Other Questions. - Foreign Conflicts.

Kathleen Lynch


7 Ms Lynch asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the need for an independent international inquiry into events in the Jenin refugee camp during the incursion by Israeli security forces during April 2002; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [14825/02]

I remain extremely concerned at the reports of the events in the Jenin refugee camp during the Israeli incursions into Palestinian controlled territory in April. I considered that an independent, international inquiry was required on the basis of the reports emanating from the camp. Accordingly, I instructed our permanent representative to the United Nations to lend Ireland's full support to demands for the establishment of a United Nations inquiry to investigate the events.

The UN Security Council adopted resolution 1405 unanimously on 19 April. The resolution referred to the dire humanitarian situation of the Palestinian civilian population and mentioned, in particular, reports of deaths and destruction in the Jenin refugee camp. It welcomed the initiative of the Secretary General to develop accurate information about what happened in Jenin through a fact-finding team and requested him to keep the Council informed. Ireland participated actively in this debate at the Security Council. Ireland called on Israel to co-operate with the fact-finding mission saying that it had serious questions to answer about the conduct of its military operations in Palestinian areas at that time. Ireland also said that it should co-operate fully with the various agencies in allowing humanitarian aid to get through. The Government made available the services of Garda Deputy Commissioner Peter Fitzgerald and two assistants as members of the team.

We were extremely disappointed by unjustified Israeli objections to the fact-finding mission. Every effort was made to meet Israeli concerns but, despite the adoption of a General Assembly resolution condemning the Israeli refusal to allow the team in, they were prevented from carrying out their investigation. In the circumstances, the Secretary General had no option but to disband the mission.

The General Assembly of the United Nations adopted a resolution on 7 May, during the resumed emergency special session, asking the Secretary General to prepare a report on the events at Jenin on the basis of information available to him from other sources. This report is in preparation and I expect that it will be submitted to the General Assembly in the near future. We are deeply dissatisfied with the failure of the Israelis to allow the Jenin fact-finding team to carry out their work and we have expressed our disappointment in official contacts with the Israeli Embassy.

On 19 April, the press office of the Minister's Department issued a press statement announcing what was to happen in the case of the Jenin refugee camp. The Minister reiterated this in his reply. The press release also said that Ireland had expressed a view on the Israeli refusal to allow a visit to the area by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson. Is the Minister satisfied, following the issue of this press statement and the disbandment of Mrs. Robinson's mission by Kofi Annan, that this is a clear breach of international law on the part of Israel? What is the position on the correspondence dealing with the objection to Mrs. Robinson's visit?

I constantly reiterate my condemnation of suicide bombing, acts of terrorism and my abhorrence of the destruction of civilian life, which is going nowhere. Often people question the genuine intent of these expressions because I raise questions from the other side of the conflict. They are genuine. However, the seeming inability of the European Union to address the international legal issues involved is incredible. What took place at Jenin refuge camp amounted to a crime. It is not the first time that has happened. Why can a statement not be made on the international legal aspect, or has the international legal framework evaporated in view of the fact that President Bush and Prime Minister Sharon speak alike? While I have sympathy with the Minister's position, is he satisfied that there have been comprehensive breaches of international law?

I agree with the Deputy that the refusal to co-operate on the basis of resolution 1405, unanimously adopted by the UN Security Council on 19 April, does not stand to the credit of the Israeli Government. It is, therefore, the position that, as members of the United Nations, we are obliged to fully implement security resolutions. Failure to do so means failure to comply with international law because such resolutions are the basis in international law on which the achievement of peace, security and international legal order are sought.

If a Security Council resolution calls on a country to co-operate with the Security Council, which is the sole body in the United Nations given the task of dealing with issues of peace and security, failure to comply not only does not stand to the credit of a government but leaves it open to being guilty of non-compliance with a legal position, which is that established in the resolution.