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Dáil Éireann debate -
Thursday, 11 Dec 1997

Vol. 485 No. 1

Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Ivor Callely


54 Mr. Callely asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the countries about which he or his Department have concerns regarding issues relating to human rights of the citizens of that country; the progress, if any, made on these matters particularly where the UN Commission has been involved; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22496/97]

The issue of human rights is a priority policy concern of this Government and, as such, is a central component of our foreign policy. We believe that the international community has legitimate concerns in this area and we are conscious of the responsibility which devolves on all governments to promote and protect human rights.

In co-operation with our EU partners we continue to monitor closely the human rights situations in a number of countries. On many occasions we have identified situations which gave cause for serious concern. For example, at the Third Committee of the UN General Assembly in November, the common EU statement highlighted our common anxiety at human rights violations in certain countries which are of particular concern at the moment, such as the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, Belarus, Turkey, the Great Lakes Region of Africa, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of Congo, Sierra Leone, Nigeria, Niger, the Sudan, Algeria, China, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Cambodia, Burma-Myanmar, East Timor, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, Bhutan, Kashmir, Afghanistan, Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, Cuba and Colombia. It may be necessary to address these concerns again at the next session of the UN Commission on Human Rights which will convene in Geneva in March 1998. Hopefully, we will also be in a position to welcome improvements in this area as a result of international efforts and dialogue. In that regard, we believe that applying international pressure through appropriate multilateral international organisations is the most effective means of eliminating human rights violations.

As I recently assured the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Ireland will continue to fulfil our obligation to promote the observance of universal human rights standards.

We will also continue to raise our concerns in International fora such as UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe, the OSCE and through the European Union.

Bernard J. Durkan


55 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention or that of the Minister of State has been drawn to the various human rights issues raised by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights; if he will pursue these issues; the level at which it is proposed to pursue these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22498/97]

Bernard J. Durkan


57 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the contact, if any, he or his Minister of State have established with the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights with the view to establishing how best their efforts could be co-ordinated in an effort to alleviate human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22532/97]

Both the Minister of State and I met the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights prior to the inauguration of President McAleese on 11 November last. This was our first meeting since her appointment and, on behalf of the Government, I offered her our full support in her endeavours to promote universal human rights standards throughout the world.

We took the opportunity to discuss a number of issues of common concern, including the strengthening of the office of the High Commissioner, the reform proposals of the UN Secretary-General in relation to human rights activities within the UN system and the human rights situations in Algeria, China and East Timor. We very much welcomed her interest in visiting China to get a first hand impression of the situation there and to meet with the appropriate Chinese officials. Regarding the situation in East Timor, we assured her of our support for the Secretary-General's Special Representative and for the opening of a UN human rights office in Jakarta.

Furthermore, on 27 November last, the Minister of State travelled to Geneva for a wide-ranging discussion with Mrs. Robinson on matters of mutual concern to the High Commissioner and the Government. Before turning to specific human rights situations in a number of countries, they discussed the significant human rights anniversaries which fall in 1998, i.e. the 50th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the Five-Year Implementation Review of the Vienna Declaration and Programme of Action. The High Commissioner gave details of the plans at international level for commemorating these events while the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, gave a brief outline of the national events that were being considered to mark the anniversaries here in Ireland, such as the forthcoming NGO Human Rights Forum in the spring. It was agreed that these anniversaries provided an important opportunity to measure the progress made in translating the principles set out in the two Declarations into meaningful action.
In view of her planned visit to Rwanda, the High Commissioner spoke of her determination to restore proper monitoring mechanisms there and in other countries of the Great Lakes region and she was informed that this was a project which Ireland would wholeheartedly support. She went on to acknowledge the complexity of the human rights situation in Algeria while the Minister of State, Deputy O'Donnell, reiterated the concerns of the Government on that point. The Minister of State also expressed our desire to work closely with both the High Commissioner and the international community to relieve the sufferings of the Algerian people. The human rights situations in Cambodia and Burma were also raised during their meeting.
These two meetings facilitated a most useful exchange of views on a number of pressing human rights issues. They also provided an opportunity to look at ways in which we might usefully co-ordinate our efforts to ensure respect for human rights and to further the promotion of universal standards. We now look forward to working closely with the Office of the High Commissioner and with other relevant international organisations to achieve those objectives in the coming years.

Bernard J. Durkan


56 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans if any he or his Minister of State have to visit the countries where it is deemed human rights abuses are taking place with a view to establishing means of addressing these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22531/97]

My office is in the process of arranging a number of incoming and outgoing visits for 1998. Specific human rights issues may arise in the context of some of those visits but, at this early stage of planning, no agendas have been agreed or finalised as yet. I would, of course, expect to attend General Affairs Councils throughout the year, the UN General Assembly in September and other international meetings at which I will have an opportunity to raise relevant human rights concerns.

The Deputy will be aware that I returned from Algeria yesterday. I will be responding separately to oral questions on that subject today. I am, of course, ready to look at the issue of visits to other countries where specific human rights issues have been identified and where the prospect exists of making a positive contribution to the protection of human rights.