Dáil debates

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]


6:05 pm

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

I apologise to all the staff being dragged in here at this hour on a Thursday evening.

The Bill will provide for a universal jurisdiction of human rights; enable the charging and conviction of persons who breach international human rights law in cases of, but not limited to, genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State; and, for these purposes, amend the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2006.

The principle of universal jurisdiction is an essential tool to reduce the unevenness in the sphere of international justice. Currently, officials and decision makers from powerful states are at a remove from justice, while those from weaker states are not afforded this unfortunate layer of protection. The responsible use of universal jurisdiction is essential if we are to work towards a world in which crimes against humanity do not go unpunished, no matter where the perpetrators come from.

The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is limited, with only 110 states parties. The Rome Statute of the ICC is not universally ratified and it does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed before July 2002. Without the principle of universal jurisdiction, this situation leaves us with safe havens all around the world and no justice for crimes committed over 15 years ago. These are just the technical issues, completely overshadowed by the political reality that the ICC is being, and has been, strangled by the UN Security Council and that it is no longer fit for purpose. The veto powers have corrupted both the council and the ICC so that the acceptable face of terrorism - the US, the UK, France, NATO and others - can protect themselves from justice.

Universal jurisdiction plays a central role in the enforcement of international humanitarian law and the conditions for opening criminal proceedings or justifying a refusal to open them must be clearly defined at national level. It is essential that the legislation be properly used to prosecute war crimes, using both national and extraterritorial jurisdiction.

We have the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other fundamentally important laws that are abused every day, so often without consequence. The world order to which successive complicit, right-wing Governments of Ireland have unfortunately subscribed, whereby, to quote Denis Halliday, "powerful states use military might to make the rules for their exploitive, political, and natural resource greed is palpable and explosive in the Middle-East, Africa and elsewhere, and makes a mockery of the notion of international justice and accountability."

In 1984, the United Nations Convention against Torture was signed by all nations bar a small handful. In recent years, we have seen the travesty of Abu Ghraib, the CIA dark site prisons, Guantánamo Bay, the rendition programme and the CIA torture report, and there has been no justice. About four years ago, a debate even opened in America about the legitimacy of torture. The current US President, the man our leader is going over to have an awkward handshake with next week - said that torture "absolutely" works. This is an insane situation. We are moving backwards and humanitarian law is not being upheld. Torture is a crime under any circumstances, irrespective of whether one calls it "enhanced interrogation techniques" or something equally ridiculous. Perpetrators cannot continue to operate with immunity.

The most glaring case of top-down institutional torture in recent years is, sadly, one in which Ireland played a part by allowing the American military the use of Shannon Airport, yet no one has faced justice for the crimes surrounding the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and the ICC refuses to carry out its function in this respect despite a wealth of evidence.

In 2005, the Prime Minister of Malaysia appointed a war crimes commission to investigate, among other matters, crimes of torture. The former co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian programme in Iraq, Denis Halliday, was a member of the commission. The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The commission met many victims of torture who had been detained in the prisons of Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. These included Satar Jabar, the man in the now infamous photo of the tortured man in the hood.

In May 2012, the commission found George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, guilty of war crimes in absentia.

Prime Minister Mahathir sent two volumes of compelling torture evidence to the International Criminal Court, ICC, in The Hague. The Office of the Prosecutor of the ICC in The Hague responded months later with a standard letter pointing out that the court did not consider itself "competent" in this matter. In June 2014 Halliday and other members of the Commission presented the same evidence to a joint Iraq hearing of members of the UK House of Lords and the House of Commons. So far there has not been an acknowledgement of the receipt of this material.

We are looking at a situation where these legal tools, that are designed to level the playing field in the fight to uphold humanitarian justice, are being used very selectively, or being fought against when used against criminals from more powerful countries. Politicians love to speak about justice and peace, but when they, in their role as salespeople for the corporate sector, are confronted with war criminals and murderers they are silent. In Ireland we only have to look at our cosy relationship with Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, UAE, and friends, and our complete silence about the atrocities in Yemen. The message is a very sad one, but it is very clear: murder, death and destruction are of no consequence when weighed against economic imperatives. Moral values, and ethical codes, are easily bought.

It is precisely this backdrop of collusion on the part of the political class that necessitates the use of the universal jurisdiction mechanism. Under this law, cases could be brought to the Director of Public Prosecutions, DPP, by civil society, and usually it has been done by victims, and non-governmental organisations, NGOs, which are frequently the principal sources of evidence, or of witnesses that could establish responsibility for the crime alleged.

Landmark universal jurisdiction cases, such as the opening of a prosecution against Augusto Pinochet in Spain and the request for his extradition from the United Kingdom, and a Belgian court's indictment and extradition request for former Chadian dictator Hissne Habre, have been initiated through complaints lodged by private parties.

In Spain, private petitions, which routinely face resistance by the prosecutorial authorities themselves, have been the driving force behind universal jurisdiction cases. In the Spanish system, petitioners lodge a popular action directly with an investigative judge. This judge determines whether there is sufficient evidence to open an investigation, and is empowered to order necessary steps to enable the investigation to proceed. Generally, in such a system, the investigative judge will rule whether there is sufficient evidence, once the investigation is completed, for the case to proceed to trial. This popular action procedure was the basis for the international arrest warrant in the Pinochet case; the indictment, prosecution and conviction in Spain of former Argentine military officer Adolfo Scilingo; and the successful extradition from Mexico of former Argentine military officer Manuel Cavallo. The latter were both charged with crimes against humanity. In France and Belgium, private petitioners have initiated almost all complaints. Belgium's two major criminal trials involving universal jurisdiction - both concerning participants in the Rwandan genocide - were the result of complaints lodged with prosecutors by civil society. The process is very similar to how the Spanish system works. A popular action informs an investigative judge of the case, irrespective of the wishes of the prosecutor. All cases lodged thus far under French universal jurisdiction laws have been brought by civil society.

UK law used to permit private individuals to request an arrest warrant directly from a district judge in instances where the police fail to investigate an allegation that a crime has been committed. On 10 September 2005, based on evidence presented by a UK law firm acting on behalf of a Palestinian human rights NGO, Senior District Judge Timothy Workman issued the first ever warrant under the UK's Geneva Conventions Act 1957 against retired Israeli General Doron Almog. The warrant sought Almog's arrest for his alleged participation in grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions in Israeli occupied Gaza, where he had been a commander. Almog arrived at Heathrow Airport the following day, but did not disembark from his flight after he was informed of the existence of the warrant. He returned to Israel before the Metropolitan Police could execute the warrant. In an act of pitiful cowardice, both the UK Prime Minister and Foreign Secretary apologised to their Israeli counterparts concerning the incident, and efforts were made to change the law to preclude private parties from applying for arrest warrants in relation to international crimes. The law was eventually changed in 2011 under pressure from the Israeli Government. This kind of cowardice and collusion, is one of the reasons the situation in Palestine is deteriorating. If the world looks away when the Israeli military bomb and murder hundreds of innocent women and children, if there is no consequence, no justice, for these recurring and grossly disproportionate air assaults on Palestinians, which, obscenely, the Israeli generals have taken to calling "mowing the lawn" what chance is there for peace? Every week Israeli forces unlawfully kill Palestinian civilians, including children, continue to detain thousands of Palestinians who oppose Israel's continuing military occupation and apartheid, and torture detainees with impunity.

There is no debate about the veracity of what I say, and there is no debate about these crimes. If the soldiers, military officials, and ministers that perpetrate these crimes set foot in Ireland they need to face justice, as they will not face justice where they operate. Without justice there will be no peace, but we in the West are trundling towards a world where, in the general discourse, peace means war, and justice is injustice. The original name given to the illegal wars of aggression against Afghanistan and Iraq was Operation Infinite Justice. The US military carpet bombed large areas of those countries, dropping white phosphorous on civilians, while politicians in here cheered them on and allowed Shannon to be used as a military base for this savagery.

On 28 December 2014, US-led coalition airstrikes killed over 50 Syrian civilians in the town of AI-Rab close to the Turkish border. It was days before civil defence workers could dig out the victims' bodies. The civilians were labelled collateral damage and no one was held responsible. It was barely reported. Approximately a week later, the offices of Charlie Hebdowere attacked and over a dozen people killed. The world mourned, people held vigils, there was a march supposedly to defend freedom of expression. In the words of the Guardian's Seumas Milne, the march:

was led by serried ranks of warmongers and autocrats: from Nato war leaders and Israel's Binyamin Netanyahu, to Jordan's King Abdullah and Egypt's foreign minster, who between them have jailed, killed and flogged any number of journalists, while staging massacres and interventions that have left hundreds of thousands dead, bombing TV stations from Serbia to Afghanistan as they go.

Here in the Dáil, with blatant disregard for the existence of historical or current events, the Taoiseach said that the rally in Paris was an important display of unity and a rejection of the use of terror in the pursuit of political or religious goals. As I have said, the function of the tool of universal jurisdiction is to level the playing field for those looking for justice for crimes against humanity. In the current political climate, where leaders routinely describe a world that has scant connection to reality, the field is increasingly uneven, and justice ever more elusive. I hope that this Bill can aid in some way to redress the balance.

There are some problems with the Bill, which I would like to correct on the next Stage. I would like to change the interpretation section, which is section 1, as the list of crimes that fall under the category of crimes against humanity are well documented and provided for in existing legislation. I would like to amend the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 in order to provide for the retrospective application of the law against criminal acts, including torture. Sadly when this Act was introduced it did not cover criminal acts which took place before the commencement of the Act in 2000. Also, I would like to amend section 9(4) of the International Criminal Court Act 2006 in order to extend not just extraterritorial effect, but retrospective effect, to all the international crimes covered. There are a number of changes to he made to the Bill, which is far from perfect. We want to stimulate debate on the subject and would be more than happy to take the thoughts and recommendations of others on board. We do not have a closed mind about what others feel they can bring to the table to improve things. It is far from perfect. We have a problem in the way international justice is organised, structured and the UN Security Council has made a laughing stock of it all because the US, Russia and China are never indicted for anything because they can veto resolutions at the UN Security Council. To date the ICC has indicted 36 people, and every one of them is from Africa. Only two were convicted but it is a huge problem that we do not have the means or the will, although I know there is legislation in place which would let us address much of what I have said but we are not doing it. I would like to think that by bringing this Bill in and talking about it we can highlight the fact things are not the way they should be and we can think seriously about our role in this area.

6:25 pm

Photo of Andrew DoyleAndrew Doyle (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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7 o’clock

I thank Deputy Wallace for bringing the Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015 before the House for discussion. I am responding to him on behalf of the Tánaiste who, unfortunately, cannot be here.

As the Deputy has outlined, the purpose of the Bill we are considering is to amend the International Criminal Court Act 2006 and the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 with a view to providing universal jurisdiction in respect of a number of crimes, namely, crimes against humanity, genocide, war crimes and torture; defining the crimes specified; and providing for the penalties to be imposed on a person being found guilty of the crimes specified. It is clear that the Bill arises from the Deputy's genuine concern that international crimes of the most serious nature should not go unpunished. The House cannot doubt Deputy Wallace's sincere motivation in introducing this Bill.

The exercise of universal jurisdiction involves the prosecution by the State of a person in Ireland for a crime committed anywhere, regardless of that person's nationality. As it is an exception to the general principle of non-intervention in the internal affairs of other states, it requires the sanction of international law. Article 29.8 of the Constitution limits the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to "the generally recognised principles of international law". Under Irish law, universal jurisdiction may be exercised in respect of certain war crimes and torture. War crimes constituting grave breaches of the 1949 Geneva Conventions or other specified serious violations of the laws and customs applicable in international armed conflict, as set out in Article 8.2 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court, may be prosecuted under the International Criminal Court Act 2006. Torture, pursuant to the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, may be prosecuted under the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000. However, there is no international agreement on crimes against humanity or genocide. The 1948 Genocide Convention does not provide for the exercise of universal jurisdiction. As such, there is no rule of customary international law that provides for the exercise of universal jurisdiction in respect of these crimes.

The International Criminal Court Act 2006 already provides the basis for the prosecution in Ireland of crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. It provides definitions for those crimes and sets out the applicable jurisdiction regime in respect of each of the crimes and the applicable penalties. Equally, the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 provides the basis for the prosecution in Ireland of torture. It provides a definition for "torture" and sets out the applicable jurisdiction regime and the applicable penalties. The 2006 and 2000 Acts were enacted to ensure that Ireland could comply with its obligations upon becoming a party to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court and the 1984 UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.

The concerns underlying this Bill, which seeks to ensure that there should be no impunity regarding the serious crimes listed in it, are commonly shared. The international community, in adopting the Rome Statute in 1998, created the International Criminal Court to ensure that the most serious crimes of concern to the community as a whole do not go unpunished. Ireland has been a consistent and strong supporter of the International Criminal Court, recognising it as an essential means for bringing to justice those responsible for the most serious international crimes. With the exception of a referral by the UN Security Council, the jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is limited to crimes committed by the nationals of states parties or committed on the territory of states parties. The criticisms that are made in connection with the International Criminal Court's failure to act in the case of atrocities in various parts of the world, such as Syria and Iraq, relate to the fact that the relevant states are not parties to the Rome Statute. Until adherence to the Rome Statute is universal, the jurisdiction of the court will be limited. Ireland and its EU partners are seeking to advance the universal reach of the court to this end by promoting the universal ratification of the Rome Statute.

I would like to address the main provisions of the Bill. Section 1 defines crimes against humanity, genocide and war crimes. While the definition of "crimes against humanity" in this section is almost identical to that in the Rome Statute, it removes the definition of “gender” in sub-paragraph (h) of Article 7 of the statute and removes the necessity to have a link with another act within the definition of crimes against humanity or with any other crime within the jurisdiction of the court. For that reason, this proposal requires further examination. The definition of "war crimes" in this section of the Bill is limited to grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions, rather than the broader definition provided for in Article 8 of the Rome Statute and in the International Criminal Court Act 2006. It appears that the effect of the Bill, if enacted as proposed, would be that a number of other war crimes committed during armed conflict of an international character listed in the Rome Statute would no longer be criminalised in Ireland. This would not be a desirable outcome and would not be consistent with the State’s approach in the 2006 Act, which was to create domestic crimes in respect of war crimes when committed during armed conflict of an international character.

Section 2 proposes to amend section 7(1) of the International Criminal Court Act 2006 by substituting a new subsection providing for offences of "a crime against humanity, a war crime or genocide" committed by "any person, whatever their nationality and wherever in the world" the offence is committed. The section also proposes that a person committed of such an offence will be "liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life".

Section 3 amends section 2 of the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act 2000 by removing its express extraterritorial jurisdiction and expanding the offence of torture by removing the link between people other than public officials and public officials or people acting in an official capacity.

Having considered the Bill, the Attorney General has advised that it appears to be unconstitutional for a number of reasons. In the context of section 2, Ireland currently provides for the offences of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes under section 7 of the International Criminal Court Act 2006. Under section 12 of that Act, we provide for extraterritorial jurisdiction for Irish nationals regarding offences on board Irish ships or aircraft, and in respect of war crimes constituting "grave breaches" of the 1949 Geneva Conventions and the relevant additional protocol of 1977, and in accordance with Article 8.2 of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court. In the context of the 2006 Act, the Office of the Attorney General advised that there was a lack of sufficient evidence in generally-recognised principles of international law to support the application of universal jurisdiction to crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes in general. The Attorney General's view is that would be constitutionally unsafe to advise whether principles of international law have evolved to recognise universal jurisdiction to prosecute these crimes without performing a widespread and thorough review of international law to establish whether there is evidence of the application of universal jurisdiction to prosecute in international customary law. On a more general note, the amendment to section 7 of the Act of 2006 provided for in section 2 of this Bill fails to take account of a potential overlap or conflict with subsections 10 and 12 of the 2006 Act.

With regard to section 3 of the Bill, Ireland currently provides for the offence of torture under section 2 of the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act 2000. The act of torture under this section must be committed by a public official, or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. Ireland exercises extraterritorial jurisdiction for the offence of torture by expressly providing that the offence applies whether the act is committed within or outside the State. In addition, torture is included as a war crime in the context of grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions.

In that regard, it is capable of extra-territorial prosecution under the International Criminal Court Act 2006 in so far is it relates to international armed conflict. Certain elements of the act of torture can also be prosecuted under domestic criminal justice provisions.

The express extra-territorial jurisdiction in section 2 of the 2000 Act has been removed in the Bill. Section 2(3), as proposed by the Bill, may be attempting to exert extra-territorial jurisdiction for the offences in subsections (1) and (2) but does not achieve this. As the offences would no longer be linked to acts of, or sponsored by, public officials, the application of extra-territoriality cannot be said to derive from the convention and would not therefore be part of our international law obligations in that regard. As such, by reference to the United Nations Convention Against Torture, the Attorney General believes the offences provided for by way of the amendments in section 2 of the Bill are constitutionally unsafe, as they could amount to interference with the sovereignty of another state, which is not sanctioned by international law.

The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is also of the view that it would be problematic to take universal jurisdiction in this way as it would not be consistent with the approach generally taken by other states and that it raises questions of international law. Without prejudice to the observations on constitutionality set out above, the Attorney General has advised that the Bill would require a considerable number of amendments to elevate it to a level that is legally safe and capable of withstanding challenge, and that it would also require amendments to ensure that it is consistent with the form of legislation on the Irish Statute Book. For the reasons set out, the Government is not in a position to support this Private Members' Bill.

The Tánaiste and Minister for Justice and Equality has asked me to inform Deputies that the first review of conference on the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court took place in Kampala, Uganda, in June 2010. The conference adopted amendments to the statute on the crime of aggression and war crimes, referred to as the Kampala amendments. With regard to the war crimes amendment, the Office of the Attorney General has advised that there are constitutional difficulties but no such difficulties have been identified with the Kampala amendment on the crime of aggression. The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade is in discussion with the Department of Justice and Equality with a view to progressing ratification. I thank the Deputy and hope he will appreciate, as I have outlined, why the Government is not in a position to support this Bill.

6:35 pm

Photo of Jim O'CallaghanJim O'Callaghan (Dublin Bay South, Fianna Fail)
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Ba mhaith liom buíochas a ghabháil leis an Teachta Wallace as ucht an Bhille suimiúil seo, a bhaineann leis an dlí idirnáisiúnta agus coireanna in aghaidh na daonnachta, a chur chun cinn. Aontaím le cuid den Bhille, ach ní aontáim le gnéithe éagsúla eile de. Tá sé de cheart againn an ábhar tábhachtach seo a phlé sa Dáil.

I thank Deputy Wallace for introducing this Bill to the House and he has put before the House a very interesting topic. I am very happy to speak on it. For the purpose of preparing for this debate, I researched the issues in respect of international and domestic law with regard to armed conflicts. It is important to recognise at the outset that international justice is a relatively new phenomenon. There were examples in the aftermath and during First World War of trying to outlaw certain types of weaponry but it was not until the Second World War and particularly its aftermath that we had a strong development in international law, especially in respect of the protection of human rights. Two people deserve particular recognition and attention in respect of this. In the middle 1940s, an individual named Hersch Lauterpacht formulated the idea of crimes against humanity and they were prosecuted in the Nuremberg trials. Another individual, Mr. Raphael Lemkin, formulated the idea of a crime of genocide. It was a very controversial crime at the time as it was seen as identifying and picking out particular groups of individuals. It was also prosecuted at Nuremberg. It is not surprising that crimes against humanity and genocide became such a recognised issue in the aftermath of the Second World War, particularly in light of the heinous deeds done to the Jewish population of Europe by the Third Reich during that war.

I am pleased to say that much of the detail contained in Deputy Wallace's Bill is already part of our domestic and international law. With the permission of the Ceann Comhairle, I will examine the basis of the new provisions that Deputy Wallace seeks to introduce. I see from the head note of the Bill that one of the objectives is to ensure people can be charged and convicted for breaches of international human rights laws in cases of genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State. It is important at the outset to note there is jurisdiction in this country to prosecute individuals who have committed crimes against humanity, genocide or war crimes, even if those crimes are committed outside this jurisdiction. That is provided for in the 2006 Act referred to by the Minister of State, and there is also legislation from 2000 dealing with torture. I will speak to that presently.

In section 1, Deputy Wallace's Bill sets out interpretations and it is important to note his interpretations are consistent with the law as it exists in this country and internationally. In section 1 he provides a definition for crimes against humanity that is identical to the definition contained in Article 7 of the Rome Statute establishing the International Criminal Court, which was signed on 17 July 1998. I note the Minister of State indicated there may be some slight divergence from that but my assessment is that it is generally identical to that definition. That definition of crimes against humanity was incorporated into our domestic law by section 6 of the International Criminal Court Act 2006. The next part of the section is Deputy Wallace's definition of genocide, which he refers to as being an act coming within the genocide convention. His definition replicates exactly the definition of genocide contained in the genocide convention and which is restated in Article 6 of the Rome Statute. It has already been incorporated into our domestic law by section 6 of the 2006 Act.

The next part of the Bill is a definition of torture. The Minister of State has said there may be some divergence but it is virtually identical to the definition of torture we have in the 2000 criminal justice torture Act. That definition of torture is also incorporated into our domestic law by that Act. There is also a definition of war crimes, which is generally based on Article 8 of the Rome Statute, which has been incorporated into our domestic law by section 6 of the 2006 Act. There is therefore nothing objectionable in section 1 of Deputy Wallace's Bill as it merely reasserts the domestic and international law in respect of definitions of crimes against humanity, war crimes, torture and genocide as they currently exist in Irish and international law.

Section 2 of the Bill is slightly problematic. It is important to examine the proposed changes. Section 2 proposes to amend section 7 of the 2006 Act by substituting a new subsection (1). There are only parts of subsection (1) that see additions. As it exists, the Act reads that any person who commits a crime against humanity, a war crime or a genocide is guilty of an offence. Later subsections identify the penalties, with life imprisonment being the maximum that can be imposed. Deputy Wallace wishes to include in the definition that any person, regardless of nationality or place in the world, can be held liable for these offences. We need to consider this in closer detail. In the legislation as it exists in the 2006 Act, Part 2 deals with what is referred to as the "domestic jurisdiction" in International Criminal Court offences.

This means Ireland has domestic jurisdiction in respect of certain offence as they exist at present. Under this jurisdiction, we have an entitlement to prosecute people in Ireland for genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes which were committed elsewhere and overseas.

Section 8 of the existing Bill talks about ancillary crimes. Section 9 recognises that it is the function of the DPP to decide whether there should be a prosecution. What we cannot have in this, or any other, country is politicians or other individuals deciding who to prosecute based on their own political allegiances or prejudices. Most importantly, section 12 recognises the extraterritorial jurisdiction of the Irish courts. While I may be wrong with this, my fear is that the use of the words "wherever in the world" in Deputy Wallace's amendment would have the effect that people could be prosecuted in absentia. In some countries, it is permitted for individuals who are not before the courts to be prosecuted based on evidence against them. Any law that is introduced must be introduced on an objective basis. The principle of prosecuting a person in absentiais alien to the Irish criminal system and probably conflicts with the Constitution.

People who are exposed to the prospect of life imprisonment should be entitled to ensure they get a fair trial. Trials of people in absentiaare not fair trials unless there is an overriding explanation as to why they are taking place. The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights contains a long list of procedural guarantees, one of which is that an accused shall be entitled to be tried in his or her presence. There have been examples in the past in which people have been prosecuted for offences in absentia. I would be concerned about introducing it into Irish law. Although that may not be Deputy Wallace's intention, I am concerned that, as it is drafted, it could have this effect. It would be very unfair, given that we have provisions in our European Arrest Warrant Act 2003 that set out safeguards for people who are extradited to countries having been convicted in absentia. It would be very unfair if one could be convicted in absentiain this country while no guidelines were set out for one's protection.

I am slightly concerned that by having a system whereby we prosecute people for offences committed abroad when they are not here we may be taking on too much. We have many issues in Ireland that require to be investigated and that require the scrutiny of our statutory authorities. We can just about keep on top of the issues in our own country by way of inquiries without seeking to extend our tentacles abroad. We are not such a moral oasis that we will be able to deal with every problem the world is faced with.

6:45 pm

Photo of Clare DalyClare Daly (Dublin Fingal, Independent)
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It is the end of a heavy week and we are here later than usual on a Thursday evening before the recess. That said, in many ways we are the lucky ones to have the luxury and ability to stand here and discuss critically important global issues of accountability and justice. While I can relate to Deputy Jim O’Callaghan's closing remarks about our problems here at home, defending international human rights is never a luxury and if there is anything we can do to elevate our position in playing our part on the world stage, we should strive to do it. This is what Deputy Mick Wallace is attempting to do. Having the power to do something and exercising the power are often two completely different things. By debating the Bill, we are elevating the necessity of legislation that we have to be exercised in order to deliver justice.

In 2001, a case was lodged in a Belgian court charging former Israeli defence minister and Prime Minister, Ariel Sharon, and former Israel Defense Force, IDF, general Amos Yaron, as well as other Israelis and Lebanese with war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide relating to the massacres committed between 16 and 18 September 1982 in the Sabra and Shatila refugee camps in Beirut. According to an Israeli commission of inquiry, Ariel Sharon bore personal responsibility for the massacre. It was he who decided the Phalangist militia should be sent into the camps, despite the risk that there would be a massacre of the civilian population. Official figures are that 700 to 800 people died, while many people say the figures were as high as 3,500 including children, pregnant women and elderly people. Bodies were mutilated and evidence has been shown to support it.

In February 1983, the Kahan commission, Israel's official commission of inquiry investigating the events, found that Ariel Sharon's disregard of the danger of a massacre was impossible to justify and recommended his dismissal as defence minister. Not only was he not dismissed, he went on to become Prime Minister and remained in power for many years. The Israeli authorities never conducted a criminal investigation to determine whether he, or other Israeli military officials, bore criminal responsibility. The word for that is "impunity", and that is what the Bill is striving to deal with.

In 2001, the survivors of the massacres brought a case in Belgium requesting that Ariel Sharon be prosecuted under Belgium's universal jurisdiction law. Political pressure from Israel and others led to the Belgian Parliament amending its law in April 2003 and repealing it altogether in August and to the highest court in Belgium dropping the case against him that September. Nonetheless, the fact that survivors of the massacre could try to hold to account somebody responsible after the home state had failed to do it - not just failed but rewarded the person - was incredibly important.

Universal jurisdiction was codified in an international treaty for the first time more than half a century ago. The 1949 Geneva Convention on the laws of war provided that state parties must prosecute or extradite those suspected of war crimes. It was universal jurisdiction that enabled the state of Israel, in 1961, to prosecute the senior Nazi official Adolf Eichmann for his role in the Holocaust during the Second World War. During the past 15 years, a number of states including Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, Denmark, France, Finland, Germany, Norway, the Netherlands, Spain and the UK have started to apply universal jurisdiction legislation regarding war crimes, crimes against humanity, torture and genocide.

If there is a weakness in the universal jurisdiction legislation, it is that political considerations can, and often do, override the universal and fundamental principles and the aims it attempts to uphold. That is why the Bill is being moved. This is precisely the arena in which Ireland, which punches well above its weight and has a high international standing and, at least on paper, our proclaimed neutrality, could play a role. Political considerations scuppered the efforts of the survivors of the Sabra and Shatila massacre to bring those responsible to trial for their crimes in Belgium. After a British court issued an arrest warrant under the universal jurisdiction for Israel's former foreign minister, Tzipi Livni, over war crimes allegedly committed in Gaza in 2009, the law was changed in Britain to prevent the embarrassment - that was the word used - of someone from a friendly state, in this case Israel, being called to account for suspected war crimes. It is embarrassing that people would use the word embarrassment in that scenario. It is perfectly justifiable that it would be attempted.

It is a weakness of universal jurisdiction law that western states often do not want to bring their friends into the net. This does not mean it is not important or that we should not discuss it here. It is important as a deterrent, a symbol and a tool. We should use it. As Deputy Wallace said, the most famous use of universal jurisdiction was the attempt by the Spanish courts to prosecute Augusto Pinochet and extradite him from the UK to Spain for that purpose. It ultimately failed, not least thanks to the intervention of the then Home Secretary, an Iraq warmonger, Jack Straw, and despite the fact the House of Lords had ruled that Pinochet should face trial in Spain. The effort by the Spanish had significant ramifications. As a result of the precedent set, other leaders who have committed well documented crimes have been pursued, including former US Secretary of State, Henry Kissinger, who has had to cut his international travel diary, given that he is wanted in so many jurisdictions for trial or as a prosecution witness.

We know that cases have been initiated in Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, France and Spain against George Bush Senior and George Bush Junior for war crimes in Iraq, and against Donald Rumsfeld for war crimes and torture.

Regardless of how those cases will actually end up, being empowered to take the cases is hugely important for the victims and it is a powerful tool. We should be looking at it a lot more. If one considers Israel as a case study, the impunity with which the Israeli authorities are operating and violating international law encourages those authorities to keep doing it. There have been three wars in Gaza since 2008. In the recent Operation Protective Edge, Israeli actions formed what has been called an undeniable pattern that suggested the crimes that had been committed by its forces in Gaza during the assault were actually the product of stated military policies or rules of engagement that enabled massacres, summary executions, wholesale residential destruction, the use of civilians as human shields and abductions. There was also apparent use of experimental weapons with deliberate targeting of medical facilities, journalists and so on. Thousands of people died in that assault, 3 million bullets were fired, which is two bullets for every person in Gaza. In a large part, during the wars in Gaza and the ongoing occupation of Palestine the Israeli weapons industry has trebled its profits. I do not have the time to deal with it here but there is the matter of a person having the benefit when going from a political life into a lobbying life for an arms industry. In taking on a lobbying role it is a benefit when one has the ability to say that the weapons he or she is selling have actually been field tested. It increases their marketability and the companies' share prices. We should be putting ourselves on the world stage to put a stop to this type of behaviour.

The Minister of State has said that we can already do many of the provisions Deputy Wallace seeks to bring in with this Bill. We, however, never do them. Why not? Passing this Bill would elevate the idea that Ireland might consider itself as an independent nation State with a bit of backbone that makes decisions for itself, and makes the decisions for international humankind. The weakness in the legislation - and in all legislation - is the political will to actually deliver upon it. The Minister of State has said that we all agree these things are horrible, and they are horrible, but we are not the people who are experiencing them now. We can, however, be the people who seek to try some of these matters on the international stage. We all agree the Bill needs a bit of work. Deputy Wallace would probably even agree to withdraw the Bill if the House agrees to exercise some of the legislation already in place and to initiate a few trials for a few of the war criminals. Presenting this Bill to the House is important for the debate and in elevating these issues. I believe we can work to improve the Bill if it is passed on Second Stage.

6:55 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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Deputy Broughan.

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)
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Deputy Cullinane will speak next and I will come in after that.

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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That is great co-operation.

Photo of David CullinaneDavid Cullinane (Waterford, Sinn Fein)
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I welcome the Minister of State. Sinn Féin welcomes the opportunity to speak on this Bill and we commend Deputy Mick Wallace for bringing it forward. We will of course be supporting it. This Bill, if passed, would enable the charging and conviction of persons who breach international human rights law in cases of genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State. As per the terms of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide Convention, the Bill provides a definition of crime against humanity, genocide, torture and war crimes, and it allows for the prosecution of persons whether or not they are public officials, to be prosecuted for these crimes in this jurisdiction. Universal jurisdiction, put simply, allows for the State to claim jurisdiction and to prosecute one of the listed crimes such as genocide or a war crime, regardless of where the crime was committed or the nationality of the accused or their residence. The rationale behind this is that such crimes are so serious there should be a universal method of addressing them. If something is a crime against humanity then humanity has jurisdiction. Further, the international community has a moral obligation to prosecute. Sinn Féin believes that sovereignty over justice policy and the judicial system is a cornerstone of national independence, one that was removed from the Six Counties by the British occupation and which was steadily eroded in the 26 county through the incremental encroachment of EU control.

Sinn Féin fully supports international co-operation in the area of justice where this is necessary to fight crime and in particular the cross-border trafficking of drugs, and human beings, and in the interests of child protection. Sinn Féin also believes it is equally essential to safeguard the creation of further victims of human rights violations so such measures must be compatible with human rights security. Sinn Féin supports the enhancement of human rights globally and therefore it supports this Bill.

The State is currently party to a number of conventions that require universal jurisdiction such as the European Convention on the Suppression of Terrorism, the International Criminal Court, ICC, and the UN Convention Against Transnational Organised Crime. Although the principles of universal jurisdiction have been used for centuries to prosecute crimes such as piracy, it is only relatively recently that states have begun to apply the theory to grave violations of international law such as crimes against humanity and war crimes.

Other jurisdictions that already recognise universal jurisdiction are Australia, Canada, Belgium, France, Finland, Germany and Spain. That a state may investigate and prosecute very serious crimes committed outside its own jurisdiction is not a new idea. This concept was first codified in the Geneva Convention in 1949 and it was universal jurisdiction that enabled Israel to prosecute Adolf Eichmann for his role in the Holocaust during the Second World War. The vast majority of states recognise the validity of universal jurisdiction even though they may not have provided a domestic legislative framework for it.

Ideally, victims of serious crimes against humanity would find redress in the courts where the crimes were committed. The nature of these crimes, however, often means that this is not possible and universal jurisdiction acts as a safety net where the state is unable or unwilling to investigate or hold a trial. In effect, this reduces or has the potential to reduce, certain jurisdictions being used as a safe haven for war criminals. While some people may point to the existence of the International Criminal Court as demonstrating that there is no need universal jurisdiction, it should be recognised that the ICCs jurisdiction is limited. The Rome Statute has only been ratified by 110 state parties and its jurisdiction is limited to crimes committed after 1 July 2002.

Sinn Féin recognises that there have been only a small number of prosecutions using universal jurisdictions where low or mid-level alleged perpetrators have had cases taken against them when they have sought refuge in states outside of where they have committed the crime. We also recognise that some people have criticised universal jurisdiction mechanisms, especially where there is the risk that it may be applied against them, such as Henry Kissinger. Plenty of critics came out of the woodwork to criticise the mechanism when Spain attempted to extradite Augusto Pinochet, which would have led to the implication of a number of other politicians. Ultimately we do not want to see perpetrators of crimes against humanity shielded from accountability for their actions. Dictators and despots commit atrocities such as genocide when they believe that they can get away with it and the concept of universal jurisdiction exists to try and end that. The global community must not accept that impunity is a legitimate alternative to the absence of universal jurisdiction. There should be no place to hide for war criminals. We have recognised that those who have perpetrated crimes against humanity in Bosnia and in Rwanda should be held to account. If we recognise this in principle, then there is no reason why we should not have a domestic legal framework to prosecute these crimes should it emerge that a war criminal has sought refuge on these shores.

There are some who believe that universal jurisdiction interferes with the rights of domestic governments to decide how to address human rights abuses that have been perpetrated by individuals with the backing of the state. In response to this I would point out that Nelson Mandela agreed to grant abusers immunity from prosecution if they gave detailed testimony against their crimes. No prosecutor challenged this. Some may agree with this approach but it is important to note that this measure had the backing of the South African people and could not be considered to be providing those who had committed crimes against humanity with a place to hide.

In conclusion, I urge all Members to support this Bill in the interests of international justice and to demonstrate a commitment to the protection of human rights around the world.

I commend Teachta Wallace for the huge work he has done in this area over many years in fighting for human rights, campaigning against rendition flights and working on a range of issues and campaigns. I support the Bill and do not see any reason that it cannot be progressed at least to Committee Stage. As Teachta Clare Daly said, if the Government is not minded to support this Bill, it should come up with alternatives on its own or demonstrate how existing domestic law is sufficient to make sure we have the type of protections for which Teachta Wallace and others have campaigned and will continue to campaign.

7:05 pm

Photo of Tommy BroughanTommy Broughan (Dublin Bay North, Independent)
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I am grateful for the opportunity to make a contribution on the Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015. I warmly commend my colleague, Deputy Mick Wallace, for bringing the Bill before us and for the enormous amount of work he has done on it and on related issues.

One of the fathers of international law is the great Jan Amos Komensky, known as Comenius, the Czech philosopher who made an important contribution in the early 17th century to advancing ideas on world peace and universal justice. He was writing about international peace and legal structures at a time when the German people were embroiled in the Thirty Years War, where at least 8 million Germans were slaughtered by different invading armies. At a time of desolation, he tried to get a prohibition on warfare and the creation of universal institutions of humanity.

During my first two terms in this House, I strongly supported the setting up of the International Criminal Court, ICC. The House might remember it was the Radical Party of Italy which led that campaign and which regularly communicated with us here in Dáil Éireann in order to try to bring the idea forward in the mid and late 1990s, particularly in response to the incredible horrors we saw in the former Yugoslavia. The Rome Statute on the International Criminal Court was adopted by 120 states on 17 July 1998 but it was not until ratification in 2002 that the ICC became operational. It did not have retrospective jurisdiction and we have heard that a number of countries where atrocities have been committed are not participants in the statute.

The ICC has done some valuable work over the years in attempting to address the perpetrators of savage attacks on citizens and in pursuing mass murderers such as Radovan Karadzic of Bosnia, Slobodan Milosevic of Serbia and General Ratko Mladic. Unfortunately, many observers think President Franjo Tudjman of Croatia and other promoters of ethnic cleansing in the Balkans escaped the censure of the ICC for some of the reasons Deputies Wallace and Daly have outlined. To date, there have only been 23 cases before the ICC. It has issued just 29 arrest warrants and only eight persons have been detained in the detention centre of the ICC to appear before the court. According to the ICC website, 13 persons remain at large and charges have been dropped against three persons due to their deaths. ICC judges have issued nine summonses to appear and issued six verdicts. Therefore, there is obviously a platform but, at the moment, it is a platform which cannot really address the scale of horrors that humanity has witnessed in the past 40 to 50 years.

One of the issues, as the Ceann Comhairle would agree, is that the United Nations organisation has been kept so weak and marginal over the years, in particular by the powerful permanent members of the Security Council, especially the US, Russia and China. It is clear the mission of the UN should include the promotion of democracy and justice and a system of full accountability for leaders who inflict terrible harm on their citizens.

While I have heard the Minister of State's comments on the 2006 Act, I believe the Bill before us will strengthen Ireland's participation in universal jurisdiction by amending section 7(1) of the 2006 Act. The narrow existing wording, "any person who commits genocide, a crime against humanity or a war crime is guilty of an offence", will be expanded to a much more comprehensive statement that, "any person, whatever their nationality and wherever in the world, who commits a crime against humanity, a war crime or genocide is guilty of an offence and is liable upon conviction to imprisonment for life by the State." As previous speakers have said, Ireland should take a prominent and leading role in pushing forward the concept of universal justice.

A notable example of the use of universal jurisdiction was when the Spanish judge, Baltasar Garzón, with the support of France, Belgium and Switzerland, indicted General Augusto Pinochet, the former dictator of Chile who overthrew the democratically elected Allende government. Judge Garzón looked for Pinochet's extradition from the UK where he was receiving medical treatment. Unfortunately, the UK authorities appeared to make sure he was found to be in ill health and the extradition and trial did not proceed.

The Bill amends the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention Against Torture) Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2006 retrospectively and provides for those who breach human rights law to be charged and convicted. I heard the discussion about the definition of crimes against humanity. I believe the suggested definition, namely, "when committed as part of a widespread or systematic attack directed against any civilian population, with knowledge of the attack", is fairly comprehensive and it also includes murder, extermination, genocide, apartheid, torture, rape and so on.

In the past 100 years there has been a growing determination among international opinion to try to bring to justice those leaders and politicians who have committed massive violations of human rights. This concept was alluded to in President Woodrow Wilson's 14 points. Unfortunately, some of the democratic developments in the early 1920s, including the establishment of our State, turned towards a more murderous era in the 1930s and 1940s. The Nuremburg prosecutions and trials of the surviving Nazi leadership marked a first watershed in attempting to create an international legal order of accountability and justice. There are now a number of international treaties to ensure the further use of universal jurisdiction, including the 1949 Geneva Conventions, the 1973 Convention Against Apartheid and the 1984 Convention Against Torture, for example.

Human Rights Watch calls universal jurisdiction a "crucial tool by which victims of grave international crimes can obtain redress" and "an important means of reducing the unevenness in the landscape of international justice." Even since the Second World War, we have seen incredible instances of genocide, mass murder and other terrible crimes against humanity, including mass oppression in China, where the Tibetan and Uighur peoples had their national independence crushed, the appalling crimes committed in Vietnam, Laos and especially Cambodia under the Pol Pot regime, the mass slaughter of Indonesians of Chinese decent and the genocides and ethnic conflict in newly independent African states like Uganda, Rwanda, Igboland in Nigeria, Congo and currently in newly independent South Sudan.

Of course, this is the point. Events like this are happening as we speak, with horrors being perpetrated where two factions battle it out and ordinary men, women and children suffer drastically in the process. There have been many other oppressive regimes and terrible conflicts, including crimes committed in apartheid South Africa, under the military dictatorships in Argentina and Chile, during the appalling carnage in former Yugoslavia and in the mayhem and mass murders during the past 15 years in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. These events have all cried out for accountability and justice. I note the points that have been made many times in this House by Deputies Wallace and Daly and others in regard to the sale of weapons to, for example, Saudi Arabia and the way those weapons have been used, as many would say, in a form of genocidal attack on the people of Yemen and in other areas.

We watch the news and we are shocked and disgusted at happenings around the world but we then go back to our daily lives. Deputy Wallace has tried in this Bill not to make that response but to see if there is something, however small, that our proud, independent State can do about it. The United Nations needs to take a strengthened and proactive role against those who commit crimes against humanity.

It is clearly in need of urgent reform and strengthening. In the opportunities the Ceann Comhairle might have available in various fora, I hope he will try to push forward reports such as the one from the European Parliament of March 2015 entitled, Reforming the United Nations: State of Play, Ways Forward, in which some of the elements are mentioned. This and other EU member states are the biggest financial supporters of the United Nations. We might have a much more responsive and accountable international order.

At the end of 2016 a resolution was adopted by the UN General Assembly to establish a unit to undertake the investigation of serious crimes that had been committed since 2011 in Syria. The Syrian Government has consistently refused to comply with resolutions of the UN Security Council. Human Rights Watch, for one, states universal jurisdiction such as that being proposed in the House tonight should be used in Syria and that the International Criminal Court should be given a mandate to deal with the ongoing conflict and subsequent crimes.

I warmly welcome the Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill in the name of Deputy Mick Wallace. It offers hope there will be no hiding place for politicians and leaders who have led and promoted hateful crimes against their own citizens and humanity.

7:15 pm

Photo of Andrew DoyleAndrew Doyle (Wicklow, Fine Gael)
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I am glad that I was given this shift to listen to what has been a very interesting debate. It is in the spirit of what the Irish people have stood for during the years. Whether one accepts that we are neutral, we have always sought to bring human rights issues to the fore and advocated across all continents for the education and empowerment of local peoples and communities, whether through our sometimes now maligned religious orders and missions, or NGOs. We have always had that spirit of trying to advocate for others. It stems from our past when we were suppressed. Education and liberty were things we had sought for many centuries.

I do not doubt the sincerity of the intentions of the Bill. I have taken on board what has been said, as have the officials of the Tánaiste's Department. We have to bear in mind, however, that we are bound by Article 29.8 of the Constitution which limits us in the exercise of extraterritorial jurisdiction to generally recognise the principles of international law. The Attorney General is of the opinion that the Bill may be unconstitutional in that context. I have gone through it before and do not propose to do so again, but there are a couple of points I will make.

I cannot proclaim to be an expert, but there could be cases, hypothetical or not, in which an Irish national would be tried under this provision in another state and his or her extradition would be sought. Our first duty is to our own citizens and as such, we would have to ensure the bona fides of the trial or prosecution would stand up. As Deputy Jim O'Callaghan said, he has a wariness of trials in absentia. In the case of somebody to be tried for an international crime of the nature described in the proposed Bill and of such severity, in the first instance, he or she would have a right to defend himself or herself. In some states we could not guarantee the right of an Irish citizen to a fair trial. For balance, we have to bear that in mind.

Deputy Thomas P. Broughan mentioned the UN Security Council. As far as I know, we are trying to become a member again to have a seat at the table. I represented the Government during the presentation of credentials by the ambassadors of Nicaragua, Costa Rica and Fiji in Áras an Uachtaráin this day last week. President Michael D. Higgins asked for their support for Ireland's case. He was engaged in a little advocacy in the way we all know only he can do. The aim is to give Ireland a voice at the UN Security Council as a small nation with a history of showing concern for human rights across the globe. That is important. Against the big nations and the permanent representatives on the Council, it is important that small nations are listened to and also have representation on it.

My final point is not in the context of the Bill but is important regarding places of conflict. Not that long ago Syria was a safe haven for people from the Lebanon. Now it seems to be the other way around. Ireland's Defence Forces were part of UN peacekeeping missions in these countries. This had tragic consequences for some members of the Defence Forces which have always sought to bring peace to areas of conflict. There are courts - I am not saying they are all perfect - which deal with international war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. It is not perfect, but at the end of day we are bound by the Constitution. The Government's advice is that the Bill, as presented, is not constitutional. As a Government, we are duty bound to listen to the advice of the Attorney General.

Photo of Mick WallaceMick Wallace (Wexford, Independent)
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I thank the Minister of State and everyone who spoke. First, I am very keen to find out if the Government would consider amending the Bill. I was the first to acknowledge that it was far from perfect. It was produced a couple of years ago with the help of a guy called Nick. We have a lot to learn about how to construct a Bill. It would be good if the Government actually sought to amend the Bill to make it fit for purpose.

In response to Deputy Jim O'Callaghan's point, on which the Minister of State also picked up, about the dangers of holding trials in absentia, that is not one of the intentions of the Bill. If there was such a possibility, it could be addressed in the Bill. We want to create a situation where civil society groups or a civilian would be able to bring evidence to the Director of Public Prosecutions to enable them to assess its worthiness to see if there was a genuine case to answer. If the Director of Public Prosecutions was to so find, a warrant could then be issued for the arrest of the person concerned. An Garda Síochána would be obliged to arrest him or her if he or she was ever to arrive here. There would be a trial, at which he or she would be present. He or she would not be tried in absentia. The case would be looked at in absentia, but the person concerned would not be tried in absentia. If there is a weakness in the Bill in that regard, I would be very happy to have it addressed.

International law is very vague. Truth be told, we do not really have international law. It is not as strong as it should be. No war is pleasant. Wars are horrific and the Second World War was particularly horrific in terms of the number of people who suffered. In particular, what was done to the Jewish people was horrendous. There was a feeling at the time that it should never be allowed to happen again. Sadly, that feeling has not held. The plan was that international law would be established in such a way that countries would not be allowed to cause such terrible havoc again. Unfortunately, I can safely say there has never been a time when as many bombs have been dropped in the world. In the years since 2001 we have seen the greatest militarisation in the history of the planet.

8 o’clock

It has led to untold destruction. As we know, over 60 million people are displaced today, mostly because of war. The number is growing. The world has become a less safe place. I would love to believe that Ireland could play a good role in this. I admit that many of the rules and regulations in our Bill are in place already. However, we all admit that we do not actually apply them. It would send out the right signal if Ireland were to enshrine a universal jurisdiction for human rights. It can be made to fit the Constitution. I would be happy to see the Government address the problems it sees in the Bill.

I do not intend to get into a debate about it. We have had the argument about neutrality many times. Obviously, we have a different take to the Government on the matter. If, however, we wish to promote peace, the first thing we have to say is that we should not allow military aircraft, troops or arms through the island of Ireland in any form. That is really important. We should put an end to that. That, in itself, would be a wonderful signal of Ireland's intentions.

There is no doubt but that Ireland has amazing potential. I do not believe we are neutral now. We were at one time but we have lost our neutrality. However, we can regain it — I am not without hope — and we can play a strong role in international affairs as a neutral country. We can argue for a more peaceful outcome to disputes.

Is it not horrendous to think that in 2015, the then US President, Mr. Barack Obama, signed off on special operation forces to kill people in 135 countries? That is horrific. In 2016, the US dropped more than 26,000 bombs. The Russians have done some terrible things. The Chinese have done terrible things. Mr. Assad has done some terrible things in Syria. The Israelis are doing some terrible things, as are the Saudis. There are so many countries involved. Terrible things are happening in the world today. It would be wonderful if Ireland took a different position and said that under no circumstances would we support anyone carrying out any of these atrocities. We could say we are prepared to hold to account people who carry out atrocities.

The Acts of 2000 and 2006 only dealt with atrocities committed after the relevant dates. Deputy Clare Daly referred to the things Henry Kissinger did. If he came here and we simply ignored the fact that he was responsible for thousands of deaths, it would be horrific. We should be able to hold someone like that to account. Other countries are doing it and there are countries to which Kissinger can no longer go. Why can we not do that?

The sad reality is we are saying that money and power are greater and more significant to us than human rights, justice and peace. We need to think about that. We need to take a different approach. That is not what the people want. The people want to be neutral. They do not believe we should play a role in helping to promote war. However, we are doing that at present by allowing Shannon to be used and by staying silent about many of the atrocities in the world. We condemn some but not others. We should condemn everyone who commits atrocities regardless of what side they are on. We should bring ourselves to a place where people will know that someone who commits a war crime or a crime against humanity and who comes to Ireland may then be held accountable for it. That would be a great day.

Question put.

7:25 pm

Photo of Seán Ó FearghaílSeán Ó Fearghaíl (Ceann Comhairle; Kildare South, Ceann Comhairle)
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In accordance with Standing Order 70(2), the division is postponed until the weekly division time on Thursday, 23 March 2016.