Tuesday, 15 May 2018

Ceisteanna (30)

Maureen O'Sullivan


30. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if inquiries will be made into the continued imprisonment of a person (details supplied) in Honduras and the violation of human rights there. [21108/18]

Amharc ar fhreagra

Freagraí ó Béal (6 Óráidí) (Ceist ar Foreign)

My question concerns a particular individual, a lady who has been imprisoned in Honduras, and is also a general query about human rights violations in Honduras. I wish to ask whether our Government has made representations or inquiries and, if it has not, if it will do so as soon as possible.

I thank the Deputy for bringing this case to my attention. My understanding is that the individual referred to by the Deputy was released on parole on Saturday, 5 May and now awaits trial. I have asked officials of my Department to continue to monitor this case. The human rights situation in Honduras is a cause of deep concern. I echo the statement made on 12 March by the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights that the already fragile human rights situation in Honduras, which suffers from high levels of violence and insecurity, is likely to deteriorate further unless there is true accountability for human rights violations, and reforms are taken to address the deep political and social polarisation in the country.

It is my belief that all sides in Honduras must work within the political system and through the framework of constructive dialogue to deliver the political reforms necessary to secure the trust of the Honduran people in the country’s institutions.

The Deputy will be aware that Ireland contributed one long-term observer and one short-term observer to the EU election observer mission to Honduras last year. This was facilitated by the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. I take this opportunity to, once again, urge the Government of Honduras to take on board and adopt recommendations for reform made by the EU observer mission, in order to help restore much-needed public confidence in future electoral processes in the country.

It is positive to hear that the lady in question is out on parole. That comes from the extent of the inquiries made on her behalf. There is well-documented persecution of the woman at the hands of the police. She made a complaint to the authorities there as one would. That led to even more persecution and more violation of her human rights.

Her case is not isolated in Honduras. There was the murder of the high-profile environmentalists Berta Cáceres and Nelson García. These are people who were speaking up for the indigenous people and their communities, trying to protect the lands from multinational companies and the big corporations. We are rightly appalled at the unjust killing in Palestine. That type of unjust killing of human rights defenders goes on continually in countries like Honduras and Colombia.

Ireland's role was acknowledged in the universal periodic review of Colombia at which we raised those concerns. Honduras has the highest murder rate for environmental activists. Our voice is respected. We should use it more in these cases because I believe we are listened to.

Depending on the case, it is sometimes helpful to raise international voices. However, sometimes it can put people at risk. Human rights defenders are sometimes difficult to defend because if one raises their profile, they are targeted more. Other times, raising their profile can protect them.

I take it that because the Deputy raised this case, she feels it would be helpful for us to raise the profile of the individual concerned in order to protect her. We will continue to monitor the case and I will keep the Deputy updated on it.

I believe the NGOs would not have brought it to my attention if they thought there was any danger to the lady in question. The broader point is that it is our societies’ demands for natural resources which is fuelling the conflict in these lands. In these countries, as well as that demand on the land, we are looking at corruption, organised crime, political instability and militarised police forces. On the one hand, there are the indigenous people, the poorest of the poor, while on the other, we have wealth and power. It is the rights of the poor which are constantly eroded.

The Minister referred to strategic development goals, SDGs, earlier. How can there be any success or movement on the SDGs when those kinds of human rights violations continue? There is an issue for the World Bank and the IMF which are funding these large companies. We already have had an example of Dutch and Finnish banks which have withdrawn their funding for some of these projects. We need more to do so.

I accept we were part of the election monitoring but there are concerns over it. There is no doubt there were abuses of the system. The EU's report was rather late in coming out and challenging what happened. We know people who lost their lives because they were objecting to the unfairness of the election and the corrupt way in which it was carried out.

I do not disagree with anything that has been said. The challenge for the international community, particularly through UN structures, is the sheer number of countries which the UN is trying to influence positively at the same time. There are so many conflict zones and governments which are not fulfilling their obligations under international law and so forth. This case has been raised by NGOs and by the Deputy. I will certainly try to ensure we follow the case closely.