I am deeply concerned by the terms of the Amnesty International report on unfair trials and secret executions published on 18 November 2003. The report details the findings of research carried out by Amnesty into abuse associated with the use of the death penalty. Its recommendations include an appeal to the authorities in Uzbekistan to take immediate steps towards abolition of the death penalty and to promptly declare a moratorium on death sentences and executions. I fully support these recommendations.
As I stated in the House on 11 December last in reply to a parliamentary question on the death penalty, Ireland, along with its EU partners, is adamantly opposed to the use of the death penalty and accordingly seeks its universal abolition. In 2003, in accordance with EU guidelines on the death penalty, case specific demarches on the death penalty were made to a number of countries, including Uzbekistan.
The issue of the death penalty in Uzbekistan was addressed more recently at the meeting of the EU Uzbekistan co-operation council, which was held in Brussels on 27 January. As Ireland currently holds the EU Presidency, the meeting was chaired by Deputy Roche, Minister of State with special responsibility for European affairs, who raised the issue directly with the Foreign Minister of Uzbekistan. At the co-operation council, the EU recalled its opposition to the death penalty and asked for a moratorium. At the same time, it welcomed the fact that Uzbekistan has recently announced the reduction to two of the number of crimes subject to the death penalty.
The co-operation council also recalled the importance of full respect for human rights and the rule of law in promoting political stability and economic growth. It was agreed that any development of closer political relations between the EU and Uzbekistan would depend upon respect for shared values, as agreed in Article 2 of the partnership and co-operation agreement with Uzbekistan.
The EU welcomed the announcement by Uzbekistan of a programme aimed at eliminating the practice of torture in Uzbek prisons, expressed its concerns about cases of torture in detention centres and asked for impartial investigation of deaths of prisoners or other people in custody. The EU also welcomed the visit to Uzbekistan of the UN Special Rapporteur for Torture, Theo van Boven, and the announcement that Uzbekistan will implement his recommendations and those of the UN Committee Against Torture. Ireland, together with its EU partners, will closely follow the progress made by Uzbekistan in doing so and calls for the implementation process to be speeded up.
The abolition of the death penalty in Uzbekistan as in other countries is a political priority for Ireland. Together with our EU partners, we will continue to work for its worldwide abolition.