Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Question:

49 Mr. Hayes asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the position of the Irish Government in relation to its support for a motion at a recent UN General Assembly calling for a full scale international inquiry into ongoing human rights violations in Algeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [17688/98]

Michael Finucane

Question:

54 Mr. Finucane asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the situation in Algeria; and the steps, if any, he and his EU colleagues have been taking to ensure that human rights are restored there. [22065/98]

Eamon Gilmore

Question:

82 Mr. Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the steps, if any, the Government is taking to promote a peaceful settlement to the conflict in Algeria and to bring to justice those responsible for human rights abuses; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22051/98]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

90 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs whether he has received recent reports on the situation in Algeria; if he has made suggestions to the United Nations with a view to alleviating the strife there; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22309/98]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 49, 54, 82 and 90 together.

The situation in Algeria continues to give the Government the most serious cause for concern. The civil war is continuing and further massacres of innocent civilians, including women and children, are taking place. There are repeated reports regarding violations of basic human rights mentioned in the Report of the Panel of Eminent Persons set up by the UN Secretary-General and that of the UN Human Rights Committee, both of which appeared in September and which I have received and read.

The situation has now been complicated by the recent announcement of President Zeroual's resignation which comes into effect next April. Although the President has not fully explained the reasons for his resignation, reports suggest that they may reflect an intensifying debate between reformist and conservative circles regarding the waging of the civil war and implementation of the economic reform process. Tension has recently been increased by new restrictions on the media. Those political parties which agree on the need for change now face new challenges.
The internal situation in Algeria, and in particular the human rights dimension, was raised with the Algerian Foreign Minister at a meeting with the Troika, at ministerial level, in Vienna on 21 October. The Troika expressed the EU's deep concern about the killing in Algeria and reiterated the need for full respect for human rights. It repeated its earlier demand that Algeria should now accept visits by UN special rapporteurs on extra-judicial killings and torture.
The Algerian Foreign Minister indicated that his Government believed in universal human rights norms and did not use the security situation in their country as an excuse for abusing such rights. While Algeria was prepared to work with the UN Human Rights Committee, they were not prepared to accept special rapporteurs, claiming that their involvement was not justified. He was prepared, however, to consider any information which the EU provided on individual cases. The EU will now consider how best to follow up on this meeting.
As regards action at the United Nations General Assembly no motion on the Algerian situation has yet been tabled. If one is proposed I will consider its terms positively. Developments in Algeria will be considered in debate in the Third Committee of the General Assembly and will be addressed by the European Union in its statement. In the light of the outcome of that debate, I will further consider the possibility of co-sponsoring a resolution on the issue.
In the meantime, I will encourage, by every means available, improvement in the human rights situation of the Algerian people.