Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (77, 78)

Paul Nicholas Gogarty

Question:

55 Mr. Gogarty asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if the human rights abuses in Guantanamo Bay will form part of the Irish Presidency's focus on human rights around the world; and if he has made representations to the US Administration concerning the prisoners in Guantanamo Bay. [4327/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Human rights have been a priority of successive Irish Governments and are a key area for the Irish Presidency in external relations. Ireland along with our EU partners monitors the human rights situations in many countries throughout the world. Where the situation warrants, the European Union makes known its concerns about human rights violations to the Governments in question, either directly, or through action at the appropriate international fora such as the UN General Assembly and the UN Commission on Human Rights.

As the Deputy is aware, I have previously expressed to the House the Government's concern that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay be treated in accordance with the provisions of international human rights and humanitarianlaw.

The United States authorities are well aware of the Government's position, which has been conveyed to them on a number of occasions. These concerns were conveyed most recently to the US embassy in Dublin by my Department in September last. There is no doubt that the United States is very conscious of the level and nature of international concern about the treatment and status of the prisoners held in GuantanamoBay.

The Government recognises the danger posed by terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda. However, in confronting those who abuse and violate all forms of human rights, it is essential that the highest standards be maintained at all times.

Enda Kenny

Question:

56 Mr. Kenny asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if, during the Irish Presidency of the European Union, there will be formal contact with Zimbabwe; if he will report on the political situation in Zimbabwe; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4311/04]

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A priority of the Irish Presidency is to increase the European Union's focus on African issues. In pursuit of this, we have organised a series of high-level meetings during our Presidency, including with the African Union, the Economic Community of West African States, ECOWAS, South Africa and Nigeria. During such meetings we will impress upon our interlocutors our concern at the current situation in Zimbabwe.

The European Union remains profoundly concerned about the political situation in Zimbabwe. Political violence and intimidation of dissidents continue. This was evident recently in the authorities' treatment of the National Constitutional Assembly, NCA, protesters in Harare on 4 February 2004. The right to freedom of expression and the freedom of the mass media are under attack, which can be seen in the Zimbabwe Government's harassment of theDaily News, Zimbabwe's only independent newspaper. Ireland condemns utterly the abuses being carried out by state forces and other groups affiliated to the governing party and the lack of accountability on the part of the Government of Zimbabwe in these matters.

As long as the current problem persists, I do not envisage engagement with the Zimbabwean Government. At the same time, Ireland, given its Presidency of the European Union, is open to dialogue with the Government of Zimbabwe as and when it can demonstrate material progress in the areas defined under the Union's established benchmarks. These centre on democratic norms, the rule of law, respect for human rights and personal freedoms. Real and verifiable progress on the benchmarks would lead to the re-engagement of the European Union with the Government of Zimbabwe.

The Union will continue to monitor the situation in Zimbabwe and to review the issue with our African partners.

Question No. 57 answered with QuestionNo. 21.