Tuesday, 22 November 2022
Ceisteanna Eile - Other Questions
80. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions that he has taken to date to protest at the suppression and violence being perpetrated on peaceful protestors in Iran; if he has summoned the Iranian ambassador to personally set out Ireland's abhorrence of these actions; the additional sanctions that Ireland is supporting or has proposed; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57819/22]
87. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will provide details of his Department’s engagement with the ambassador for the Islamic Republic of Iran concerning recent protests for women’s rights and the treatment of protestors by state security services. [57453/22]
104. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his plans to raise Iran's ongoing brutality and oppression against protestors at the next meeting of the UN Security Council meeting; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57645/22]
105. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the actions that he has taken on behalf of Ireland at UN level and EU level relating to the protest movement in Iran; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [57534/22]
Despite my longevity in this House, I am always confused about how questions are grouped. My question, Question No. 91, which was not in the previous group, deals specifically with LGBT rights for visitors to the World Cup in Qatar, yet it was not encompassed in that group.
How these things happen confuses me. I will move on to the questions. A number of Deputies have raised the issue of Iran. It was dealt with previously. It merits considerable focus in this House. Most of us are-----
Exactly. We have time to tease out exactly what is happening in Iran and the information being circulated by the Iranian ambassador here, which many of us will have received, and the ongoing struggle, as the Minister said, of young people and women in taking a stand against oppression. I am interested in the Minister's view.
I propose to take Questions Nos. 80, 87, 104 and 105 together.
While the protests in Iran started with the tragic death of Mahsa Amini in September, many more young women and men have died since, simply due to the fact they were exercising their fundamental right to freedom of speech and freedom of assembly. I wish to extend my condolences to the loved ones of all those who have died during the protests. The protestor's slogan of "Women, Life, Freedom" is clear and I know it is a message that has resonated with many people in Ireland and across the EU. The slogan was seen during the World Cup in a banner behind the Iranian goal at their first match.
In addition to my contacts with the Iranian foreign minister in September and October, as I said earlier, I summoned the Iranian ambassador on 20 October and condemned Iran’s oppression of peaceful protests and supply of weapons to Russia. I made it clear that Ireland expects Iran to uphold its international obligations, particularly the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and the Beijing Declaration and Platform for Action. These instruments enshrine the rights of freedom of assembly, freedom of speech, and the fundamental and inalienable rights of women and girls.
The EU has significantly expanded its human rights sanctions regime to target those involved in the death of Mahsa Amini and the response of the security forces to protestors. At the meetings of the EU's Foreign Affairs Council in October and November, the EU adopted sanctions against a further 40 individuals and seven entities. The EU also adopted sanctions on 20 October against Iranian individuals and entities involved in the supply of drones to Russia.
At UN level, the Security Council held a meeting on Iran’s transfer of drones to Russia on 19 October. The supply of drones to Russia is a serious violation of Iran's obligations under UN Security Council Resolution 2231, which endorses the Iranian nuclear deal. Under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, Iran is prohibited from the export of drones. As Deputies know, Ireland is facilitator of Resolution 2231 and we will present our final facilitator's report in December. There will also be a special session of the UN Human Rights Council on 24 November, which I mentioned earlier, which Ireland has supported, focusing on the situation in Iran.
Officials from my Department will continue to monitor developments in Iran and to raise our concerns directly with the Iranian government. We will continue to co-ordinate closely with our partners in the EU to ensure there is a joint, co-ordinated, and clear response to the actions of the Iranian authorities across a range of issues which, whether we like it or not, are interconnected.
I think this House should praise, without question, the bravery of Iran's national soccer team yesterday. While others did not take a stand, they risked their safety by taking a clear stand against their own government yesterday on a fundamental issue. The Irish Times reports that at least 58 Iranian children have been killed since the anti-regime protests began, following the death in custody of Mahsa Amini, including a 9-year-old, Kian Pirfalak, who was one of seven people killed last Wednesday in the city of Izeh. The individual stories and videos that we have all seen online demand our support and solidarity. The Minister called in the Iranian ambassador to Iveagh House. Will the Minister tell us exactly what he said and what the ambassador said to him? How will we deal with the misinformation that the Iranian ambassador is providing?
This is a serious issue. I attended a very civilised protest in Galway a few weeks ago. We were asked to ask the Minister, as a member of a Government which has a place on the UN Security Council, to call on the Islamic Republic of Iran to immediately stop the use of lethal force and unlawful suppression, to stop subjecting Iranian citizens to torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and to stop unlawful and arbitrary arrests and detentions. The figures are rising. Deputy Howlin already mentioned some of them. Some 410 protestors have been killed, with a caveat that those figures are higher. Some 58 children have been killed in the unrest and more than 17,251 people have been arrested. According to media reports, in November, six of those detained in the protests have been issued death sentences. This number is expected to rise. Iran executes more people annually than any other country apart from China, although I understand that in the last week, Saudi Arabia executed 17 people.
I was concerned at what we were all seeing on our phones and television screens about what was unfolding in Iran, so I requested the Iranian ambassador to come in to explain what was going on in his country and to express my concern and condemnation for what I thought and still think is a violent response by police to predominantly peaceful protests. He said some of the protests were not peaceful and the Iranian Government had a responsibility to restore order to its streets and cities, which is what it was trying to do. I found that explanation less than credible, given the age profile and behaviour of many of the protestors, including children, girls and students. No country should look back at the management of protests and the death of nearly 60 children and say it was an effort to restore order. It was a straight discussion. I hope I expressed the concern, revulsion and condemnation of this House about some of the images we have seen.
I also asked the ambassador about the supply of drones to Russia following some of the images we have seen. From an EU perspective, it is part of a convincing body of evidence that Iran has supplied drones to Russia that are now being used to target civilians and civilian infrastructure. He gave a clear rejection of that and said that Iran has not provided drones to Russia before this war or during it. Since that meeting, I understand that Iran has accepted that it has supplied a limited number of drones to Russia in advance of this conflict.
It was a necessary, blunt discussion to express our concern at what I think is a shared criticism in this House of how Iran is behaving in responding to legitimate protests in its own country and the supply of weapons that have been directly targeting civilians in Europe.
The Minister is right in his contention no reasonable person would say the death of a nine-year-old or the deaths of 58 children could in any way be justified by the restoration of order. The Minister has told us, basically, that in that interaction with the ambassador, he was told falsehoods. That is very worrying. Has the Minister summoned him back since to ask him to correct and give accurate information? Surely the role of an ambassador is to ensure the presentation given to a host country where he has diplomatic status is factual at least? What are the next actions the Minister proposes to take to deal with what is ongoing, namely, a protest movement subject to brutal suppression, including the use of lethal force?
I welcome the fact the Minister has called in the ambassador and spoken to him, but since then we have all got a briefing document from the ambassador that clearly contradicts what we are being told on the ground. I have it here. Has the Minister's attention been brought to that?
We all got it this week. On the Human Rights Council, I understand there will be a special session on the deteriorating human rights situation in Iran on 24 November. I understand also that we have observer status at that special session. Will Iran be represented at that? On the UN Commission on the Status of Women, there have been calls by countries, including America, to have Iran removed from it. I do not agree with that straight up because Afghanistan is represented on that, along with other countries that a have terrible record in their treatment of women. Has the Minister a viewpoint on that?
Returning to the first question on Palestine, we must have a credible, consistent approach to all countries when they breach human rights law. It is extremely important. I took back the weasel words. They were not necessary and I should not have used them, but we need a consistent voice and we are not consistent.
On Palestine, which we often talk about here, we are pretty consistent. Ireland is one of the most consistent countries in the world when it comes to what we say about Palestine. I have certainly tried to be during the five years I have been in this job. I point to my very clear criticism of settlement expansion, of demolitions, of forced evictions, my criticism of the human rights situation that is allowed to continue in Gaza, my strong criticisms of the targeting of civilian infrastructure in Gaza when that has happened, as well, of course, as rocket fire out of Gaza, of which I have been very critical. I have travelled to Israel and Palestine many times in those five years. I would like to think I am being consistent there and I hope I will continue to be.
As I said, my involvement with Iran has been an unusual one in recent years because of the specific responsibility around the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, JCPOA, and the Security Council. This has allowed me to have many more conversations with two consecutive Iranian ministers of foreign affairs than I would normally ever have. This has permitted me to have very direct conversations on more recent concerns.
What happened with the meeting with the ambassador was he gave me a written document on the official response from the Iranian Government on the accusation of Iranian supply of weapons to Russia. To be fair to him, he just handed it over and that is, in many ways, the role of an ambassador. We have of course challenged the accuracy of that document since then.
On the Human Rights Council, we have been very supportive of having a debate on 24 November at the council on the developing situation in Iran.