Thursday, 16 December 2021
Proceeds of Crime (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill 2020: Second Stage [Private Members]
In this, the closing debate of this Dáil term and of 2021, I thank Deputy Howlin for bringing forward this Bill. As the contributions heretofore have highlighted, it is an important Private Members' Bill because as Deputy Howlin said, the world has changed and financial institutions have changed. In fact, the world has shrunk in the context of the ability to move assets of all types very quickly into different jurisdictions and it has become more complex for states to respond to that type of behaviour. That is why it is important to discuss the Proceeds of Crime (Gross Human Rights Abuses) Bill, the thrust and intentions of which I fully support.
I welcome the fact that the Government is not opposing this Bill. It is very important that it proceeds to the next Stage so that it can be fleshed out and elaborated. It is a pity that there are not more Deputies contributing to this very important debate. Like Deputy Bacik, I have worked for the past two years with Front Line Defenders. Working with that organisation allows those of us who are fortunate to live in a very stable democracy to get a glimpse into the world of those who are not as fortunate, who do not live in stable democracies or who have no democracy at all. The totalitarian states that some people live in and the fear they live in under bear no comparison to the western world. I want to praise all front-line defenders for the work they do.
This Bill has its origins in the Magnitsky legislation and it is important to remember the brutal nature of Sergei Magnitsky's death in 2009. His courage and legacy live on in various parliaments around the world. I am pleased that the Bill is not being opposed and will progress to Second Stage. The international criminal justice net needs to be tightened further and Ireland needs to play its part in that regard. While we have the Proceeds of Crime Act 1996 and other iterations, it is important that we review our stance and our ability to respond to these issues.
The extended scope and definition of the criminal conduct element of this Bill would be subjected to inevitable and possibly protracted legal debate within various jurisdictions. Obviously, we have to realise that some of those jurisdictions do not have the most robust legal systems. Therefore, it is incumbent on us to play our part in Ireland and to encourage our European counterparts to do likewise. I want to highlight a specific element of the Bill to which Deputy Howlin referred earlier. The Bill provides that conduct constitutes a gross human rights abuse if it meets certain conditions, one of which is that it is "carried out by, or at the instigation or with the consent or acquiescence of, a public official...". It is important that this House scrutinises that provision further on Committee Stage because while I accept that definition, we need to be as broad as possible to ensure that various scenarios which may arise in the context of the intentions of this Bill are considered.
I will leave it at that. I thank the Ceann Comhairle for everything this year. I also thank the Minister of State for participating in this debate.