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Gnáthamharc

Foreign Conflicts.

Dáil Éireann Debate, Tuesday - 8 March 2005

Tuesday, 8 March 2005

Ceisteanna (88, 89)

Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin

Ceist:

104 Caoimhghín Ó Caoláin asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the World Council of Churches call for divestment from Israel; his position on same; the details of the Government’s investments in Israel; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7746/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí scríofa (Ceist ar Minister for Foreign)

I am aware of the document to which the Deputy refers, in which the central committee of the World Council of Churches "reminds churches with investment funds that they have an opportunity to use those funds responsibly in support of peaceful solutions to conflict" and refers to the possibility of selective divestment from multinational corporations involved with practices in breach of international law in the occupied Palestinian territories. I am not aware of any direct Government investments in Israel.

The Government is concerned at continuing breaches of international humanitarian law in the occupied Palestinian territories. The Government, both bilaterally and together with our partners in the European Union, has regularly conveyed its concerns to the Israeli authorities at the human rights implications of its security policies and stressed the importance of Israel complying with international humanitarian law.

Willie Penrose

Ceist:

105 Mr. Penrose asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on the growing number of unlawful killings in Nepal as the current conflict between the government of that country and the Communist Party of Nepal intensifies; if the Government has raised this matter at international and European Union level; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7731/05]

Amharc ar fhreagra

A rebellion against the monarchy of Nepal, led by the extreme left wing Nepal Communist Party — Maoists — has been ongoing since 1996. The insurgency has, to date, claimed approximately 10,000 lives. The rebels are fighting to abolish the constitutional monarchy and establish a socialist state in the Himalayan kingdom. It is estimated that more than 40% of the country is now under Maoist control.

On 29 January 2003, a ceasefire was declared by the Nepalese Government and the Maoist rebels. The ceasefire proposed to lead to further negotiations between the government and the Maoists and eventually to free and fair elections. On 13 March 2003, Nepal's government and the rebels agreed to release all prisoners of war and announced guidelines for peace talks. Three rounds of peace talks took place on 27 April, 9 May and 17 to 19 August 2003 but the process collapsed on 27 August 2003 when the Maoists stated they were withdrawing from the ceasefire because agreements reached had not been implemented and because the government would not agree to its demands, including setting up a constituent assembly. Fighting has continued since then.

On 1 February 2005, King Gyanendra Bir Bikram Shah Dev dismissed the country's government and declared a state of emergency, under Article 35 of the constitution. This suspended all civil liberties except habeas corpus, although there remains considerable confusion about which rights have been suspended. Party leaders were put under house arrest or detained in barracks, all telephone communications and Internet access was cut and the media were subject to strict military censorship or closed altogether. A heavier than normal security presence, including both the Royal Nepalese Army and police, appeared on the streets of Kathmandu and other major cities.

There are reports that the conflict has intensified in rural areas as both sides seek to influence civilian populations. These reports include the use of schools and school children as instruments of the power struggle, creation of village militias, lynching of Maoists by local villagers and mutilations by the Maoists of those breaking the blockade they imposed in early February in response to the king's actions.

The EU issued a statement on 2 February 2005, describing the king's takeover as a serious setback to multi-party democracy, expressing concern at the restrictions on civil liberties and human rights violations and calling for a negotiated and democratically based solution to the conflict. On 8 February 2005, the local EU Presidency had an audience with the king, during which the EU's deep concern at the king's actions, and the difficulties these actions had caused for the monarchy, both in Nepal and internationally, was expressed. The king was urged to release political prisoners immediately, lift the current restrictions on civil liberties and reach out to political parties.

On 14 February 2005, the ambassadors of EU member states, Norway and the US were recalled to their capitals for consultations in a concerted move designed to show that the international community did not condone the king's actions. The Indian Ambassador was recalled to New Delhi some days earlier and India also requested the postponement of the planned summit of the South Asian Association for Regional Co-operation, SAARC, planned for Dhaka from 6-7 February 2005, largely as an expression of its displeasure at events in Nepal.

On 28 February 2005, the EU issued a further statement in which it called on the king to take early measures to restore democratic freedoms and civil liberties and to lift the emergency powers he introduced following the takeover of power on 1 February. The statement also expressed the EU's concerns about the current human rights crisis in Nepal, the serious and systematic human rights violations by both sides in the conflict and the dangers posed to respect for human rights by the intensification of the conflict. EU heads of mission have now returned to Kathmandu. They continue to report on and monitor the situation closely.

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