Written Answers. - Foreign Conflicts.
Bernard J. DurkanQuestion:
Minister for Foreign Affairs
if he will report on the current situation in Algeria; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
The Government is deeply concerned at the suffering caused by the civil conflict in Algeria. The internal security situation has not improved in recent months and remains extremely volatile. Some progress was made earlier in the year, most notably the Algerian Government's decision to recognise the Berber language, but the Berbers boycotted the recent elections, which returned the current Government to power by a significant majority. However, Ireland and our EU partners are continuing their dialogue with Algeria and encouraging the Algerian Government to take further measures for the strengthening of democracy and respect for human rights. We will continue to impress upon this Government the importance of implementing these necessary reforms.
Ireland and our EU partners made reference to the situation in Algeria at the 58th UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva. The EU delivered a strong statement at the Commission in which it outlined concerns at human rights abuses in Algeria. We urged the Government of Algeria to take concrete measures to improve the human rights situation in the country. We also urged it to respond positively to the requests for visits by the UN special rapporteur on torture and the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions.
The Government will continue to present its view that a more co-operative approach by Algeria to the utilisation of the human rights protection machinery of the United Nations, including the role of the special rapporteurs, would be a constructive step in helping to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the current tragic situation and to develop the rule of law and strengthen the democratic process in Algeria.
I continue to believe that the human rights dialogue between the EU and Algeria will only be enhanced by the recently negotiated EU-Algeria association agreement under the Euro-Mediterranean partnership. In particular, Article 2 of the agreement states that respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will guide the internal and international policies of the parties and will constitute an essential element of the agreement. The agreement also commits Algeria to develop the rule of law and democracy, including the upholding of fundamental freedoms. Ireland expects to see these commitments implemented fully in practice. An EU troika delegation recently visited Algeria to discuss the agreement and further progress this dialogue.
Bernard J. DurkanQuestion:
Minister for Foreign Affairs
the degree to which stability has been restored in the Democratic Republic of Congo; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
Apart from some notable exceptions, the ceasefire between the signatories of the 1999 Lusaka agreement has held since March 2001. However, the security situation in the east of the country remains poor. In the north-east, the armed conflict between the rival Hema and Lendu ethnic groups is continuing, and in the east, clashes between DRC and Rwandan-backed rebels occur on a regular basis, as well as unprovoked attacks against civilians.
Most recently, the lack of an all-inclusive outcome of the inter-Congolese dialogue – held in Sun City, South Africa – appears to be linked to increasing instability in eastern DRC. At the Sun City talks, which ended on 18 April, the current DRC Government and the MLC rebel group agreed on a power-sharing arrangement whereby current President Joseph Kabila will remain as President during the transitional period, while MLC leader Jean-Pierre Bemba will become Prime Minister until democratic elections are held. The second main rebel group, RCD-Goma, was offered the positions of Minister of Defence and President of the National Assembly, but rejected the offer and called for the interCongolese negotiations to be reopened.
In mid-May, the eastern city of Kisangani witnessed a fresh outbreak of violence which, according to an assessment by the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and MONUC, the United Nations Observer Mission in the DRC, claimed the lives of over 100 people. The violence began on 14 May with an apparent mutiny, when dissident RCD-Goma soldiers seized the local radio station. Local residents took to the streets and at least six people were killed, apparently because they were considered to be Rwandan. Following these killings, RCD-Goma launched reprisal attacks against the civilian population. It is reported that police officers and soldiers who took part in the mutiny were subjected to summary execution.
Upon the outbreak of violence, MONUC personnel in Kisangani made repeated attempts to meet with the RCD-Goma authorities to demand that they exercise restraint in restoring order. MONUC also provided shelter to a number of individuals who claimed that their lives were at risk at the hands of RCD-Goma.
Following MONUC's actions at Kisangani, RCD-Goma accused the special representative of the UN Secretary-General, Namanga Ngongi, of bias in favour of the DRC Government and banned Mr. Ngongi from all territories currently under RCD-Goma control. Three senior MONUC officers were arbitrarily expelled from Kisangani and Goma. RCD-Goma elements also forcibly entered MONUC facilities.
The UN Security Council has strongly condemned the killings at Kisangani and the subsequent intimidation and harassment of MONUC by RCD-Goma. It has reaffirmed its full support for special representative Ngongi and for MONUC. The Council has stressed to RCD-Goma that it must carry out all its obligations if the Council is to continue to treat it as a full partner in the peace process.
Ireland has joined with other Security Council members in strongly condemning the killings at Kisangani and the subsequent harassment of MONUC personnel. We have also supported the decision of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights to dispatch a special rapporteur to the DRC to investigate the violence in Kisangani. We have stressed the need for all Congolese parties to enter negotiations on an all-inclusive agreement on the future leadership of the DRC, in a spirit of openness and compromise. Agreement on a powersharing government is key to the peaceful resolution of the wider conflict in the DRC. It is critical to avoiding further violence and easing the current tensions in the east.
We have also highlighted the need for progress in addressing the security concerns of the DRC's eastern neighbours as a means of reducing viol ence. Ireland took part in the Security Council mission to the DRC from 27 April to 7 May 2002 which put forward a proposal to create a "curtain" of troops along the eastern borders of the DRC, for a limited period, to ensure border security in the final stages of withdrawal of all foreign troops from the DRC.
Only when all three elements of the Lusaka agreement have been fully implemented: the establishment of an all-inclusive transitional government, the securing of the DRC's eastern borders, and the withdrawal of all foreign forces from the DRC, can the people of the DRC hope to be freed of the violence and insecurity which have plagued them for so long.