? They certainly didn’t show up on any customs lists if the Gardai didn’t know they were back.

  • PaddyCanuck

    Good point Fergal, I will make sure my name is put on a cusoms list next time I enter the country. When should I report to the Gardai? Immediatley after entry? or do I have a couple of days to report?

  • Fanny

    Is it illegal to enter the country you’re a citizen of without coming through channels? If so it can’t be a particularly serious offence.

  • Liam

    Is it illegal to enter the country you’re a citizen of without coming through channels? If so it can’t be a particularly serious offence.

    No. This is just the point. It is perfectly legal for an Irish citizen to enter Ireland without a passport.

    The men have no case to answer!

  • Fanny

    …no case to answer in Ireland, anyway.

  • levee

    Does anybody believe these men are innocent?

    Forget Irish Law and sending them back for a minute. Did they go to Bogota (isn’t that where Yoda lives?) to train terrorists or did they not?

    Forget the law. Is it not morally and ethically wrong to teach insurgents to kill innocent people in their own countries?

    Are these men guilty and if so, should they face some form of punishment?

  • lib2016

    levee

    Is it possible that you don’t realise that you are calling for these men to be punished because you don’t like them?

    And when someone doesn’t like you what do you suggest we do then?

  • Shay Begorrah

    levee said:

    >Does anybody believe these men are innocent?

    Of the crimes they were acquited of in an open court? Absolutely.

    >Forget Irish Law and sending them back for a minute. Did they go to Bogota (isn’t that where Yoda lives?) to train terrorists or did they not?

    No, they did not (noy in anything military anyway).

    Since Colombia’s civil war has been in progress since the mid 1950s it seems unlikely that the three had anything to offer FARC in military terms.

    > Forget the law. Is it not morally and ethically wrong to teach insurgents to kill innocent people in their own countries?

    Hmmm. Would you say it is morally and ethically wrong to teach government forces to kill innocent people or would you say that anyone liquidated by the state “security forces” is retrospectively made guilty?

    As an aside FARC are not angels but Uribe and the current administration are bastards as well. They are currently (in a move you might approve of) legitimizing the right wing militias and inducting them into the countries “legitimate” security apparatus.

    > Are these men guilty and if so, should they face some form of punishment?

    No and no.

  • David

    Levee Did they go to Bogota (isn’t that where Yoda lives?)

    Back to the point of this thread. These men were convicted in a court in an internationally recgonised juristiction and for that I must recognise they are guilty of certain crimes. In saying that my understanding is that in Coloumbia they would be entitled to a retrial

    So are they guilty? Yes

    Should they be punished? Consequently Yes

    Should they be extridited? I am not so sure doing so would invoke a large constitutional and and human rights focused debate. Failure to do so would allow for the possibilty of immunity from prosecution for a number of criminals if they could just make it home

  • Liam

    Does anybody believe these men are innocent?

    Yes. And by the way – so did the trial Judge at their trial.

    Did they go to Bogota (isn’t that where Yoda lives?) to train terrorists or did they not?

    They did not. In the very same way that Irish republicans have visited South Africa, Kosovo, Palestine and other places of conflict to learn from international experiences of conflict resolution, they went to Colombia to investigate the peace process that was in place there at that time.

    Is it not morally and ethically wrong to teach insurgents to kill innocent people in their own countries?

    Yes

    Are these men guilty and if so, should they face some form of punishment?

    They are innocent. They were found innocent at their trial which was held in open public court with independent international observers.

    They are very welcome home.

  • David

    Can someone explain to me why people are so willing to accept the rulling of the Coloumbian courts (first trial) when it helps their argument but totally ignore it when it doesnt

    I hope these men are innoncent of training terrorists but the Columbian authorities have found them not to be and consequently I must say they are guilty of certain crimes. I do not agree with the courts findings but i fell I must recognise it

    If the courts rilling is incorrect then it is up to our government among others to campaign for their freedom it is not for them to take the law into their own hands

  • Shay Begorrah

    Can someone explain to me why people are so willing to accept the rulling of the Coloumbian courts (second trial) when it helps their argument but totally ignore it when it doesnt (first trial).

    I hope these men are innoncent of training terrorists but the Columbian authorities have found them to be and consequently I must say they are innocent of certain crimes. I do not agree with the courts findings but i fell I must recognise it.

    If the courts ruleing is incorrect then it is up to our government among others to campaign for their imprisonment it is not for them to take the law into their own hands

  • Liam

    Can someone explain to me why people are so willing to accept the rulling of the Coloumbian courts (first trial) when it helps their argument but totally ignore it when it doesnt

    Firstly, there was only one trial. This was held in open public court and attended by independent international observers, the media and also on occassion by MEP’s, TD’s and observers from the Irish government.

    This Court found the men innocent of the major charge. It also ordered that prosecution witnesses be investigated for perjury.

    The tribunal which overturned the verdict of the Court met in secret. The mens lawyers had no access to it whatsoever. It heard no new evidence.

    It was not a ‘trial’, it was a mockery of a sham of a travesty of a fraud!

    Thats why!!

  • Aisling Reidy

    Just one correction – I did say that there is an offence of training persons in the use of firearms or explosives under s. 12 of the 1998 OAS (Amendment) Act.

    However the problem with trying to equate the conviction with that offence, is two fold,.

    First there is the process: the conviction is not based on the trial court, but on the appeal which overturned an aquittal.

    As the Appeals process would be unconstituional here, and contrary to all European standards, there would be serious impediments to enforcing such a judgement here.

    Second is the issues as to whether the evidence before the Appeal Court in Colombia was that the men were engaged in “training in explosives or firearms”, because the Appeal Court over turning the trial court, seems to have ruled on cirumstantial evidence – the men were somewhere they shouldn’t have been on false passports, therefore they were up to something.

    Perhaps it should be remembered that in response to the original verdict, the Irish government said they were working for the earliest return possible for the men to Ireland so that they could be reunited with their families. (See Dail 29 April and 5 May).

  • Shay Begorrah

    Seriously though how can you live after the twentieth century and think for even a second that every legitimate recognized goverment should get their paws on your citizens after they have decided in a secret trail that they are guilty?

    Would you have done it for any of your citizens wanted by the governments of Franco, Stalin, Idi Amin or Augusto Pinochet?

    Would you do it for the current incumbent in Uzbekistan, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or the Malaysian government?

    It is long past time to stop treating goverments with poor human rights records as if they had the same moral authority to judge and extradite people as Norway.

  • Shay Begorrah

    I said:

    “Would you do it for the current incumbent in Uzbekistan, Robert Mugabe in Zimbabwe or the Malaysian government?”

    and now I hang my head in shame.

    I did of course mean the government of Burma/Myanmar and not Malaysia.

    My apologies.

  • Joe

    In response to David, I would say:
    In most democratic countries, based on english common law, people are entitled to be tried by a jury of their peers. In most of these counties, that means that a jury (or lower court judge’s decision) cannot simply be reversed by a higher court. All that the higher court can do is to say that there was an error in the original trial and to order that a retrial take place. That did not happen in this case. I have no sympathy with these three if they were indeed indulging in terrorist activities. But human rights must always triumph over corrupt regimes and suspect judges.

  • Fanny

    There’s something I read somewhere about the Spanish-style system pertaining in that part of the world which makes it the opposite of English common law – the gist of it sounded suspiciously like guilty until proven innocent. Anyone better informed?

    I don’t know what all the unionist teeth-gnashing is about. The Shinners were well caught out over this and Gerry must be wishing they’d all caught something nasty in the jungle and never been heard from again. Now the whole business has made a fool out of Bertie as well – and that never ends well for anyone.

  • peteb

    Anyone better informed?

    As I understand it, fanny, the Napoleonic code on which the Colombian legal system, and some European legal systems, are based amounts to a situation whereby the prosecution presents its version of events… and the defence presents its version.. and the judge decides which is the more plausible.

    Interestingly, in the example of these three individuals, rather than presenting anything like a plausible version of event, the defence instead spent its time attempting to undermine the prosecution version – for the benefit of the international press, and the “Bring Them Home” campaign observers – as if it was an English-based adversial court system.

    Oh.. and as for the “No case to answer” argument.. is this not tantamount to saying that Ireland is indeed a haven for international terrorists? I hope not.

  • Robert Keogh
  • Fanny

    Ah yes, but that’s only going to piss the yanks off even more.

    Which, in turn, is going to piss Bertie off even more.

    The Colombia 3 aren’t ever going back to Colombia, obviously. Equally obvious is the fact that, thanks to the Colombia 3, Gerry and Martin aren’t going into coalition with Fianna Fail this side of their own demise.

    So all in all a human rights victory for everyone. I’m sure Ashling will be delighted.

  • Chris Gaskin

    TV3 had a phone in poll tonight to ask should the Columbian 3 spend more time in Jail either in Ireland or Columbia

    67% said NO
    33% said YES

  • peteb

    chris

    You posted that as if it was some kind of result.. rather than a self-selecting sample that has no significance whatsoever.

  • Fanny

    I’ve just had a poll in our house. 50% said Chris Gaskin is deliberately confusing concern over human rights with support for the IRA, and 50% said “Who’s Chris Gaskin?”

  • jocky

    and 100% said they wouldn’t get a fair trial by jury in Ireland.

  • Chris Gaskin

    “chris

    You posted that as if it was some kind of result.. rather than a self-selecting sample that has no significance whatsoever”

    Everything has some significance Pete, even if you don’t agree it.

    “50% said Chris Gaskin is deliberately confusing concern over human rights with support for the IRA, and 50% said “Who’s Chris Gaskin?”

    So that was you and the cat, which answer did the cat give?

  • JD

    “Does anybody believe these men are innocent?

    Forget Irish Law and sending them back for a minute. Did they go to Bogota (isn’t that where Yoda lives?) to train terrorists or did they not?”

    Levee,

    I have been to Colombia twice over the last two years, I am a republican from the six counties.

    The first time I was speaking at a range of engagements on conflict resolution and the second time I was working with children who are living in areas effected by the conflict and dire poverty generally. If I had been arrested on trumped up charges, found innocent however had my aquittal overturned in a shadowy appeal system, would you also have been so convinced of my quilt.

    I fear that you, and many of a similar anti-republican mindset, would.

    PS. I also did some bird watching while there as the wildlife in Colombia is something to behold.

  • George

    Peteb,
    “Oh.. and as for the “No case to answer” argument.. is this not tantamount to saying that Ireland is indeed a haven for international terrorists? I hope not.”

    Only last month, McDowell signed up a deal which allows US investigators, including CIA agents, interrogate Irish citizens on Irish soil in total secrecy. A very dangerous precedent but that’s the situation.

    The treaty gave effect to agreements on Mutual Legal Assistance and Extradition signed by the EU and the US.

    So unless the whole EU is a haven for terrorism, no, Ireland is not.

    This is an issue about Colombia and the possibility of extraditing people there, nothing more. The rest is an attempt at making political capital at the expense of the Irish justice system. A thundering disgrace.

    There is no extradition treaty with Colombia, no international warrant out for their arrest (Interpol Red Notice is not a warrant), we have not signed up to the same treaties.

    In fact, what treaties has Colombia signed up to?

    Why don’t you ask whether it isn’t Colombia which is the terrorist haven? Why haven’t they signed up to a comprehensive extradition deal with the EU?

    Then we wouldn’t have this problem.

    Just speculating here but maybe it is because they would have to fullfil some human rights requirements and tighten up their judicial system so that judgments can’t be overturned in secrecy, without reason.

    Is the world now going to have to live with lowest common denominator justice to fight terrorism? I hope not.

  • Oilbbear Chromaill

    Levee,

    Why not just retry them in Ireland – see if the conviction holds up to our standards? If so, put them in jail in Ireland. If not, let them carry on with their lives. Isn’t it better that ten guilty men (women) go free than have one or three innocent men deprived of their liberty unjustly?

    Or does this principle of morality and justice not apply to republicans?

  • Albert Doyle

    The famous three are famous liars, we all know that. Many Irish people who know nothing about Colombia and are inflamed by typical British racist attitudes learned from generations of forelock tugging are falling for the latest version of the Black Legend. And I’m not just talking about the usual fanatics who think the IRA are heroes. It’s embarassing for Ireland. Remember this is a country where we have different attitudes about killing policemen depending on whether it is done north or south of the border. And we’re preaching to Colombia about their system? My, my!

  • Oilibhear Chromaill

    Hilarious is the only word to describe the apologia for a justice system penned by Vice President Santos of Colombia in today’s Irish Times. He believes the process by which the three men were convicted and sentenced to 17 years in jail was carried out openly and transparently hyperlink.
    Perhaps he’s been having to much of the local produce – and I don’t mean coffee – if he thinks Irish people who value ‘the justice be done, the justice to be seen to be done’ principle believe him. It’s not the only howler in the article in which he glaringly omits any reference to widely believed links between the AUC, the right wing drug dealing terrorists, and his government.

  • Levitas

    Those on this site who wish to see the Columbia 3 sent back/do time in Ireland are transparently motivated by hatred rather than reason…As for Enda Kenny/Mary Harney their motivation is purely strategic gain over Bertie.What matters is 1) that its a fait accompli 2) could not have been achieved without tacit US acceptance 3) they were not there “training” anyone anyway. Ill judged visitation,and obvious “fitting up” providing another degree of leverage in the “peace process” to the US/Britain…yes….Do people in the 26 counties want them sent back/do time? NO…So Bertie’s handling as ever gets it right with the punters, and do you know what? Thats why he is such a succesful politician.

  • Fanny

    Exactly – and that’s also why the next item on Bertie’s list will be wiping that smug grin off Gerry’s face.

    I can hardly wait.

  • Dessertspoon

    Why did they (the C3)say they went there? (This is a genuine question and not some half assed attempt at a dig – Thanks)

  • Henry94

    Anyone who takes due process seriously can only accept the result of the first trial. The political and journalistic harassment of the men must stop.

  • Dessertspoon

    Henry no-one would have given a toss if they hadn’t gone on TV to announce their home coming!

  • Fanny

    Anyone who remembers back to before the verdict of the first trial will remember that the Shinners were screaming about how it couldn’t be trusted either.

  • yankinulster

    Joe, if you went to Columbia on forged/false documents, were caught and convicted, then it’s irrelevant what you went there for.

    I’m not obsessed about the motives of the Columbia 3. What this thread should be concentrating on is whether there is any case in Irish law.

    I doubt that it’s no problem for a citizen to enter his country any way he wishes. Do you think the US won’t care if I slip through a harbour port the next time I decide to drop in?

    Let’s remember, passports are granted by the state; they’re not a right to be demanded by the individual.

    Considering the obvious danger that the Columbia 3 present — i.e. willing to travel internationally on false documents — I would have thought that at least the Irish Government would be considering revoking their Irish passports.

  • JD

    “Why did they (the C3)say they went there? (This is a genuine question and not some half assed attempt at a dig – Thanks)”

    They said that they were there to meet with groups such as FARC to study their peace process and talk about conflict resolution processes in Ireland. Jim Monaghan had been working with the ex-prisoners group Coiste for sometime and had been involved in similar visits to other countries. As someone who has been to Colombia in recent times for broadly similar reasons I do not find this hard to believe at all.

    “Henry no-one would have given a toss if they hadn’t gone on TV to announce their home coming!”

    It was obviously a conscious decision to make it known that they were back in Ireland as, in my view, there could of been a lot more damage done if the story had been merely leaked to the media with no opportunity for them to explain their position. Irrespective of how the news came out, all the people who are shouting now, would definately have given a toss.

  • Shay Begorrah

    This thread really is not about what the C3 did (the only information we are certain of is that they went there covertly) but about how the right wing can take advantage of their safe return to Ireland to prevent Sinn Fein from taking their place in the government of northern ireland. Of cousre the right worldwide is currently keen to identify themselves with the right in the US – home of the illegal oil war – Yeeeehaa!

    The C3 provoke the wrath of other ner do wells such as anti communists and procolonialists who come out to announce that the legal process in a country with an appalling record of operating death squads and crushing the poor (to this day) is to be respected rather than dismissed with contempt.

    All in all the spectacle is both enlightening and depressing.

  • Fanny

    Isn’t Shay cute? I didn’t think people still talked like that.

  • Shay Begorrah

    Listen Fanny, it is over between us and no amount of public flattery is going to change that, probably.

  • Levitas

    Shay, Fanny’s a big 6’2” bloke with a hairy chest, you should be grateful he’s letting you go!

  • Shay Begorrah

    Nobody’s perfect.

  • Joe

    YankinUlster; do you really believe that a 17 year prison sentence is a just sentence for travelling on forged documents. Would you uphold a similar sentence for CIA agents who regularly travel using forged documents. Or the Israelis who travelled on false Canadian passports. A year or two would seem adequate to me.

  • Joe

    BTW, I totally agree that their false passports should be revoked.

  • Sean Fear

    Most of the comments on this thread are (unintentionally) very funny. They remind me of the Monty Python sketch of old East Enders being interviewed about the Kray Twins:-

    “Lovely boys; they wouldn’t ‘ave ‘urt a fly”

    “But they nailed your pelvis to a cakestand!”

    “I won’t ‘ear a word said agains them.”

  • Jo

    Ok, lets compromise, the C3 can stay – ONLY if Caitriona goes to Colombia, butterfly-hunting for a year or two… 🙂

  • pacart

    JD, just asking, I’m not Special Branch or anything, but did you travel on a false passport?
    It’s clear that the C3 have very little to fear re a return to Columbia. It is a legal nightmare and whatever the moral issues, in practical terms it is a non starter. There are about three threads on this subject now and with emotions running high it is hard to get at the facts of the case. Can anyone point me in the direction of a comprehensive report of the actual trial rather than cherry picked details?

  • JD

    I am glad to hear you are not a member of Special Branch, you don’t think they might actually monitor this site do you?(sic)

    No, I travelled on my own passport.

    You can get quite a bit of detail of the trial proceedings and verdicts on http://www.bringthemhome.ie.

  • niall coghlan

    whatever the truth of them being there hats off to the lads for getting them home.good to see an organisation that looks after its members unlike our government c shell

  • JD

    Hats off indeed. No doubt Reischfurher McDowell will be spitting teeth when he gets back from sunning himself in Austraila, hopefully on his own passport.

  • Denny Boy

    “Reischfurher”

    If this is what I think it is then according to Godwin’s Law this thread is officially defunct 😉

  • Albert Doyle

    Regarding the question about the alibi claimed by the Three didn’t they at one time assert that they were “eco-tourists”, or am I mistaken? Sincere question.

  • Jimmy_Sands

    I believe that was one of the explanations, but if you don’t like it, they have others.

  • john
  • Alan

    *This thread really is not about what the C3 did . . . but about how the right wing can take advantage of their safe return to Ireland to prevent Sinn Fein from taking their place in the government.*

    It is also about how the right wing in the Republican Movement can be restrained from such adventurism again.

    It may well be that there is no legal means of extraditing the C3. And leaving things alone may well be the only way to serve the problem faced by the Irish government. It just means that Ireland begins to look like a safe house for these people, sheltering the very idea of a trade in terrorist technology.

    For too long, the IRA has hidden its skeletons, not in a cupboard, but in plain view, protected only by an omerta that depends on the intimidation of the innocent and the acquiescence of the initiated. Where does that lead, but to self interest and the bloody protection of rackets?

    The fact that a suspect can lie, that there may be no corroborating evidence, does not mean that what they did was fine. We should certainly not be celebrating their freedom. Indeed, as Mr Coghlan, suggests, the IRA are only looking after their own, but then we all know the implication of those double-standards for the rest of us!

    There is, equally, no reason why, for the future, such a loophole in international law might not be filled by the Irish Government. It could be done at the drop of a hat. Perhaps that will be the legacy of the C3?

  • Oilbbear Chromaill

    The very country, apart from Colombia, which is reportedly putting the pressure on Ireland vis a vis C3 and ‘trade in terrorism technology’ – an allegation which is unproven – is the USA and it has been demonstrably involved in the trade of terrorist technology. SAM missiles to the Taliban/Mujihadeen, Apache Attack Helicopters to the Israelis, military advisers to the Colombian government, infested as it is with right wing paramilitary drug dealers from the AUC.

    They want the C3 to face ‘justice’ – ie serve the sentence handed down by a kangaroo behind closed doors court in Bogota – yet refuse to make their own forces amenable to the International Criminal Court – which is a far cry from the doubtful standards employed by the Colombian justice system.

  • JD

    Regarding the question about the alibi claimed by the Three didn’t they at one time assert that they were “eco-tourists”, or am I mistaken? Sincere question.

    Albert,

    I think this is one clear example of media fiction pertaining as fact. As far as I am aware, on no occasion did the three men ever claim that they were eco-tourists either at the trial or before. Some journalist thought the term would make them look silly and then, as with so many other stories about republicans, it became fact.

  • Albert Doyle

    I see today another poll by an Irish newspaper which shows an overwhelming majority in Ireland favoring the idea that these guys should serve out their sentence and about half saying they should go back to Colombia, so what poll are we talking about here?

    And as far as the alibis they tried I find that their supporters did indeed claim they were eco tourists and bird watchers and the Colombians claim they tried it too. They then fell back on the “observers of the peace process” story. They had nothing to do with all these claims? Things starting looking bad when the FARC started using bomb techniques related to IRA bomb works after the three visited.

    With all the condemnation of the Colombia justice system by people in Ireland who know nothing about it I would remind them that the major difficulty in obtaining terrorist convictions in Colombia is the intimidation of witnesses. Sound familiar? If it walks like a duck most likely it’s a duck folks. Maybe they can’t be extradited but please don’t call them heroes.

  • Albert Doyle

    I see today another poll by an Irish newspaper which shows an overwhelming majority in Ireland favoring the idea that these guys should serve out their sentence and about half saying they should go back to Colombia, so what poll are we talking about here?

    And as far as the alibis they tried I find that their supporters did indeed claim they were eco tourists and bird watchers and the Colombians claim they tried it too. They then fell back on the “observers of the peace process” story. They had nothing to do with all these claims? Things starting looking bad when the FARC started using bomb techniques related to IRA bomb works after the three visited.

    With all the condemnation of the Colombia justice system by people in Ireland who know nothing about it I would remind them that the major difficulty in obtaining terrorist convictions in Colombia is the intimidation of witnesses. Sound familiar? If it walks like a duck most likely it’s a duck folks. Maybe they can’t be extradited but please don’t call them heroes.

  • pacart

    I heard Danny Morisson on radio the day after their arrest saying that they were three ordinary Irish lads out there bird watching. What’s the surprise? Sinn Fein lie as a matter of routine. They always take the “Bart Simpson” defence, “I didn’t do it, you can’t prove I did it.” They know that we know that they are liars, they don’t care. The normal rules don’t apply, the moral compass was tossed overboard years ago.