Tuesday, 21 February 2012
Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade
Human Rights Issues
Question 76: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if there are any concrete steps he is willing to take in order to share Ireland's valuable experiences on peace building and peace negotiations with the Colombian civil society and Government; and if he will share those experiences with the vibrant social and civil movements of Colombia who are at the frontline of the struggle for peace. [9621/12]
I met with Colombian Vice-President Angelino Garzón during his visit to Dublin last month, on 24 January. As the Deputy will be aware, Mr Garzón has responsibility in the Colombian Government for taking forward the human rights agenda. We specifically discussed the progress being made under the Santos administration on the peace process, including the human rights conference which is due to be held in November/December this year. The Vice-President noted that plans for the conference, which will take place in Cartagena, were already at a well-advanced stage and the aim is to engage in a broad-based open discussion on Colombia's human rights agenda. The conference will constitute a key step in the Government's commitment to incorporate a wide range of stakeholders and civil society actors, including NGOs, trades unions, human rights organisations, and representatives of indigenous peoples, in the efforts to improve Colombia's human rights record.
Ireland stands ready to share its experiences in this context as well as in other fora. Ireland has welcomed a number of foreign delegations to Ireland for lesson-sharing visits. While the circumstances of all conflicts are different, it is hoped that by facilitating such visits we can share our experiences of the Northern Ireland conflict and help those engaged in conflict resolution efforts in their own countries. My Department would react favourably to a request from Colombia to facilitate such a lesson-sharing visit to Ireland.
Question 77: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he will be raising the issue of China's policies in Tibet during Xi Jinping's imminent visit to Dublin; and if he will be calling for the safeguarding of Tibetans' rights and interests with him. [9619/12]
As I have said recently, the Government has closely followed the reported violent events in areas of Tibetan population in Chinese provinces neighbouring Tibet and is concerned about the situation. Human rights issues were discussed during the recent visit of China's Vice President, Mr. Xi Jinping, to Ireland. The promotion of human rights is an important dimension of Irish foreign policy. Ireland together with our EU partners continues to convey its concerns about the situation in Tibet directly to the Chinese authorities through regular contacts in both Dublin and Beijing. The issue of Tibet is also raised by the European Union as part of regular political dialogue as well as during specific Human Rights dialogues with China which have taken place since 1995.
Ireland together with our EU partners believes that constructive dialogue between the Chinese Government and the representatives of the Dalai Lama is the best way to address differences and tensions in Tibet and to reach a solution that respects Tibetan culture, language, religion and identity. It is important for the long-term peace and stability of the region that the two sides come to an agreement on the future of Tibet. To this end, we continue to encourage an early resumption of dialogue by the parties.
Question 78: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if he agrees on the need for a robust arms trade treaty that protects human rights; and if he intends to become vocal about the resistance of Governments such as China, Egypt, Russia and the USA to strong human rights safeguards within any potential treaty. [9618/12]
Ireland strongly supports the process of developing strict controls on arms and works actively to promote the objective of strengthening arms controls globally. My officials will participate in a UN Diplomatic Conference from 2-27 July, where I hope agreement can be reached on a global Arms Trade Treaty (ATT). Ireland has been active on work towards an ATT from the outset and during the preparatory process, including at the recent Preparatory Committee meeting held in New York from 13-17 February.
Ireland's objective is to secure a legally-binding and comprehensive treaty with universal application, one that is as robust as possible, and which takes full account of human rights obligations and international humanitarian law. While I am not in a position to comment on the negotiating positions which will be taken by other countries going into the July Diplomatic Conference, I can assure the Deputy that Ireland's objective has not altered sine this process began, and that we will continue to work actively, with EU and other like minded partners, to agree an instrument establishing common international standards for the import, export and transfer of conventional arms.
Question 79: To ask the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to Britain's continued sale of firearms to Bahrain, with the British Government's approval for the sale of military equipment valued at more than 1 million pounds despite continuing political unrest in the Gulf State in the months following the violent crackdown on demonstrators a year ago in the region; and if he intends to raise this issue with the British Government. [9611/12]
I remain concerned about the threat to human rights and the overall political situation in Bahrain. More needs to be done to address the legitimate demands of those peacefully seeking reform and greater inter-communal dialogue in Bahrain. It is essential that a process of national reconciliation and dialogue involving the political opposition, civil society and the victims of human rights violations gets underway as soon as possible. While I was relieved that last week's first anniversary of the 2011 protests did not result in further bloodshed, I was perturbed by the police's heavy-handed response to protests and I urge the Bahraini authorities to ensure full respect for the right to freedom of assembly, in accordance with Bahrain's international obligations. The decision to transfer or deny the transfer of any military technology is at the national discretion of each exporting State. Ireland has not issued a license for the sale of military goods to Bahrain since the outbreak of the protests.
In 2008, the EU adopted a Common Position which defines the rules governing the control of exports of military technology and equipment by Member States. Under this Common Position, Member States assess all licence applications for military exports against a series of Common Criteria. There are eight separate criteria which take into account the effect that the arms transfer could have on the country of final destination. The factors assessed include, among others, the human rights situation on the ground, the existence of tensions or armed conflict, the preservation of regional peace, security and stability, the question of whether the export could affect the sustainable development of the importing state, and the risk of exported military technology or equipment being diverted within the buyer country or re-exported under undesirable conditions.
As a result of the Common Position, I would note that armaments companies in the EU are in compliance with one of the strictest export control regimes in the world.
The operation of the Council Common Position is kept under constant review by Member States in light of changing circumstances in individual buyer countries. Ireland strongly supports the Common Position and expects it to be fully implemented by all Member States. The Deputy can be assured that in discussions with our EU partners I will continue to make our position on this very clear.