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Dáil Éireann debate -
Tuesday, 17 Dec 2002

Vol. 559 No. 5

Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Fergus O'Dowd


89 Mr. O'Dowd asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on human rights in Liberia in view of the concerns expressed by Amnesty International. [26502/02]

The fighting between Government troops and the rebel group Liberians United for Reconciliation and Democracy, LURD, has been ongoing in Liberia since late 2001 and has had a devastating effect on the country. The mounting toll of deaths, displacements and the general suffering of local populations underlines the urgent need for both parties to negotiate a ceasefire and to work towards national reconciliation. Human rights violations have been committed by both sides and human rights defenders continue to be detained without trial.

The already grim humanitarian situation has been exacerbated by poor harvests and the disruption caused to farming activities by the conflict. Liberia is struggling to provide not only for its own population, but also for the thousands of refugees pouring into the country to escape fighting in neighbouring Cote d'Ivoire. In 2002, Ireland contributed €160,000 to Concern for its rapid onset emergency response project in West Liberia and €196,000 for an emergency health program of the International Rescue Committee.

Arising from concerns about negative developments in Liberia in the areas of human rights, democracy, the rule of law, good governance and corruption, the European Union initiated consultations with the Government of Liberia in November 2001 under Articles 96 and 97 of the Cotonou Agreement. During the consultations, which ended in March, the European Union undertook to resume its co-operation programme with Liberia once Liberia meets specific conditions in a number of areas, including human rights. On the occasion of a follow-up meeting on 6 December 2002 with the Liberian Minister for Foreign Affairs, the European Union delegation conveyed the Union's concern at the ongoing poor human rights in the country, including the harassment of civilians by Government troops.

The United Nations Security Council has also been active in attempts to bring stability to the Mano River region. Targeted sanctions were imposed on Liberia in May 2001 after a panel of experts clearly demonstrated that President Taylor was supporting Revolutionary United Front, RUF, rebels fighting against the Government of Sierra Leone. The RUF were notorious for the human rights abuses they committed during the decade-long civil war in Sierra Leone.
The most recent report of the panel of experts, released this October, provided clear evidence that Liberia has been actively engaged in efforts to violate the various sanctions measures, in particular the arms embargo. In addition, far from expelling the members of the RUF as demanded by Resolutions 1343 and 1408, Liberia has assimilated between 1,250 and 1,500 of them into elite government military units. As a Security Council member, Ireland supported the continued application of the sanctions against Liberia on the basis that the peace that has been established in Sierra Leone is extremely fragile and, as evidenced in this and other areas of west Africa, any interference in the security and stability of a country by neighbouring states has the most tragic consequences and is to be condemned.
At the Security Council Ireland has also expressed support for the proposed new mandate for the UN office in Liberia, UNOL. The mandate includes a specific human rights component which will allow the UNOL to engage in a constructive dialogue with the Government of Liberia on human rights issues, and assist in strengthening democratic institutions and the rule of law in Liberia. The UNOL will also be tasked with contributing to and monitoring the preparation for free and fair elections in 2003. The Security Council has recently been engaged in defining a comprehensive strategy on Liberia with a view to promoting a stable and democratic political process which addresses humanitarian issues and promotes national reconciliation and the protection of human rights. Ireland has been actively engaged in these discussions.
Question No. 90 answered with Question No. 37.
Questions Nos. 91 and 92 answered with Question No. 43.
Questions Nos. 93 and 94 answered with Question No. 41.