Thursday, 12 February 2004

Questions (94)

Paul Connaughton


78 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the recently published report, More Justice for Europe, by Amnesty International Ireland; and his views on the violence against women and the mental health campaigns. [4256/04]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

Ireland and our EU partners attach great importance to the promotion and protection of human rights. During our EU Presidency, we will continue this process of mainstreaming human rights concerns into all aspects of the Union's policies. The report from Amnesty International, which the Deputy mentions was received in my Department and is currently being examined by my officials. Amnesty International Ireland and the human rights unit of my Department have a long record of consultation and co-operation, and my Department values the contribution Amnesty International Ireland is making with their reports. I understand that Amnesty International Ireland intends to launch its campaign against violence against women on 8 March. It will encompass opposition to domestic violence against women as perpetrated in Ireland and violence experienced by women in conflict and post-conflict situations worldwide.

Any queries the Deputy might have relating to the domestic angle of the campaign would fall within the responsibility of my colleague, the Minister for Justice, Equality, and Law Reform. I therefore propose to only address the topic of violence against women and girls in conflict and post-conflict situations. During periods of conflict the role of women, both young and old, often becomes one of sole household provider, sole parent, carer for the injured, older people, children and other relatives. Women may also have roles of forced or voluntary combatants or providers of various services for fighting forces. These roles should be fully recognised. In this context, I would like to draw attention to the guidelines on children and armed conflict, which the EU adopted in 2003, which also underline the specific vulnerability of girls. Implementation of these guidelines is a priority for the Irish EU Presidency.

Women and girls are particularly at risk of serious violations of human rights or breaches of international humanitarian law in times of conflict, in particular genocide, ethnic cleansing and rape, including systematic rape of women and girls. In this context the government strongly supports the Rome Statute of the International Court under which persecution of women and girls, systematic rape and other acts of sexual violence may constitute crimes against humanity. The Government, along with its EU partners, urges all states that have not done so, to ratify or accede to the Rome Statute, and actively co-operate with the court, which has a vital role to ensure justice for all and to fight impunity.

Women in areas of conflict are easy prey for trafficking and sexual exploitation which is a matter of growing concern. The Convention on Transnational Organised Crime, which Ireland signed on 13 December 2000, is a powerful international instrument in the fight against trafficking. In addition, article 6 of the convention on the elimination of all forms of discrimination against women requires state parties to suppress of all forms of trafficking. The Government ratified the convention on 22 January 1986 and its optional protocol on 22 December 2000. This protocol allows individual women, or groups of women, to submit claims of violations of rights to the committee on the elimination of discrimination against women; and provides for an inquiry procedure enabling the committee to initiate inquiries into situations of grave or systematic violations of women's rights.

The Beijing declaration and the platform for action recognise not only that peace is inextricably linked with the advancement of women but also that armed and other types of conflict still persist in many parts of the world. The Government welcomes initiatives in recent years by the United Nations to address these issues, in particular, Resolution No. 1325 on women, peace and security adopted by the Security Council in 2000. This resolution reiterates the importance of bringing women, and a gender perspective, to the centre of all decisions regarding UN peace making, peace building and peacekeeping and acknowledges that rehabilitation and reconstruction require the full participation of women. The Government, along with its EU partners, commends the report by the Secretary General on women, peace and security arising from this resolution and its system wide implementation action plan to the Security Council. The Government also welcomes the UNIFEM report on women, war and peace which emphasises the leading role of women in peace building and the need to support women in this role.

Regarding the Deputy's query on Amnesty International Ireland's campaign on mental health in Ireland, we understand from the organisation that the focus of this campaign is purely domestic and therefore falls within the remit of my colleague, the Minister for Health and Children.

Question No. 79 answered with QuestionNo. 46.
Question No. 80 answered with QuestionNo. 43.