Tuesday, 21 April 2015

Questions (566)

Bernard Durkan

Question:

566. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the extent to which he and his European Union colleagues continue to focus on various locations worldwide, where basic human rights are being eroded persistently; if action will be taken to address this issue; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15697/15]

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Written answers (Question to Foreign)

The promotion and protection of human rights is a central objective of Ireland’s foreign policy. In the Government’s recent review of foreign policy, The Global Island: Ireland’s Foreign Policy for a Changing World, we re-affirmed our commitment to the universality, indivisibility and interrelatedness of all human rights, to accountability for human rights violations and abuses, and to the protection of those who are most vulnerable and marginalised. Together with our EU partners, Ireland closely monitors the human rights situations in many countries throughout the world. We do this on the basis of information obtained from a variety of sources including both official channels and non-governmental/civil society organisations. Where and when the situation warrants, we make known our concerns about human rights violations to the Governments in question. We do this bilaterally, through the EU or via the positions we take at the UN General Assembly and in the UN Human Rights Council. We support the use of the full UN human rights machinery in responding to human rights abuses. This includes support for the role of the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Human Rights Treaty Monitoring Bodies, the Special Procedure Mandate Holders and for the convening, where appropriate, of Special Sessions of the UN Human Rights Council. The EU regularly makes statements at these bodies on the human rights situations in individual countries and Ireland is fully associated with these statements. The EU also introduces or supports resolutions dealing with specific countries.

Since March 2006, when the UN Human Rights Council was formed, Ireland has engaged proactively with the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) mechanism initiated by the Council. The UPR mechanism allows for the review of the domestic human rights records of all 193 UN Member States approximately every four and a half years, based on human rights obligations under UN human rights and other instruments. Any UN Member State can take part in the interactive dialogue (i.e. the actual examination of the State under review) and submit written questions in advance. Ireland was itself examined under the UPR process on 6 October 2011.

The process enables UN Member States to raise issues, some of which would have been identified by members of the public and civil society, and to make recommendations about the protection and promotion of human rights in the State concerned. Ireland has engaged fully with the UPR process and welcomes the open and constructive dialogue associated with it. We have also made numerous interventions during the UPR examination of other states, raising issues of concern such as gender-based violence, freedom of expression, religious freedom, freedom of assembly, and the protection of human rights defenders within the State under review.

The EU has adopted Common Positions on certain countries, which attach priority to promoting human rights, democracy, good governance and the rule of law. In addition, the EU conducts human rights dialogues with a number of countries and also raises human rights concerns as part of political dialogue meetings. In June 2012 the EU adopted a Strategic Framework and Action Plan on Human Rights and Democracy.

Ireland and its EU partners have been strong and consistent supporters of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means of combating impunity for the most serious violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law. The Court’s Prosecutor has opened investigations into a number of country situations and we will continue to monitor this work closely.

Ireland has also consistently taken the lead in negotiating resolutions at the United Nations General Assembly and in the Human Rights Council, of which we are a member for the period 2013 to 2015, on the promotion and protection of human rights defenders, as well as on the implementation of EU Guidelines in relation to human rights defenders in third countries, the aim being to ensure that the latter can operate in an environment free from hindrance and insecurity.

The promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms has always been a cornerstone of Ireland’s aid programme. Ireland’s new policy on international development, ‘One World One Future’, reaffirms the centrality of human rights to Ireland’s foreign policy and aid programme, and commits to ensuring that human rights principles and standards are promoted, protected and integrated in all of our development efforts. The Government’s development cooperation programme, Irish Aid, addresses the root causes of poverty and exclusion by focussing on the most vulnerable and promoting their participation, representation, and the means to realise their rights. This includes investing in the improvement and expansion of essential services, and support to organisations that promote human rights, governance, and democracy in developing countries, including civil society and the UN office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights. Mindful that the risk of human rights violations is greater where political, economic and administrative systems are weak, Irish Aid promotes access to justice and supports the strengthening of government institutions, parliaments, and independent media, and national human rights institutions.

The Government will continue to avail of all the above-mentioned mechanisms and instruments with a view to highlighting violations of human rights and furthering their protection.