Oireachtas Joint and Select Committees

Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Joint Oireachtas Committee on Foreign Affairs and Trade, and Defence

Work of Front Line Defenders in Afghanistan: Discussion

Photo of David StantonDavid Stanton (Cork East, Fine Gael) | Oireachtas source

I thank the Chairman. I welcome our guests and thank them for their presence, their contribution and their work. When the Chairman and I were with the Department of Justice, we lived through the situation that obtained in Syria, which I often described as hell on earth. We now have another situation developing in Afghanistan which is the same if not worse. Horrific events are being reported. This morning I listened to Christina Lamb on "Today with Claire Byrne". Ms Lamb spoke about the people of Afghanistan as being particularly gentle and generous, and at the same time they are being subjected to this terrible abuse.

Mr. Anderson said something that struck me about reports across the world that democracy is in decline, and that the year 2020 was the 15th consecutive year of long-term global democratic decline. Is that Mr. Anderson's experience? Ireland is on the UN Security Council and we punch way above our weight in many places. What can we do about it?

Today is United Nations International Day for Universal Access to Information. Mr. Faiz spoke of journalists being persecuted, jailed and deprived of freedoms and liberty in Afghanistan. Will Mr. Anderson comment on that? We have seen reports across the globe where under certain regimes and in certain countries journalists are targeted because they are the people who get out the information and hold governments to account by telling everybody else what is going on.

Very often, journalists are one of the first points of contact for oppression when a regime takes power that is not democratic.

The issue of long-term imprisonment is, again, a major worry. There are more and more reports of people across the world being imprisoned without trial, cause or due process and who are just being left in prison. Does any of the witnesses have up-to-date numbers on how many people across the world are in that position at the moment, especially front-line defenders? I welcome the recognition that we in Ireland have been to the forefront in Europe and, possibly, the world in providing assistance and support. For a very small country, we are doing what we can. I know the people of Ireland want us to do what we can.

It is harrowing to hear what is going on. I sense we are only hearing some of it. What is happening in the Panjshir Valley has been alluded to, as has the total closedown of information. I am interested in that situation because I have watched it carefully and Mr. Faiz told us that all information has been shut down, so God knows what has happened there. I thank the Chair. I will leave it at that for the moment.


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