Written Answers. - Human Rights Issues.

Jim O'Keeffe

Question:

25 Mr. J. O'Keeffe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the further pressure which can be brought to bear on President Robert Mugabe in relation to his breaches of the rule of law in Zimbabwe; if fraudulent election results will be recognised; and if he has put in place measures other than assistance from other member states of the European Union, to safeguard Irish citizens and property in Zimbabwe. [3725/02]

Bernard J. Durkan

Question:

74 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has made at international level through the UN or EU to positively influence the situation in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4045/02]

I propose to take Questions Nos. 25 and 74 together.

Ireland has taken a strong forward position in the formation of EU policy in relation to the actions of the Government of Zimbabwe which have involved human rights violations and the undermining of democracy in that country. The EU has been engaged in a dialogue with Zimbabwe for ten months in an attempt to encourage the Zimbabwean Government to take steps to remedy its deteriorating internal situation. Consultations were held in Brussels on 11 January with a Zimbabwean delegation which included Foreign Minister Mudenge.

At those consultations the EU stressed the need for rapid and tangible results in five areas: an end to political violence; an invitation to the EU to support and observe the presidential election on 9-10 March and the need for a free and fair election; concrete action to protect the freedom of the mass media; independence of the judiciary; and an end to the illegal occupation of properties.

The EU side asked Zimbabwe to immediately take two steps. First, to invite international observers, including from the EU, at least six weeks before the election, and second, to ensure full access to national and international media to cover the election. The Zimbabwean delegation expressed a willingness to go some way towards meeting the EU's concerns, which Minister Mudenge later confirmed in writing. However, serious violations of human rights have continued to occur in the intervening period.

My EU colleagues and I, therefore, decided at the General Affairs Council on 28 January to close the consultations and implement targeted sanctions against Zimbabwe if the Government of Zimbabwe prevents the deployment of an EU election observation mission starting by 3 February 2002, or if it later prevents the mission from operating effectively; likewise, if the Government of Zimbabwe prevents the international media from having free access to cover the election; there is a serious deterioration in the situation on the ground, in terms of a worsening of the human rights situation or attacks on the opposition; or the election is assessed as not being free and fair.

An invitation to dispatch observers was received on 5 February. In this invitation, Foreign Minister Mudenge invited the European Union, together with the African, Caribbean and Pacific countries, to observe the presidential election. The Zimbabwean side has asked if observers from the following countries could be included in the team: Austria, Belgium, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Luxembourg, Portugal and Spain. There is a clear consensus among EU member states that, as an observer team represents the Union, the composition of the team is a matter for the EU to determine and the team will be put together on this basis.
A core team of observers will be dispatched in the coming days to make preparations for the deployment of a full observer mission. While we have a strong interest in ensuring that the presidential election campaign and the election are independently observed, we will also insist that the observer team be permitted to conduct its mission without hindrance. Clearly, the EU will highlight any irregularities it observes either before or during the presidential election.
I assure the Deputy that my Department will provide all possible consular protection to Irish citizens in Zimbabwe. The Irish embassy in South Africa, which is accredited to Zimbabwe, is monitoring the situation closely and maintains contact with Irish citizens there. Officials from the embassy have travelled to Zimbabwe on a number of occasions to meet with Irish citizens and will continue to do so in the lead up to and during the presidential election. The embassy in Pretoria is also in regular contact with EU embassies in Pretoria and Harare to exchange information on the evolving situation. On the question of the property of Irish citizens in Zimbabwe, Ireland and the EU have consistently called on the Government of Zimbabwe to put an end to illegal occupations of property and ensure that the land reform programme is carried out in accordance with the rule of law.