Written answers

Wednesday, 18 December 2019

Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade

Human Rights

Photo of Paul MurphyPaul Murphy (Dublin South West, Solidarity)
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44. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the gravity of the recent human rights abuses committed by the Government of Bahrain; and the reason a joint statement will not be introduced at the UN Human Rights Council in March 2020 to address the gravity of the abuses. [53209/19]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The human rights situation in Bahrain remains a matter of concern. Although progress has been made in certain areas, there continue to be instances of violations of fundamental freedoms, including the targeting of human rights defenders.

Respect for human rights is an integral part of Ireland’s foreign policy and we consistently seek to raise our concerns on human rights issues through the most appropriate and effective channels. Our active participation at the UN Human Rights Council is particularly important and Ireland regularly raises the case of human rights in Bahrain at that forum, both in national statements and in our support of EU Statements.

Our principled stance on human rights feeds into our bilateral dialogue. When I met the Bahraini Foreign Minister at the UN General Assembly in New York in September, I made a point of raising the human rights situation directly with him, expressing the hope that we can have an open and honest discussion on these issues. In addition, officials from my Department meet regularly with advocacy groups and Bahraini human rights defenders to discuss the situation in Bahrain.

Since 2012, Ireland has signed five joint statements at the Human Rights Council on the human rights situation in Bahrain, which expressed concern on a number of fronts including the mistreatment of detainees and the arbitrary deprivation of nationality without due process. No decision has yet been taken on national or EU interventions at the next session of the the Human Rights Council, which will commence in late February 2020. When planning for this session, we will consider carefully which priorities to set, with a view to focusing the weight of Ireland's efforts, and the Council's attention, on the most grave and troubling situations globally.

Ireland will continue to monitor developments in Bahrain, and to call on the Bahraini Government to deliver on its stated commitment to make progress in relation to human rights. We shall do so both directly with Bahraini officials, as well as at EU and international level, including at the Human Rights Council, whenever opportunities arise.

Photo of Thomas PringleThomas Pringle (Donegal, Independent)
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45. To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade his views on the recently published report by an organisation (details supplied) and its statement that the rule of law should respect freedom of expression and peaceful assembly; his further views on the report in the context of Catalan political prisoners and their rights on freedom of expression and peaceful assembly following on from the Catalan independent referendum in 2017; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [52869/19]

Photo of Simon CoveneySimon Coveney (Cork South Central, Fine Gael)
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The Government follows closely developments in Spain and I am aware of the report to which the question refers.

The freedom to express competing views is essential in any democracy, but differences of opinion must be contested with full respect for the law and the rights of all citizens.

The rule of law is a cornerstone of all modern democracies and it underpins the functioning of the European Union just as it underpins our own democracy in Ireland. Citizens and their elected representatives should, of course, be free to work to change laws but this must be through the appropriate constitutional channels.

The Government’s position is that the constitutional and political arrangements in Spain are matters to be determined by their own citizens, through their own institutions and in keeping with the rule of law.

The balance between the freedom to demonstrate and the need for law and order must be protected so that people can go about their normal lives. That is why the Government continues to support a resolution to the current situation that is based on democracy and the rule of law.

We respect to the separation of powers in Spain, as we do in Ireland, and so it would not be appropriate for me to comment on the judicial process involving any individuals there.

The question of independence is deeply divisive in Catalonia. It is important that the voices of all Catalans are fully heard and represented, including those who do not support independence.


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