Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Bernard J. Durkan


72 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the five countries where it is deemed human rights violations abound as determined by Amnesty International; the action, if any, open to him which is likely to be of benefit to the victims in these countries either by direct approach or through the aegis of the European Union; if contact is being maintained with the UN High Commissioner on Human Rights with regard to these issues; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [22097/98]

Every year, Amnesty International selects five countries where there is a pattern of persistent, severe and systematic violations of human rights and calls on the international community to address the human rights situation in these countries. The countries highlighted this year were Cambodia, Colombia, Kenya, Saudi Arabia and Turkey. Officials from my Department met representatives of Amnesty International's Irish branch earlier this year to discuss the particular concerns raised by Amnesty and to consider means by which these concerns could be addressed.

Human rights is a priority issue for this Government and I strongly support the view that the international community has an obligation to act on grave breaches of human rights. Raising incidents of gross and persistent human rights abuses in international fora is one of a number of approaches which the Government takes to promote and protect fundamental human rights and freedoms. We believe that applying international pressure through multilateral organisations such as the EU, UN, the Council of Europe and the Office for Democratic Institution and Human Rights is one of the most effective means of tackling human rights abuses. In co-operation with our EU partners, we have on many occasions spoken out against the violation of human rights and fundamental freedoms in many countries, including those specifically highlighted by Amnesty International.
At this year's session of the Commission on Human Rights in Geneva, the EU statement on country situations expressed concern at the human rights situation in many countries, including each of those referred to by Amnesty International. In addition to this, Ireland co-sponsored a resolution on the human rights situation in Cambodia and participated in an examination of the human rights situation in Saudi Arabia, which was examined under the special 1503 procedure, at which only member states of the Commission can participate.
The Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which deals with human rights matters, is in session. Once again Ireland, in co-operation with EU partners, will raise human rights abuses worldwide.
I believe that, wherever possible, human rights concerns should be pursued in a constructive spirit of co-operation and dialogue. This Government will continue to call on all Governments to co-operate with the various human rights mechanisms of the United Nations, such as the special rapporteurs, the working groups, the special committees and with the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. My Department, through our Permanent Mission in Geneva, remains in close contact with the Office of the High Commissioner on all human rights issues.
On a practical level, through the Human Rights and Democratization line of this Department's overseas development aid budget, we contribute to a broad range of projects aimed at promoting and protecting human rights and fundamental freedoms in a number of countries, including some of those referred to by the Deputy in his question. Further information on such projects is available in the annual Irish Aid Report.
I should also refer to another country which Amnesty subsequently added to its list of priorities for this year, Algeria. For further information on Algeria, I refer the Deputy to Parliamentary Question No. 98 which I answered in the Dáil on 20 October last.