Wednesday, 18 July 2012

Questions (58)

Maureen O'Sullivan


57 Deputy Maureen O’Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade further to Parliamentary Question No. 115 of 22 May 2012, the outcome of his raising the human rights issues in Western Sahara with the Moroccan Government during the Universal Periodic Review of Morocco which took place at the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva in May; the extent of his dialogue with both Morocco and France in trying to support the principle of self-determination for the people of Western Sahara; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [35851/12]

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Written answers (Question to Minister for Foreign)

The 2nd Universal Periodic Review (UPR) of Morocco took place on 22 May 2012. Under the UPR process, each UN member state is subjected to a thorough review of its human rights record by the UN Human Rights Council approximately every four years. Ireland participates actively in the process, and submits questions and recommendations where appropriate to States undergoing review. In the course of the review of Morocco, Ireland raised its concerns about the human rights abuses in Western Sahara in particular reports of arbitrary arrest, detention and mistreatment of human rights defenders. Ireland recommended that independent and impartial inquiries should be carried out with respect to allegations of mistreatment in detention, and also recommended the inclusion of a broader human rights monitoring mechanism in the mandate of MINURSO, the UN peace-keeping mission in Western Sahara.

Morocco accepted Ireland's first recommendation with respect to inquiries into allegations of mistreatment in detention but rejected the recommendation of including a human rights monitoring mechanism in the mandate of MINURSO. The formal adoption of the report of Morocco's review is expected to take place during the 21st Session of the United Nations Human Rights Council in September 2012.

I regard the UPR process as an invaluable tool in raising standards and increasing awareness of human rights. While I regret that Morocco is not yet willing to accept the inclusion of a human rights monitoring mechanism in the mandate of MINURSO, I believe that its engagement with Human Rights Council special procedures is indicative of a greater willingness to engage with the international community on issues of mutual concern and also points to the gradual process of reform generally underway within the country which is to be welcomed and should be encouraged.

Ultimately, the most effective solution to the human rights issues arising in Western Sahara lies in a political resolution. Ireland continues to fully support the right to self-determination of the people of Western Sahara, and the continuing engagement of the United Nations in the search for a political solution in the territory based on the principle of self-determination. Regular contact is maintained by my Department with both the Moroccan Embassy and with the Polisario Representative in Ireland as regards developments in the Western Sahara while the issue is also regularly discussed with EU Partners in the relevant Council instances in Brussels. The EU also maintains an active dialogue with Morocco on political and human rights issues, including the Western Sahara.

While there had not been any breakthrough in a series of negotiations held earlier this year, I was encouraged that the two parties were engaging in dialogue with each other. The two sides were due to meet again in June and July for informal negotiations. I regret that these talks have not gone ahead as it is only through dialogue and engagement that the two sides will reach a political solution. I would encourage both parties to renew its engagement with the informal negotiations under the mandate of the UN Secretary General's Personal Envoy, Christopher Ross.