Ceisteanna—Questions. Oral Answers. - Convention on Suppression of Terrorism.


asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will state any reservations, derogations or qualifying statements that were attached by the existing signatory states to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism; which of these countries refuse to extradite their own nationals for any reason whatever; and which countries have signed but not ratified the convention and the dates of their signatures.

The signatory States to the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism are France, Greece and Ireland. Signatory States are those which have signed but not ratified the convention. At the time of signature France made a declaration stating, inter alia, that it would make reservations on ratification to ensure that efficiency in the struggle against terrorism would be reconciled with respect for the fundamental principles of French criminal law and the French Constitution. Greece and Ireland did not make declarations or reservations at the time of signature.

The Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism was signed by France and Greece on 27 January 1977; Ireland signed on 24 February 1986.

I assume that the Deputy's question extends in fact to contracting States as well as signatory States. In this context the following are the contracting States: Austria, Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, FRG, Iceland, Italy, Liechtenstein, Lux-embourg, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Turkey and the UK. I am making the texts of the reservations made on ratification available separately to the Deputy in tabular form. It will be noted that Belgium, Cyprus, Denmark, FRG, Iceland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Sweden and Switzerland made reservations the majority of which relate to article 13 of the convention. That article provides that any State may, at the time of signature or when depositing its instrument of ratification, acceptance or approval, declare that it reserves the right to refuse extradition in respect of any offence mentioned in article 1 which it considers to be a political offence, an offence connected with a political offence or an offence inspired by political motives, provided that it undertakes to take into due consideration, when evaluating the character of the offence, any particularly serious aspects of the offence, including:

(a) that it created a collective danger to the life, physical integrity or liberty of persons; or

(b) that it affected persons foreign to the motives behind it; or

(c) that cruel or vicious means have been used in the commission of the offence.

The tabular statement also contains the full text of the statement made by France at the time of signature.

The question of extradition of own nationals is governed by the 1957 European Convention on Extradition concluded under the auspices of the Council of Europe to which Ireland is a contracting party. The convention coincides with our policy relating to extradition and our legislation closely follows its provisions which reflect the general international law on the issue. In relation to the extradition of nationals the convention allows contracting parties the right to refuse extradition of their nationals. Several constitutional provisions of national legislation from extraditing their own national. However, such a party is obliged, if requested, to submit the case, in the words of the convention, "to its competent authorities in order that proceedings may be taken if they are considered appropriate".

It would require some time to ascertain the precise details of present law in each of the 17 States which are party to the Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, as well as France and Greece which have signed but not yet ratified it, but my understanding is that the FRG, Greece, Cyprus, Switzerland, Belgium and France do not extradite their own nationals. Irish law reflects the provisions of the 1957 European Convention on Extradition.

The point I want to establish in regard to this is that it is quite clear that under Article 6 of the Convention the State, in this case the Republic of Ireland, has the option to try one of its citizens in its own jurisdiction rather than extradite. Would the Minister answer clearly and definitively that that clear option will reside here with the State?

I would think it would be inappropriate and extremely unwise for me — I am not competent in legal matters and I am not Minister for Justice — to give a precise definitive answer to that question. I do not think such a reply would have any standing. As a lay person, my belief is that what the Deputy has said is correct but I would not regard that as being the final word on this matter. People with far greater authority will be the interpreters of the convention. It is the courts who will decide that, but this House, including the Minister for Justice, will have a say in it.

Would the Minister not agree that, as a matter of public policy, it would be incumbent on the Government, and far more desirable in the public interest, that the Government of the day should try offenders within this jurisdiction for offences committed within this jurisdiction rather than extradite them or have them sent across the Border in a dubious manner, particularly when it turns out to be a futile exercise as in the McGlinchey case, into a jurisdiction where many legal malpractices are in operation, such as supergrass evidence and so on? As a matter of public policy, the option to try within our own jurisdiction is the option that clearly should be exercised by the Government, the DPP, the Garda authorities and the courts here.

The Deputy is anticipating a debate that will have to take place in this House when the legislation is introduced to ratify the convention. As a result of our signing the convention that legislation will have to be introduced, the Taoiseach said by the autumn. The Deputy is anticipating that debate when he speaks about Government policy in this regard. The Government have not yet decided on the form the legislation will take.

Would the Minister agree that this issue has been pre-empted by the rushed manner in which the Taoiseach signed the agreement?

The Deputy did not listen to my reply. I spoke very clearly and slowly to make sure the Deputy would get the point I made. Signing is one thing, ratification is another.

I appreciate that.

We have not yet ratified, and we will have legislation here which will allow Deputy Lenihan to make his points.

Will it be legislation or a motion?