Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Paul Connaughton


48 Mr. Connaughton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will make a statement on the Government's role in promoting human rights internationally. [15021/02]

Under An Agreed Programme for Government, the Government is committed to continue to play an active role in promoting development, human rights and democracy. Human rights are a priority of this Government and a central component of our foreign policy. The Government is actively pursuing its human rights priorities in a wide range of international fora, both on a national basis and also in conjunction with our EU partners.

Ireland will continue to fulfil its obligation to promote the observance of universal human rights standards. We will continue to voice our concerns wherever possible in partnership with other like-minded countries in international fora such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the OSCE. Ireland has also been closely concerned with human rights issues at the UN Security Council since taking up our seat in January 2001.

Ireland is actively engaged in the discussion of specific issues with like-minded countries, for example notably in the group known as the Human Security Network. The aim of this group is to establish the principle of human security as a central element in the international community's approach to situations of conflict. Its members are Austria, Canada, Chile, Greece, Netherlands, Jordan, Mali, Norway, Switzerland and Thailand. The Fourth Ministerial Meeting of the Network will take place in Santiago on 2-3 July and will be attended by Minister of State, Deputy Tom Kitt.

The Government is committed to the active promotion of full observance of universal human rights standards. The obligations we have assumed in relation to international human rights instruments to which we are party will continue to be met in the fullest way possible.

Bernard J. Durkan


49 Mr. Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his plans to mobilise and influence international opinion and address the issue of slavery and the illegal trading in human beings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [15035/02]

The Universal Declaration of Human Rights states that "No one shall be held in slavery or servitude: slavery and the slave trade shall be prohibited in all their forms". Full adherence to the absolute values enshrined in the declaration is of paramount importance. The concept of slavery has broadened from the traditional concept of the slave trade and now includes practices such as bonded labour and child labour.

The Government is committed to the active promotion of full observance of universal human rights standards, including opposing and seeking the elimination of all contemporary forms of slavery. Contemporary forms of slavery include practices such as bonded labour, the sale of children, child prostitution, child pornography, the exploitation of child labour, the sexual mutilation of female children, the use of children in armed conflicts, debt bondage and trafficking in persons. We voice our concerns wherever possible, in partnership with other like-minded countries, in international fora such as the UN General Assembly, the UN Commission on Human Rights, the Council of Europe and the OSCE.

Efforts to eliminate contemporary forms of slavery involve a wide spectrum of international organisations, NGOs and governments. Slavery and human rights issues in general are normally considered by the UN bodies which have a specific role and expertise in this area, notably the Commission on Human Rights and the International Labour Organisation. Ireland has ratified the ILO Convention on the Worst Forms of Child Labour, in which Article 3 defines "all forms of child slavery or practices similar to slavery" as comprising the worst form of child labour.

The then Minister of State at the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Employment, Deputy Kitt, led the delegation to the 89th International Labour Conference in Geneva in June 2001. He raised the issue of bonded labour in the course of the discussion at the plenary session of the conference where he put forward a number of practical measures to address this specific problem. The Minister of State's proposals received the strong support of the majority of his EU member state colleagues. Mr. Juan Somavia, the Director-General of the ILO, made specific reference to the Minister of State's call for special measures to deal with the problems of bonded labour.

At the 56th session of the General Assembly in 2001, the EU put forward a resolution welcoming the adoption of the Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish the Trafficking in Persons, especially Women and Children, as a supplement to the UN Convention against Transnational Organised Crime. The EU put forward a resolution at the 58th session of the Commission on Human Rights, which called on all states to implement their commitments to eliminate child labour in its worst form, and especially where it interferes with the child's education, health or development. In this regard, states are asked to consider ratifying ILO Convention No. 182 on the worst forms of child labour.

Ireland, in a national statement at the CHR, highlighted the issue of slavery as one of the most complex challenges the international community face today and called for the ratification by all states of the relevant conventions. Additionally, the declaration and Plan of Action of the UN General Assembly Special Session on Children in May this year prioritised addressing the trafficking of children and protecting them from harm and exploitation. The Government remains committed to addressing the issue of slavery and the illegal trading of human beings in all appropriate fora.