Adjournment Matters. - Genocide in Rwanda.

I propose to share my time with Senator Ross.

I, for one, was disappointed to hear what was announced by the Government yesterday on the Minister of State's proposed visit to east Africa. While well meaning, it is a slightly cosmetic exercise and utterly futile. The Minister is aware of the facts. He has seen the television images and the pictures in the papers. He is well intentioned and will do anything he can, but his journey to the region will not meet the requirements of the situation. The UN debated this matter in Geneva today and attempted to decide if there had been genocide in the region in recent times. In this respect I quote from an article in The Independent newspaper of 24 May 1994:

The killing goes on. It could get worse. For seven weeks now, the massacres have continued. Who knows how many have died. No one has counted, no one could. Thousands of bodies, bleached and bloated, are turning up in Lake Victoria, washed down by the river Kagera from the killing grounds 150 miles away.

Hundreds of thousands have died in recent months, both in Rwanda and in neighbouring Burundi, and the UN, related bodies and other countries have been found wanting.

While a visit such as that proposed by the Minister is well intentioned, it will be no more than a cosmetic exercise. The Government must raise the matter at other levels. There was a protest today outside the House by Amnesty International which called for specific measures, such as the appointment of a Special Rapporteur, obtaining further and full reports, increasing the number of police monitors and establishing an international court to deal with these horrific crimes.

People must be brought to book. It has been often said that after the last war if people had known how bad matters were perhaps certain things would not have happened. The pictures illustrate, and the Minister must be aware of, the hundreds of thousands of bodies being washed up, the genocide, the mass killings and the mass graves.

There is little point in diplomacy, in the holding of various kinds of discussion and in attempting to find the wording for various motions to ascertain if there has been genocide, as reported on news programmes this evening. Are those engaged in such activities for real? Are they dealing with the situation? Do they know what they are about?

I ask the Minister to act at his own level, and with his colleagues, both within the EU and the UN, to put this matter on a different plane. The Minister should give serious consideration to the measures proposed by Amnesty International to endeavour to resolve this very difficult situation. Nobody has said it is easy, but there is no point in the UN discussing the technical possibility that genocide has taken place in the region. Are those participating in that exercise living in the real world?

I welcome this opportunity to raise this matter and I ask the Minister to respond to the situation.

The Minister's gesture, while well intentioned, is indicative of the impotence of Irish foreign policy at present. The Irish contribution to the problem of Bosnia Herzegovina has been pitiful and pathetic, representing a deliberate effort to jump on the UN and EU bandwagon, the lowest common denominator, and not to take any decision.

The issue raised by this Adjournment Matter is one of life and death. The Minister announced yesterday that he will visit east Africa. The House is not yet aware of his itinerary, whether he will visit Rwanda and, if so, whether he will get into Rwanda or Burundi.

I will advise the Senator and provide him with the details.

I look forward to the Minister's advice on this. However, his visit is unnecessary because the Minister advises that it is a fact finding tour. Everybody is aware of the facts regarding the situation in Rwanda and Burundi. The Minister is aware that up to 500,000 people have been slaughtered and massacred by genocide in Rwanda alone, that 100,000 people were killed in Burundi between October and December 1993, that 700,000 people fled to neighbouring countries from Burundi and that 250,000 were displaced during that period.

The Minister does not have to visit the region to ascertain these facts. They are published by reputable organisations, including Amnesty International. They are known in the EU, the UN and all over the world. The Minister is visiting the region because of a feeling of utter helplessness about what the Government can do, because this situation has been ongoing, on a massive scale at least since October 1993, and much longer before that.

Given this, the international community has been hopeless and pitiful in its response. Gestures are not required, such as the Minister visiting the region to display what he terms the concern of the Irish people. I do not doubt his good intentions. The House is aware that in the past he is a man who has shown good intentions and sympathy for underdeveloped nations. However, I do not like the sight of Ministers from this country visiting places where poverty, starvation and murder is taking place and then flying home to report on something which we all know is happening anyway.

If the Minister were to promise action to the House tonight I would be relieved. If he promises that some of the demands for action which Amnesty International listed today in their protest outside the House will be addressed, then perhaps some progress would be made. If he promised an Irish initiative which disassociates itself from the utter Pontius Pilate attitude of the multinational organisations such as the UN and the EU, I would respect him for it. However, unless the Minister convinces me otherwise, his trip abroad will not solve any problems or save any lives.

I make one or two suggestions, taken from the document circulated today by Amnesty International. The document asks why Burundi was excluded from consideration by the UN Commission on Human Rights at its meeting in Geneva today? The problems of Burundi and Rwanda are similar as they have a similar tribal mix. The document asks why the Government did not insist that Burundi be included? Is there only worry about Rwanda because it happens to be high profile today? Burundi will be high profile tomorrow, as it was last year.

The document sets out demands, some of which the Minister might give a commitment to:

1. to appoint a Special Rapporteur on Burundi and Rwanda and the resources available to the Special Rapporteur should include the Commission's own experts.

2. to ensure the rapid return of the 52 UN civilian police monitors (CIVPOLS) to Rwanda. They should have an expanded mandate to report and take-up human rights abuses committed by all parties and should be increased to the 90 suggested by the UN Secretary General.

3. to ensure that UNAMIR troops do not remain silent witnesses but report what they see and what is reported to them in Rwanda.

4. as soon as feasible a more comprehensive civilian rights monitoring mission should be established in both Burundi and Rwanda with participation by the Organisation for African Unity.

5. to strengthen and implement human rights guarantees in the Arusha Peace Accords.

6. to ensure that individuals who have committed gross human rights violations are brought to justice.

7. to establish an independent international criminal court to try those responsible for war crimes.

8. to establish an independent and impartial commission of enquiry consistent with international standards.

Those are the minimum concrete measures which are necessary for the Minister to insist upon. The Minister should not advise the House that he is visiting the region to express the concern of the Irish people, because their concern is useless, but he should give concrete proposals and advise that he will return to the House after his trip to detail his achievements, not his concern.

The appalling genocide that has been taking place in Rwanda since early April 1994 is a tragedy of unprecedented proportions. In its intensity and savagery, the butchery and slaughter of the people of Rwanda has no parallels in recent history. It is difficult to believe that such horrors could take place in our time. What is happening in Rwanda before our eyes is another shameful chapter of man's inhumanity to man.

The Government has already forcefully condemned the fighting and the slaughter as an affront to everything we stand for and to the international system of order and justice for which we work. The Government is taking the most serious view of what is happening in Rwanda. In the face of such horror, we believe that the highest level of co-ordinated response is called for by the international community. Indeed, we have actively sought to bring about such action within the United Nations and the European Union.

As an instance of the Government's deep concern, Senators are aware that I intend to lead what Senator Ross calls a fact finding mission to the East African region this coming weekend to assess at first hand the political situation and the urgent humanitarian needs which have arisen as a result of the terrible events in Rwanda.

I plan to travel to Tanzania on Saturday. On Sunday, I will visit the refugee camp at Ngara which is just inside Tanzania's border with Rwanda. Over 280,000 Rwandans have fled across the border from the terror in their own country and have found refuge in the camp at Ngara. On Monday I will visit another refugee camp, this time at Karagwe, which is being run by Concern and Goal. There are over 50,000 refugees in this camp.

I will have talks with the Tanzanian Government and with representatives of the United Nations. My aim in our talks will be to convey my support for the peace efforts of the Tanzanian Government, the United Nations and the Irish aid effort. Having made an assessment of the situation on the ground, I will, on my return, urge my European Union colleagues to intensify their efforts at the political and humanitarian level to bring about an end to this terrible conflict and to ease the suffering of the people of Rwanda. This is not unusual for a Minister for Overseas Development Assistance and I have done so in the case of Sudan, which I visited to see the situation on the ground. This visit helped me convince my colleagues at a meeting of the EU Council of Development Ministers of the need for greater action. Some of the other Ministers also spoke of this need. I remember in particular the contribution of Mr. Pronk, the Minister from Holland.

As Senators will know, Tanzania is playing a crucial role in receiving the hundreds of thousands of refugees who have fled from Rwanda. President Mwinyi of Tanzania is playing an important mediating role in seeking to bring about a ceasefire between the warring parties in Rwanda and to end the terrible slaughter there. Tanzania is one of our priority bilateral countries. I met the Prime Minister, Mr. Malacela in the past and will meet him on this occasion if I get the opportunity to do so, but I will be meeting representatives of his Government. It is important to point out that at this level I, on behalf of the Government, hope to advance the whole process because Tanzania has a crucial role to play. I know from the number of people who have contacted me that there is public support for such a visit.

Yesterday I met with the major NGOs from this country and they would certainly support this visit. There are specific things I will do. The information I obtain from this visit — I am aware of the situation on the ground from reports — will give me added strength, especially at EU level. I outlined in the Dáil last evening the key points of Ireland's policy in the international arena towards Rwanda. Our focus has been for action at the United Nations and at European Union level.

At the United Nations we have supported a review by the UN Security Council of the size and mandate of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Rwanda (UNAMIR). This has now been carried out. We have supported a mission to Rwanda and neighbouring Burundi by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. We have also supported a UN Security Council arms embargo on Rwanda which has now been implemented by a Security Council resolution.

At European Union level we have supported an emergency meeting of the UN Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. This emergency meeting began yesterday and is expected to conclude late this evening. While we are not currently a member of the commission, we are attending the meeting as an observer. Our delegation has played a very active part in the European Union's contribution to the debate in Geneva today.

Some 55 delegations and NGOs have asked to speak at the emergency meeting of the commission. The UN High Commissioner for Refugees and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights both addressed the commission. This is the first occasion that both High Commissioners appeared together at a session of the commission. The Director General of the World Health Organisation also addressed the commission. This is a clear indicator of global concern at what is happening in Rwanda.

It is likely that the commission will this evening adopt by consensus a strongly worded and comprehensive resolution on the situation of human rights in Rwanda. Ireland is co-sponsoring this resolution. This resolution will state that the killing of members of an ethnic group, with the intention of destroying such a group in whole or in part, constitutes the crime of genocide. The resolution will also state that it believes that acts of genocide may have occurred in Rwanda. It will strongly urge all parties to cease immediately any incitement to violence or ethnic hatred.

The resolution will appoint a Special Rapporteur with a broad mandate to investigate human rights abuses and breaches of international humanitarian law in Rwanda, including acts of genocide. It will also call for those responsible to be brought to justice.

The resolution will express its grave concern at the failure to date of the Rwandan authorities to condemn the ongoing massacres in the country. It will call on the Government of Rwanda to condemn publicly and take measures to put an end to all violations of human rights and international law within its jurisdiction.

It will also condemn in the strongest terms all breaches of international humanitarian law and all violations and abuses of human rights in Rwanda. It will call on parties to the conflict to ensure safe passage for those fleeing from the conflict areas, including, where necessary, to asylum countries, and to ensure the right of return under safe conditions.

I believe this resolution, when adopted this evening, will send a clear message that the world wants an end to the conflict and slaughter in Rwanda. For its part, the Government will continue to use every avenue open to it to bring an end to the conflict and to the nightmare of the people of Rwanda.

May I ask a supplementary question?

I do not have time. I am acting Government Chief Whip today.

I find the Minister's reply totally unsatisfactory. He said that the world wants an end to conflict and slaughter. If this is his conclusion it is an obvious one.

An Leas-Chathaoirleach

The Minister pointed out that he has to leave.

What initiative has the Government taken on its own on this crisis?

I have said all I wanted to say. In my reply every possible question the Senator could raise has been addressed.