Criminal Justice (Safety of United Nations Workers) Bill, 1999: Committee and Remaining Stages.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendment No. 1 refers to the Long Title. The taking of this amendment shall be deferred until amendment No. 18 and the Schedule have been disposed of and the Long Title is being discussed. Is that agreed? Agreed.

SECTION 1.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

We now proceed to amendment No. 2. Amendments Nos. 3 and 12 to 16, inclusive, are cognate and they may be discussed together by agreement.

I move amendment No. 2:

In page 3, subsection (1), line 18, to delete "1999" and substitute "2000".

I welcome the Minister and hope I will not delay him too long. According to the Bill "the Act of 1999" means the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act, 1999. There is no such Act. The Bill passed by this House is still being debated by the Dáil and none of us knows when it will be enacted. Therefore, we cannot talk about an Act of 1999 meaning the United Nation's Convention Against Torture Act. How can we pre-empt what may or may not happen in the other House? That is my problem. It gives rise to confusion because there are now two Acts of 1999 to which the Minister refers, one is this Bill which is the Criminal Justice (Safety of United Nations Workers) Bill which will become an Act when it is passed, and the other Bill is in the other House. Neither is an Act but we have two Bills designated 1999.

My amendment proposes to clear the confusion – and even then it is not a perfect way of going about it – in the anticipation that this Bill, which has been passed by and welcomed in this House, will eventually become law having been passed by the other House, and that, rather than referring to an Act of 1999 that does not exist and referring to a Bill of 1999 that does exist, we should refer in anticipation to an Act of 2000. That would clarify the position in terms of what goes into the legislation.

I have consulted with the Attorney General's office and with the Bills Office. I am satisfied that under the rules of the Houses of the Oireachtas it is normal practice to update any references to Acts mentioned in legislation to coincide with the era of enactment of the relevant Act named. That long-standing practice will be followed in respect of this Bill and there is no necessity to amend the year from 1999 to 2000 at this stage. To accept these unnecessary amendments would risk establishing a practice that would take up the time of Senators on a technical matter that has always been adequately dealt with otherwise. The amendments are opposed.

If what the Minister says is correct then I accept that. However, I thought that would be acceptable when referring to the Title but we have a range of references in the body of the legislation which do not come within the normal scope of the usual clerk's corrections in relation to changing the year. That was my concern.

It is a long-standing practice, not just in respect of the Title but in respect of the body of the legislation as well, that the date would be changed to reflect the Bill's enactment. If we were to do otherwise we would take up the time of Senators in this House over several Bills, not just this one. My advice is to leave it as it is. The objective Senator Costello seeks to achieve will be achieved in another way.

Amendment, by leave, withdrawn.
Amendment No. 3 not moved.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendment No. 4 is a Government amendment and amendment No. 1 is cognate. Both amendments may be discussed together.

Government amendment No. 4:
In page 3, subsection (1), line 20, to delete "United Nations".

These are purely drafting amendments which the parliamentary draftsman's office has advised should be made to the Long Title of the Bill and to the definition of "the Convention" in section 1. I am advised the amendments proposed will bring the text into conformity with normal drafting practice when referring to United Nation conventions.

Amendment agreed to.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendment No. 5 is a Government amendment. Amendment No. 6 is an alternative to amendment No. 5. Both amendments are consequential to amendment No. 17. Amendments Nos. 5, 6 and 17 can be taken together, by agreement.

Government amendment No. 5:
In page 3, subsection (1), line 22, after "1994" to insert "the text of which, in the English language, is, for convenience of reference, set out in the First Schedule to the Act".

I accept it would be convenient for people consulting the Act to have the text of the UN conventions scheduled to the Act. In the circumstances I am proposing official amendment No. 5 which so provides. The form of wording proposes "that which is normally used will be scheduled conventions". I trust that the proposers of amendment No. 6 can therefore accept my amendment, making it unnecessary for them to pursue their own amendment. I also accept amendment No. 17.

The Minister's amendment is substantially a replica of my amendment, which he has expressed in better English perhaps. I presume that it is what the draftsman suggested. It is welcome and I am delighted that he has accepted it because he accepted a similar amendment to the legislation on the UN convention against torture. Including the Schedule in the body of the Bill makes it much neater and also reinforces the Bill. I am delighted the Minister has put forward this amendment.

Amendment agreed to.
Amendment No. 6 not moved.

I move amendment No. 7:

In page 4, lines 27 to 33, to delete subsection (2).

I am concerned that the Minister proposes to depart from normal practice relating to criminal prosecutions and that, where a question arises relating to proceedings under the Act against a particular individual, a certificate would be signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or a person authorised by that Minister and such a certificate would be acceptable as regards the interpretation of what constitutes a United Nations worker. That seems to be the wrong way to go about it. Section 1 gives a definition of a "United Nations worker" and subsection (2) provides for the event of a question arising. In such an event one would need to get the best evidence possible, rather than a simple certificate signed by a Minister or an authorised person. If that Minister provides a certificate he cannot be cross-examined. It is not as though it is an affidavit – it is a simple certificate or statement.

It seems to go against the laws of evidence that this is the manner in which the decision will be taken. In such a situation one would expect that the normal rules of evidence would be expected to apply. Somebody should be there to present the evidence and act as a witness or to be in court to be cross-examined on the matter. This only applies where a question arises, not in the normal interpretation. This is an important point and I would like to hear what the Minister has to say.

The amendment is opposed. The Act will apply to persons who are or were, at the relevant time, United Nations workers and to operations which are or were, at the relevant time, United Nations operations. Questions may arise when persons are being tried for offences under the Act as to whether the victim of the offence was in fact a United Nations worker or whether the activity in which the person was engaged was a United Nations operation. It is necessary to provide some means by which evidence of these facts can be readily given to the court trying the case.

Subsection (2) provides that a certificate signed by the Minister for Foreign Affairs or by somebody authorised by the Minister will be evidence that the person is or was a United Nations worker or that the operation is or was a United Nations operation. This sort of provision is normal practice. For example, in the Extradition (European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism) Act, 1987, a certificate of the Minister for Foreign Affairs that a person was, at the relevant time, an internationally protected person is evidence of the fact stated in the certificate. It is common practice for legislation to provide for the designation by the Foreign Affairs Ministers of the states which are party to a particular convention where such a provision is necessary for the purposes of the particular convention.

I am not so sure that this is a normal practice. The Act referred to by the Minister is not exactly what one considers "middle of the road" legislation. A similar provision was struck out under an Employment Equality Bill on the basis of its being unconstitutional. Has the Minister consulted the Attorney General and is he satisfied that the advice he received was that such a provision would not be unconstitutional in this case? It would seem to me to be departing from the norm in regard to the presentation of evidence.

Some means must be devised in order that evidence of the facts can be put before the courts and this is the mechanism used.

This is not evidence; it is a certificate.

It is a certificate but it is also evidence of the facts. It is usual for this to happen in certain confined circumstances. I sought the advice of the Attorney General on this matter which was that this provision will stand up.

Question, "That the words proposed to be deleted stand", put and declared carried.
Amendment declared lost.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendment No. 9 is cognate on amendment No. 8 and both may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

I move amendment No. 8:

In page 4, subsection (3)(f2>b), line 39, after "section" where it firstly occurs, to insert "or Schedule".

This is merely a tidying up type of amendment which seeks that "or Schedule" be included where reference is made to a section. The Bill comprises sections and Schedules and the wording proposed in the amendment would seem to be appropriate.

Amendment agreed to.

I move amendment No. 9:

In page 4, subsection (3)(f2>b), line 39, after "section" where it secondly occurs, to insert "or Schedule".

Amendment agreed to.

I thank the Minister for accepting my amendments.

Section 1, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 2.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendments Nos. 11 and 18 are cognate on amendment No. 10 and they may be discussed together, by agreement. Is that agreed? Agreed.

Government amendment No. 10:
In page 5, line 3, before "Schedule" to insert "Second".

This amendment, together with amendments Nos. 11 and 18, is necessary following the scheduling of the text of the convention which will now be in the First Schedule to the Bill. Offences under sections 2 and 3 of the Bill will now be set out in the Second Schedule. Amendment No. 18 makes provision to amend the Schedule accordingly.

Amendment agreed to.
Section 2, as amended, agreed to.
SECTION 3.
Government amendment No. 11:
In page 5, subsection (1), line 9, before "Schedule" to insert "Second".
Amendment agreed to.
Section 3, as amended, agreed to.
Sections 4 and 5 agreed to.
Amendments Nos. 12 to 16, inclusive, not moved.
Sections 6 to 12, inclusive, agreed to.
NEW SCHEDULE.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

Amendment No. 17 has already been discussed with amendment No. 5. References in the text to articles and paragraphs of the First Schedule should be italicised and words in double quotes should appear in single quotes.

I move amendment No. 17:

In page 7, between lines 5 and 6, to insert the following new Schedule:

"FIRST SCHEDULE

Convention on the Safety of United Nations and Associated Personnel

The States Parties to this Convention,Deeply concerned over the growing number of deaths and injuries resulting from deliberate attacks against United Nations and associated personnel,

Bearing in mind that attacks against, or other mistreatment of, personnel who act on behalf of the United Nations are unjustifiable and unacceptable, by whomsoever committed,

Recognising that United Nations operations are conducted in the common interest of the international community and in accordance with the principles and purposes of the Charter of the United Nations,

Acknowledging the important contribution that United Nations and associated personnel make in respect of United Nations efforts in the fields of preventive diplomacy, peacemaking, peace-keeping, peace-building and humanitarian and other operations,

Conscious of the existing arrangements for ensuring the safety of United Nations and associated personnel, including the steps taken by the principal organs of the United Nations, in this regard,

Recognising none the less that existing measures of protection for United Nations and associated personnel are inadequate,

Acknowledging that the effectiveness and safety of United Nations operations are enhanced where such operations are conducted with the consent and cooperation of the host State,

Appealing to all States in which United Nations and associated personnel are deployed and to all others on whom such personnel may rely, to provide comprehensive support aimed at facilitating the conduct and fulfilling the mandate of United Nations operations,

Convinced that there is an urgent need to adopt appropriate and effective measures for the prevention of attacks committed against United Nations and associated personnel and for the punishment of those who have committed such attacks,

Have agreed as follows:Article 1

DefinitionsFor the purposes of this Convention:

(a) "United Nations personnel" means:

(i)Persons engaged or deployed by the Secretary-General of the United Nations as members of the military, police or civilian components of a United Nations operation;

(ii)Other officials and experts on mission of the United Nations or its specialized agencies or the International Atomic Energy Agency who are present in an official capacity in the area where a United Nations operation is being conducted;

(b) "Associated personnel" means;

(i)Persons assigned by a Government or an intergovernmental organization with the agreement of the competent organ of the United Nations;

(ii)Persons engaged by the Secretary-General of the United Nations or by a specialized agency or by the International Atomic Energy Agency;

(iii)Persons deployed by a humanitarian non-governmental organization or agency under an agreement with the Secretary-General of the United Nations or with a specialized agency or with the International Atomic Energy Agency,

to carry out activities in support of the fulfilment of the mandate of a United Nations operation:

(c) "United Nations operation" means an operation established by the competent organ of the United Nations in accordance with the Charter of the United Nations and conducted under United Nations authority and control:

(i)Where the operation is for the purpose of maintaining or restoring international peace and security; or

(ii)Where the Security Council or the General Assembly has declared, for the purposes of this Convention, that there exists an exceptional risk to the safety of the personnel participating in the operation;

(d)"Host State" means a State in whose territory a United Nations operation is conducted;

(e)"Transit State" means a State, other than the host State, in whose territory United Nations and associated personnel or their equipment are in transit or temporarily present in connection with a United Nations operation.

Article 2

Scope of application

1.This Convention applies in respect of United Nations and associated personnel and United Nations operations, as defined in article 1.

2.This Convention shall not apply to a United Nations operation authorized by the Security Council as an enforcement action under Chapter VII of the Charter of the United Nations in which any of the personnel are engaged as combatants against organized armed forces and to which the law of international armed conflict applies.

Article 3

Identification

1. The military and police components of a United Nations operation and their vehicles, vessels and aircraft shall bear distinctive identification. Other personnel, vehicles, vessels and aircraft involved in the United Nations operation shall be appropriately identified unless otherwise decided by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

2. All United Nations and associated personnel shall carry appropriate identification documents.

Article 4

Agreements on the status of the operation

The host State and the United Nations shall conclude as soon as possible an agreement on the status of the United Nations operation and all personnel engaged in the operation including, inter alia, provisions on privileges and immunities for military and police components of the operation.

Article 5

Transit

A transit State shall facilitate the unimpeded transit of United Nations and associated personnel and their equipment to and from the host State.

Article 6

Respect for laws and regulations

1. Without prejudice to such privileges and immunities as they may enjoy or to the requirements of their duties, United Nations and associated personnel shall:

(a)Respect the laws and regulations of the host State and the transit State; and

(b) Refrain from any action or activity incompatible with the impartial and international nature of their duties.

2. The Secretary-General of the United Nations shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the observance of these obligations.

Article 7

Duty to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel

1. United Nations and associated personnel, their equipment and premises shall not be made the object of attack or of any action that prevents them from discharging their mandate.

2. States Parties shall take all appropriate measures to ensure the safety and security of United Nations and associated personnel. In particular, States Parties shall take all appropriate steps to protect United Nations and associated personnel who are deployed in their territory from the crimes set out in article 9.

3. States Parties shall cooperate with the United Nations and other States Parties, as appropriate, in the implementation of this Convention, particularly in any case where the host State is unable itself to take the required measures.

Article 8

Duty to release or return United Nations and associated personnel captured or detained

Except as otherwise provided in an applicable status-of-forces agreement, if United Nations or associated personnel are captured or detained in the course of the performance of their duties and their identification has been established, they shall not be subjected to interrogation and they shall be promptly released and returned to United Nations or other appropriate authorities. Pending their release such personnel shall be treated in accordance with universally recognized standards of human rights and the principles and spirit of the Geneva Conventions of 1949.

Article 9

Crimes against United Nations and associated personnel

1. The intentional commission of:

(a)A murder, kidnapping or other attack upon the person or liberty of any United Nations or associated personnel;

(b)A violent attack upon the official premises, the private accommodation or the means of transportation of any United Nations or associated personnel likely to endanger his or her person or liberty;

(c)A threat to commit any such attack with the objective of compelling a physical or juridical person to do or to refrain from doing any act;

(d)An attempt to commit any such attack; and

(e)An act constituting participation as an accomplice in any such attack, or in an attempt to commit such attack, or in organizing or ordering others to commit such attack,

shall be made by each State Party a crime under its national law.

2. Each State Party shall make the crimes set out in paragraph 1 punishable by appropriate penalties which shall take into account their grave nature.

Article 10

Establishment of jurisdiction

1.Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the crimes set out in article 9 in the following cases:

(a)When the crime is committed in the territory of that State or on board a ship or aircraft registered in that State;

(b)When the alleged offender is a national of that State.

2.A State Party may also establish its jurisdiction over any such crime when it is committed:

(a)By a stateless person whose habitual residence is in that State; or

(b)With respect to a national of that State; or

(c)In an attempt to compel that State to do or to abstain from doing any act.

3.Any State Party which has established jurisdiction as mentioned in paragraph 2 shall notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations. If such State Party subsequently rescinds that jurisdiction, it shall notify the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

4.Each State Party shall take such measures as may be necessary to establish its jurisdiction over the crimes set out in article 9 in cases where the alleged offender is present in its territory and it does not extradite such person pursuant to article 15 to any of the States Parties which have established their jurisdiction in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2.

5.This Convention does not exclude any criminal jurisdiction exercised in accordance with national law.

Article 11

Prevention of crimes against United Nations and associated personnel

States Parties shall cooperate in the prevention of the crimes set out in article 9, particularly by:

(a) Taking all practicable measures to prevent preparations in their respective territories for the commission of those crimes within or outside their territories; and

(b)Exchanging information in accordance with their national law and coordinating the taking of administrative and other measures as appropriate to prevent the commission of those crimes.

Article 12

Communication of information

1. Under the conditions provided for in its national law, the State Party in whose territory a crime set out in article 9 has been committed shall, if it has reason to believe that an alleged offender has fled from its territory, communicate to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and, directly or through the Secretary-General, to the State or States concerned all the pertinent facts regarding the crime committed and all available information regarding the identity of the alleged offender.

2. Whenever a crime set out in article 9 has been committed, any State Party which has information concerning the victim and circumstances of the crime shall endeavour to transmit such information, under the conditions provided for in its national law, fully and promptly to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and the State or States concerned.

Article 13

Measures to ensure prosecution or extradition

1. Where the circumstances so warrant, the State Party in whose territory the alleged offender is present shall take the appropriate measures under its national law to ensure that person's presence for the purpose of prosecution or extradition.

2.Measures taken in accordance with paragraph 1 shall be notified, in conformity with national law and without delay, to the Secretary-General of the United Nations and, either directly or through the Secretary-General, to:

(a)The State where the crime was committed;

(b)The State or States of which the alleged offender is a national or, if such person is a stateless person, in whose territory that person has his or her habitual residence;

(c)The State or States of which the victim is a national; and

(d)Other interested States.

Article 14

Prosecution of alleged offenders

The State Party in whose territory the alleged offender is present shall, if it does not extradite that person, submit, without exception whatsoever and without undue delay, the case to its competent authorities for the purpose of prosecution, through proceedings in accordance with the law of that State. Those authorities shall take their decision in the same manner as in the case of an ordinary offence of a grave nature under the law of that State.

Article 15

Extradition of alleged offenders

1. To the extent that the crimes set out in article 9 are not extraditable offences in any extradition treaty existing between States Parties, they shall be deemed to be included as such therein. States Parties undertake to include those crimes as extraditable offences in every extradition treaty to be concluded between them.

2. If a State Party which makes extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty receives a request for extradition from another State Party with which it has no extradition treaty, it may at its option consider this Convention as the legal basis for extradition in respect of those crimes. Extradition shall be subject to the conditions provided in the law of the requested State.

3. States Parties which do not make extradition conditional on the existence of a treaty shall recognise those crimes as extraditable offences between themselves subject to the conditions provided in the law of the requested State.

4. Each of those crimes shall be treated, for the purposes of extradition between States Parties, as if it had been committed not only in the place in which it occurred but also in the territories of the States Parties which have established their jurisdiction in accordance with paragraph 1 or 2 of article 10.

Article 16

Mutual assistance in criminal matters

1. States Parties shall afford one another the greatest measure of assistance in connection with criminal proceedings brought in respect of the crimes set out in article 9, including assistance in obtaining evidence at their disposal necessary for the proceedings. The law of the requested State shall apply in all cases.

2.The provisions of paragraph 1 shall not affect obligations concerning mutual assistance embodied in any other treaty.

Article 17

Fair treatment

1. Any person regarding whom investigations or proceedings are being carried out in connection with any of the crimes set out in article 9 shall be guaranteed fair treatment, a fair trial and full protection of his or her rights at all stages of the investigations or proceedings.

2. Any alleged offender shall be entitled:

(a)To communicate without delay with the nearest appropriate representative of the State or States of which such person is a national or which is otherwise entitled to protect that person's rights or, if such person is a stateless person, of the State which, at that person's request, is willing to protect that person's rights; and

(b)To be visited by a representative of that State or those States.

Article 18

Notification of outcome of proceedings

The State Party where an alleged offender is prosecuted shall communicate the final outcome of the proceedings to the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall transmit the information to other States Parties.

Article 19

Dissemination

The States Parties undertake to disseminate this Convention as widely as possible and, in particular, to include the study thereof, as well as relevant provisions of international humanitarian law, in their programmes of military instruction.

Article 20

Savings clauses

Nothing in this Convention shall affect:

(a)The applicability of international humanitarian law and universally recognised standards of human rights as contained in international instruments in relation to the protection of United Nations operations and United Nations and associated personnel or the responsibility of such personnel to respect such law and standards;

(b) The rights and obligations of States, consistent with the Charter of the United Nations, regarding the consent to entry of persons into their territories;

(c)The obligation of United Nations and associated personnel to act in accordance with the terms of the mandate of a United Nations operation;

(d)The right of States which voluntarily contribute personnel to a United Nations operation to withdraw their personnel from participation in such operation; or

(e)The entitlement to appropriate compensation payable in the event of death, disability, injury or illness attributable to peace-keeping service by persons voluntarily contributed by States to United Nations operations.

Article 21

Right of self-defence

Nothing in this Convention shall be construed so as to derogate from the right to act in self-defence.

Article 22

Dispute settlement

1. Any dispute between two or more States Parties concerning the interpretation or application of this Convention which is not settled by negotiation shall, at the request of one of them, be submitted to arbitration. If within six months from the date of the request for arbitration the parties are unable to agree on the organization of the arbitration, any one of those parties may refer the dispute to the International Court of Justice by application in conformity with the Statute of the Court.

2. Each State Party may at the time of signature, ratification, acceptance or approval of this Convention or accession thereto declare that it does not consider itself bound by all or part of paragraph 1. The other States Parties shall not be bound by paragraph 1 or the relevant part thereof with respect to any State Party which has made such a reservation.

3. Any State Party which has made a reservation in accordance with paragraph 2 may at any time withdraw that reservation by notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Article 23

Review meetings

At the request of one or more States Parties, and if approved by a majority of States Parties, the Secretary-General of the United Nations shall convene a meeting of the States Parties to review the implementation of the Convention, and any problems encountered with regard to its application.

Article 24

Signature

This Convention shall be open for signature by all States, until 31 December 1995, at United Nations Headquarters in New York.

Article 25

Ratification, acceptance or approval

This Convention is subject to ratification, acceptance or approval. Instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Article 26

Accession

This Convention shall be open for accession by any State. The instruments of accession shall be deposited with the Secretary – General of the United Nations.

Article 27

Entry into force

1. This Convention shall enter into force thirty days after twenty-two instruments of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession have been deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

2. For each State ratifying, accepting, approving or acceding to the Convention after the deposit of the twenty-second instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession, the Convention shall enter into force on the thirtieth day after the deposit by such State of its instrument of ratification, acceptance, approval or accession.

Article 28

Denunciation

1. A State Party may denounce this Convention by written notification to the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

2. Denunciation shall take effect one year following the date on which notification is received by the Secretary-General of the United Nations.

Article 29

Authentic texts

The original of this Convention, of which the Arabic, Chinese, English, French, Russian and Spanish texts are equally authentic, shall be deposited with the Secretary-General of the United Nations, who shall send certified copies thereof to all States.”.

Amendment agreed to.
SCHEDULE.
Government amendment No.18:
In page 7, line 6, before "SCHEDULE" to insert "SECOND".
Amendment agreed to.
Schedule, as amended, agreed to.
TITLE.
Government amendment No. 1:
In page 3, line 7, to delete "UNITED NATIONS".
Amendment agreed to.
Title, as amended, agreed to.
Bill reported with amendments.
Question proposed: "That the Bill do now pass."

I thank all the Senators, particularly the Government and Opposition spokespersons, for their constructive approach to the debate on this Bill. I thank the Cathaoirleach and the staff of the House for the co-operation given to me during the passage of the Bill through the Seanad.

We are all in agreement that the protection afforded by the convention should be available to our courageous men and women serving on peacekeeping missions. To that end I look forward to the speedy passage of the Bill through the other House so that we can put the accession process in train as soon as possible.

During the debate some concern was expressed about the time lapse in bringing forward this legislation. Given Ireland's long and proud tradition of serving with peacekeeping missions around the world, I was very glad to be in a position to give priority to the preparation of this short and significant Bill within my extensive legislative programme. At present I have 12 Bills before the Houses of the Oireachtas and another 27 or so at various stages of preparation. Of those, eight are in the course of being drafted, the heads of my proposals having already been approved by the Government. By any standard, this is a substantial legislative programme. It is not always possible to move legislation along at a pace one might wish. While not wishing in any way to praise my own legislative record, I have no objection to being judged on the number of Acts for which I had responsibility that have entered the Statute Book since this Government came to office. In all, one-quarter of the Bills enacted since this Government took office in mid-1997 came from my Department.

During the Second Stage debate here last week reference was made to a suitable memorial to honour persons who sadly lost their lives while serving with peacekeeping missions, 77 members of the Defence Forces and one member of the Garda Síochána. I understand there is a memorial to the memory of all those who have died on UN duty at the Headquarters of the Irish United Nations Veterans Association in Dublin. I understand from my colleague, the Minister for Defence, that there are a number of memorials at various Army barracks around the country to the memory of the deceased members of the Defence Forces who lost their lives while serving abroad.

I once again pay tribute to the members of the Garda Síochána and the Defence Forces who are serving abroad at present. I had the opportunity of witnessing at first hand invaluable work done by the Garda on those missions, as has the Minister for Defence in regard to the work being done by the Defence Forces abroad. As a small nation, we can be very proud of the esteem in which our men and women serving with those missions are held throughout the world. On my own behalf and on behalf of the Government, I wish all our gardaí and members of the Defence Forces who are serving abroad at this time a joyous and peaceful Christmas. I know their families and friends will miss them at this time of the year, especially at the start of the new Millennium.

I again thank Senators for their support for the Bill. I assure the House I will do all I can to have the Bill enacted quickly so that the protections afforded by the Convention will be available to Irish gardaí and members of the Defence Forces. I express my deepest appreciation to the staff in my own Department who worked so assiduously to ensure that this legislation would come before the Houses of the Oireachtas.

I join with the Minister in expressing our pleasure that this Bill has been passed. I reiterate the criticism that something that was done by the United Nations in 1994 is only being enacted into domestic law in this country, a country with a major interest in this legislation, five years later. However, it is done and I am delighted.

I have been raising in this House another United Nations convention to which we were a party about a year and a half ago. I refer to the Convention on the International Criminal Code which we have yet to bring into domestic law. We must also bring the provisions of the convention on the international criminal court into domestic law. While the provisions have been agreed, their introduction in an international context has been slowed as nothing like 60 countries have ratified it – I think on the last count only 25 countries had done so. Given our record on these matters we could be giving a lead in this regard and we should ratify it.

I suggested a suitable memorial within the precincts of the Houses to members of the Defence Forces and the Garda Síochána who have died on active service with the UN. All these men and women were on service at the behest of the House as every UN request for assistance in peacekeeping must by approved by the Houses of the Oireachtas. Within the precincts of the Houses and its gardens we should have a memorial to show our appreciation of their very great sacrifice.

I wish to pay tribute to my colleagues on the other side of the House for the speedy passage of this very important Bill and I compliment the Minister and his staff on their work. I also compliment the Minister and his staff on the huge amount of legislation processed in his Department and on the respect he has shown the House by introducing here at least eight or nine Bills in the past two years. I mention this particularly in view of the ongoing debate on the role of the Seanad. Certain questions were raised about the role of the House and its necessity in the report of the All-Party Committee on the Constitution, chaired by Deputy Jim O'Keeffe. If other Departments and Ministers showed the commitment to the Seanad shown by the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform since taking up office, there would be much less criticism directed towards the House.

I feel very proud of the contributions of all Senators and that much work has been done. We may not always agree with our colleagues on the other side, but their contributions have been very fair and I am often inclined to agree with some of the points they make, although the Minister and his officials sometimes do not accept amendments.

I am delighted that consideration of the Bill has been completed. I wish the Defence Forces and the members of the Garda Síochána who are serving abroad a happy and peaceful Christmas.

I wish to be associated with the remarks of my colleagues and again thank the Minister and acknowledge his co-operation and courtesy at all times. I also wish to acknowledge his hard-working staff. As other Members have mentioned, the Minister has been in the House on more occasions than any other Minister and I acknowledge the good work he is doing.

This is an important Bill. At last we are incorporating the conventions into legislation. Now that the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Bill, 1998, and the Criminal Justice (Safety of United Nations Workers) Bill, 1999, have been passed by the Seanad – I would like to see the former move more quickly through the other House – perhaps we might have three in a row with the introduction of the legislation to ratify the convention on the international criminal court. It is important that we are seen to fulfil our international obligations and that we make an effort to deal with United Nations legislative provisions as quickly as possible. Ireland is well known for the number of people, members of the Defence Forces, the Garda Síochána and others, involved in United Nations humanitarian and peacekeeping operations. It is important that we pass this legislation which will help to improve the United Nations.

I want to be associated with the good wishes sent to the members of the Garda and the Army who are serving abroad. I hope they are happy and safe.

Question put and agreed to.
Sitting suspended at 3.31 p.m. and resumed at 6 p.m.