Wednesday, 28 January 2004

Questions (113, 114, 115, 116, 117)

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

225 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs when a promise made in the programme for Government on the right to freedom from sectarian harassment, set out in the Good Friday Agreement, will be implemented. [2449/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

In the Good Friday Agreement the parties and the two Governments affirmed the right to freedom from sectarian harassment. Ensuring that the promise of the Agreement becomes a reality remains a key priority for the Government.

The Government recognises that groups on both sides of the community are engaged in many practical projects that seek to address the problems of sectarianism. That is why my Department's reconciliation fund provides assistance to many groups who seek to promote tolerance and acceptance of cultural diversity. Additionally, the International Fund for Ireland and the EU Peace II Programme supports many worthwhile projects.

The scourge of sectarianism is frequently discussed at intergovernmental level, particularly through the British Irish Intergovernmental Conference. I have consistently stressed to the British Government that eradicating sectarianism from Northern Ireland society requires a coherent and co-ordinated approach between the police, the statutory agencies and community leaders to deal with sectarian harassment in an effective manner from a local community perspective.

From a wider viewpoint, my officials have requested a meeting with their British counterparts to discuss the capability of the current overarching approach to sectarianism. In addition, my Department will closely follow the progress of draft legislation currently being drawn up by the Northern Ireland Office to deal with race crime and sectarian crime. They will ensure it provides a statutory basis to deter sectarianism in all its forms.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

226 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, United Kingdom: Justice perverted under the Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act 2001, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plans to raise these issues with the British Government. [2450/04]

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My officials have noted the contents of the report. The Anti-terrorism, Crime and Security Act became law in the United Kingdom in December 2001. It contains a wide range of measures that the British Government considered necessary in the light of the 11 September terrorist attacks. They include the power to seize assets, additional powers to detain under the Immigration Act and to search and fingerprint terrorist suspects.

It is clear that a number of measures in the Act will affect all persons living in the United Kingdom. I am satisfied that none of them will have a greater effect on Irish persons living in the UK than on British nationals or other UK residents. I am satisfied that Irish people living in Britain will not, in practice, be affected by the provisions in respect of international terrorists because they are not considered foreign nationals under the law.

The detention provisions are subject to a number of safeguards. They will expire at the end of 15 months unless their extension, one year at a time, is approved by parliament. Their operation will be examined by a reviewer and they will cease to have effect in November 2006. The operation of the full Act will be subject to review by a committee of the Privy Council after two years.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

227 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, The Pain Merchants: Security equipment and its use in torture and other ill-treatment, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plans to act on its recommendations. [2451/04]

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Torture is among the most abhorrent violations of human rights and is strictly condemned by international law. Freedom from torture is a right that must be protected under all circumstances. Its promotion and protection is deservedly a priority of the EU's human rights policy.

I have received and considered a copy of the Amnesty International report. I welcome the contribution that the paper makes to efforts to combat torture. It plays a significant part in the efforts of the international community to put an end to incidences of torture by state and non-state agents alike.

For a long time Ireland, with our EU partners, has been strongly opposed to the application of the death penalty and the use of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. On 9 April 2001 the General Affairs Council of the EU adopted a set of guidelines for the implementation of its policy against torture. The guidelines provide the EU with an operational tool for use in its contacts with third countries and in multilateral human rights fora. They support and strengthen its ongoing efforts towards the global prevention and eradication of torture.

In continuance of this policy the Council is currently considering a proposal for the EU to impose restrictions on trade in certain equipment that could be used for capital punishment, torture or other cruel, degrading or inhuman treatment or punishment. The proposal reflects the Union's strong opposition to such practices. Moreover, the proposal responds to the resolutions on torture adopted by the United Nations Commission on Human Rights, including at this year's 59th session, that call,inter alia, for UN member states to take action, including legislative measures, to prevent and prohibit the export of equipment designed to inflict torture or other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. The UN special rapporteur on torture, Mr. Theo van Boven, highlighted the Commission's proposal in his recent report on the subject.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

228 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, Iraq: Memorandum on concerns related to legislation introduced by the Coalition Provisional Authority, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plan to raise these issues with the US Government. [2452/04]

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I am aware of the report. From the outset the Government has called on all parties in the conflict to respect their obligations under international law. The Government's calls are in keeping with the public pronouncements of UN Secretary General Annan. Security Council Resolution 1483 of 22 May 2003 calls upon all concerned to comply with their obligations under international law including, in particular, the Geneva Conventions of 1949 and the Hague Regulations of 1907. The Iraq crisis is an issue that features in all of our discussions with the US.

Aengus Ó Snodaigh

Question:

229 Aengus Ó Snodaigh asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the Amnesty International report, Back in the Spotlight: Allegations of police ill-treatment and excessive use of force in Germany, was brought to his attention; and the Government's plan to act on its recommendations. [2453/04]

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I am aware of the report. The Government values the contribution that Amnesty International makes to furthering the cause of promoting and protecting human rights internationally. The recommendations contained in the report are directed at the German Government and are a matter for its consideration.

Germany has extensive constitutional protection for human rights and is a party to the European Convention on Human Rights that provides for an independent European complaints mechanism to augment safeguards provided in national protection. The country is also a party to a number of other international human rights instruments.