Tuesday, 22 November 2022
Ceisteanna ar Sonraíodh Uain Dóibh - Priority Questions
77. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will outline the Government's response to the threats by the Iranian Government to execute protestors; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57929/22]
I ask the Minister to outline the Government's response to the threats by the Iranian Government to execute protestors. We all have been deeply shocked by the killing of Ms Mahsa Amini. We have seen the bravery of the protestors. A large amount of people have made the ultimate sacrifice because of this. We have seen the bravery, particularly of Iranian women. I want to get the Government's response on this. We even saw the Iranian national team show solidarity with what is happening at present in Iran.
Ireland opposes the use of the death penalty in all circumstances, and I am deeply concerned by the recent reports that the Iranian Government has sentenced a number of people to death for their involvement in the ongoing protests.
Ireland has consistently raised our concerns around the high number of executions in Iran, including though the Universal Periodic Review process at the Human Rights Council. I urge Iran to declare a moratorium on executions, and to consider alternative sentencing.
The vast majority of those who have been arrested by the Iranian authorities in recent weeks, by some estimates more than 15,000 people, were by and large exercising their fundamental rights to freedom of assembly and freedom of speech.
I commend the courage of the Iranian women and men who continue to exercise their fundamental rights. The Iranian security and police forces have continued to respond with lethal force and the level of violence perpetrated against protestors has only continued to rise in recent weeks.
Ireland raises human rights issues with Iran at every suitable opportunity, including in our direct contacts with Iranian officials, in contributing to EU policy on Iran, and in international fora such as the UN General Assembly and the Human Rights Council. I have spoken directly to my Iranian counterpart about these issues, most recently in September at the UN and on 6 October directly by phone. I reiterated Ireland’s position when I summoned the Iranian ambassador to Iveagh House on 20 October.
In 2022, as in the past, Ireland co-sponsored the annual Canadian-led resolution at the Third Committee of the United Nations General Assembly, which was adopted on 16 November. The resolution addresses a broad range of issues related to severe human rights violations in Iran. Ireland has also supported the call to hold a special session of the Human Rights Council on 24 November to discuss the concerning human rights situation that continues to develop in Iran. This is an evolving situation. It is very worrying. Many protesters are in a very vulnerable situation. The resolve of the Iranian people, particularly younger generations, has been extraordinary in recent weeks and I expect it will continue.
I agree with the Minister that huge resolve has been shown by Iranians across the board, especially Iranian women, who are rightfully absolutely outraged at what happened to Mahsa Amini. The level of force and lethal force employed by the Iranian regime to a degree shows the level of resolve. We are aware of a phenomenal level of violence and it is probably very difficult to get the full numbers. A very large number of people have been killed. We are told a number of them were children. It is vital that at every level and forum we are able to bring this to the fore. Will the Minister go into some detail on his interactions? We know the Iranian regime has also put out its own story on how it presents these protests. I imagine, not to put words in the Minister's mouth, that at times he has had need to call it out on this.
I have had much more interaction with my Iranian counterpart than most Irish foreign ministers would have. This is because of our role on the Security Council. We are what is called a facilitator of Resolution 2231. Effectively, this means we put reports together for the Security Council on the progress, or lack thereof, on what is called the Iranian nuclear deal or the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA. This is something Ireland volunteered to do at the start of our term on the Security Council. To be honest, it was one of the impossible files. Since the change in President of the US, there has been a real effort in recent years to try to rebuild what President Trump deliberately collapsed. This was a deal whereby the western world would remove sanctions on Iran in return for complete transparency in the Iranian nuclear programme. I have visited Tehran twice in this regard. I have spoken to the Iranian foreign minister many times on it.
The relationship that has been built up around the JCPOA has allowed me to speak directly on our concerns about the human rights abuses of protesters. We have called for an independent investigation into what happened to Mahsa Amini. We are concerned that Iran has provided Russia with weapons that are now targeting civilians in Ukraine. These are straight conversations where Ireland is calling out breaches in international law. There is also a very concerning situation if Iran continues to support Russian efforts targeting civilians in Ukraine.
I welcome the response of the Minister. He has a level of access to the regime in Iran. This is down to vital work done to build up relationships. For the want of a better term, I suppose it is normalising the situation as would benefit all of us internationally in making this world a safer place. It had been scuppered by President Trump. What is happening now has to be called out for what it is. It has to be made absolutely clear to the Iranian regime that there can be no acceptance whatsoever of what it is doing at present. There needs to be an independent investigation into the killing of Mahsa Amini. Beyond this, as the Minister said, the protesters are in a very difficult set of circumstances and they need to be protected. We need to ensure we are not looking at a further crackdown or even executions, which would be utterly unacceptable.
Ireland has been very involved in this debate. We have had access beyond what we normally have because of involvement in a completely different issue. Of course, issues are all interlinked when it comes to bilateral relationships and relationships with countries in the UN and elsewhere. We have supported targeted sanctions against those responsible for the inappropriate treatment of protesters in Iran. We have supported those targeted sanctions at EU level. Ireland will continue to be very much at the centre of the conversation at EU level on the relationship with Iran. I have to say it is strained significantly at present given what we are seeing, particularly young girls protesting for a right to be themselves. There is support throughout the European Union for these aspirations. There is also the very concerning imagery of Iranian-made drones being used in Ukraine. Obviously this has to be subject to evidence but I believe the evidence is there. This has created a worsening relationship. I hope Iran will reflect on the aspiration to improve relations over time.