That Ryanair hi-jack and casting the first stone

Looking forward to a nice holiday abroad when lock-down ends? Thinking of flying Ryanair? Maybe that second question is unfair, because these days ‘Ryanair’ takes our thoughts directly to the hi-jack of that Ryanair flight which was forced to land in Belarus amid pretend talk of a bomb scare, but actually was so that journalist Roman Protasevich and his girl-friend could be taken off the plane and arrested.

Naturally, Michael O’Leary is incandescent, describing what happened as “outrageous”. The belief is that the couple are being held in grim circumstances. Sviatlana Tsikhanousyaya, who was a candidate for president of Belarus, says “I’m sure that he’s in awful circumstances, I’m sure that he’s been tortured, because he knows a lot of information.”

World leaders have been loud in their condemnation of the hi-jacking. Micheál Martin says that ‘the European Union simply has to take action.” Joe Biden says the video made of Protasevich confessing appears to have been made under duress and is shameful.  Britain’s foreign secretary Dominic Rab says the charges against Protasevich “are spurious”.  He adds that “Mr Lukashenko’s regime must be held to account for such reckless and dangerous behaviour.”

According to the Mail Online, Protasevich and his girl-friend are being held in the “ notorious Okrestina Street detention centre, where prisoners have reported being electrocuted, viciously beaten, and made to adopt stress positions for hours at a time.”

None of us wants to think of being aboard a Ryanair flight or any other flight, with the possibility it’ll be forced to land somewhere it’s not destined for. None of us wants to think that torture and forced confessions have been used with Protasevich – his father says his son, when he spoke in that brief video-clip, “appears to have a broken nose, missing teeth and is speaking under duress.”

Pretty ghastly, the whole thing.

But not unique.

In 1971 the British army mounted Operation Demitrius in NEI. This included the arrest and internment of over 300 men. What became known as the “hooded men” involved 14 men being hooded, forced for hours to maintain stress positions, subjected to white noise, deprived of food and water, and in some cases blind-folded and thrown out of low-flying helicopters.

Guantanamo Bay has been going for well over 15 years. Amnesty has described Guantanamo Bay detention centre as a symbol of torture, rendition and indefinite detention without charge or trial.

Immediately after his election as president in 2009, Barack Obama promised that he would close the camp within one year. He didn’t. I’m subject to correction, but I believe Guantanamo Bay detention centre still continues.

The Dublin government, of course, played its part, arranging stop-overs at Shannon airport for rendition flights on their way to Guantanamo. That’s like giving bed and board to a guy you know who has engaged in mass kidnap and is on his way to meting out mass torture.

I’m not saying that the Belarus hi-jacking isn’t appalling – I’ve no more desire than you to be on a high-jacked Ryanair flight, and I’m pretty sure Protasevich is the subject of some very rough treatment and faces years in prison. But it’s vitally important to stay alert to the fact that those states which express their horror at the injustice done to Protasevich are perfectly capable and in many cases have been guilty of comparable inhumane treatment.

Now what’s the word for that? Oh yes. Hypocrisy. Stomach-churning, puke-making hypocrisy.

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