Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (58)

Michael Ring

Question:

42 Mr. Ring asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, in view of the absolute position of the European Union against the use of the death penalty, he will raise the issue with the government of the United States of America during Ireland's Presidency of the European Union; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4275/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

As I have previously stated in this House, the Government is adamantly opposed to the use of the death penalty and accordingly seeks its universal abolition. We believe that its abolition contributes to the enhancement of human dignity and the progressive development of human rights. The Deputy will be aware of the efforts we have made in conjunction with our EU partners, and in accordance with the common EU guidelines on the issue of the death penalty, to seek its universal abolition. The EU has pressed for abolition and has also undertakendémarches on the use of the death penalty in many countries, including the United States.

The EU guidelines adopted in 1998 set out clearly the common EU position on the use of the death penalty. These guidelines now form the basis for Ireland's concerted interventions, along with other EU member states, in death penalty issues. The guidelines state that, where the death penalty still exists, the EU will continue to press for its use to be progressively restricted and for moratoria to be introduced. In addition to interventions on the use of the death penalty in principle, it has also been agreed that, where the facts of individual cases suggest a violation of basic minimum standards under international law, the Union will consider making a specific intervention. In 2003 the EU carried out a number ofdémarches in the US, at both federal and state level, in accordance with the EU guidelines.

The Government is of the view that an EU intervention on this issue carries significantly greater force than individual bilateral intervention. Since the beginning of the Irish Presidency the EU has intervened in the case of one individual who has since been granted a stay of execution. The EU has also raised its concerns regarding US policy on the death penalty in a statement on this issue delivered at the OSCE on 22 January this year. The EU regularly raises the death penalty issue in its human rights Troika meetings with the US, including at the Troika meeting with the US which took place yesterday.

During the remainder of our Presidency, the issue of the death penalty will continue to be a priority for the EU. The EU will continue to monitor death penalty cases worldwide and make interventions as appropriate. The EU will raise the issue in all appropriate fora, including at the 60th session of the UN Commission on Human Rights in March and April this year, where the EU will again table its resolution on the death penalty.