Wednesday, 2 June 2010
Department of Foreign Affairs
Question 133: To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will intervene through our diplomatic channels, to raise at international level the case of persons (details supplied) who have been sentenced to 14 years imprisonment in Malawi for being gay. [23740/10]
The Deputy will have seen the welcome news that on Saturday President Mutharika granted an unconditional pardon to Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga, after meeting with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. In a press conference announcing the pardon, the President stated that he had taken his decision on humanitarian grounds and that the law itself has not changed.
I have been following the case of Steven Monjeza and Tiwonge Chimbalanga since the two men were first arrested. Our Embassy in Lilongwe, along with our EU partners, has been active in raising our concerns about the matter with the Government of Malawi throughout. I want to emphasise in particular our very serious concern and dismay at the arrest, conviction and severe sentence imposed upon these men on account of their sexual orientation. The conviction was contrary to international human rights principles which Malawi has ratified. With our EU partners, we have called on the Government of Malawi to fulfil its commitments to the protection of the human rights of all individuals, irrespective of their sexual orientation. My colleague, the Minister of State for Overseas Development, Peter Power, T.D., made a statement to this effect on 20 May and Ireland supports the similar statement made by High Representative Catherine Ashton on 21 May, which also refers to Malawi's commitments and obligations under international human rights law.
Malawi is one of the nine Programme Countries where Ireland has a commitment to long term strategic assistance. Our five year country programme focuses on nutrition and food security and support for good governance. These are targeted programmes and we do not provide general budget support. Ireland also supports civil society organisations working in Malawi, including those that engage in human rights work there.
We remain in constant contact with our Ambassador in Malawi and our concerns are being fully communicated to the Government of Malawi. The Deputy can be assured that we will continue to coordinate with our EU and international partners on this matter to impress upon the Government of Malawi the need for compliance with its own obligations under international human rights agreements.