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Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Wednesday, 27 March 2002

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 551 No. 3

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 69. Proinsias De Rossa Information on Prionsias De Rossa Zoom on Prionsias De Rossa  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  if he will support the appointment of a special rapporteur on human rights for Algeria; and if he will support the call to rescind the association agreement unless visas are granted to EU officials to oversee the fulfilment of the agreement in view of the fact that Algeria has signed articles of association with the EU. [10276/02]

 119. Mr. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan  asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen  the situation in Algeria; if an improvement has been achieved regarding human rights; if he will use his influence at EU and UN level to bring about an improvement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [10625/02]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen Zoom on Brian Cowen I propose to take Questions Nos. 69 and 119 together.

The Government remains deeply concerned at the suffering caused by the civil conflict in Algeria. Internal security remains extremely volatile – the recent period has been marked by a further increase in killings, with Islamic extremists continuing to target the civilian population. There has been some progress, most notably the Algerian Government's recent decision to recognise the Berber language. However, Ireland and our EU partners continue to urge Algeria to take further measures to strengthen democracy and respect for human rights. We hope the forthcoming parliamentary elections in Algeria will advance these necessary reforms. Ireland and our EU partners will again refer to the situation in Algeria at the current UN Commission for Human Rights in Geneva.

The Government of Algeria continue to oppose the appointment of a UN special rapporteur and it appears, as on previous occasions, there would be insufficient support among the current members of the UN Commission for Human Rights for such a proposal to succeed. In such circumstances, it would be counterproductive were a proposal to be made only to be defeated.

Reports by the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions and the special rapporteur on torture are due to be considered at the forthcoming United Nations Commission on Human Rights in Geneva. It is expected these would, inter alia, comment on developments in Algeria. The question of access for special rapporteurs to report at first hand on human rights situations of concern in a number [801] of countries, not only Algeria, will also be an issue in Geneva. The EU will again call on Algeria to give access to these rapporteurs.

The Government will continue to present its view that a more co-operative approach by Algeria to the utilisation of the human rights protection machinery of the United Nations, including the role of special rapporteurs, would be a constructive step in helping to facilitate a peaceful resolution to the current tragic situation and to develop the rule of law and strengthen the democratic process in Algeria.

When a delegation from the external relations directorate of the European Commission under the EU-sponsored initiative for human rights and democracy recently applied to visit Algeria, a problem arose with the visa applications. I am informed that this was of a technical nature. I understand the visit has had to be postponed, but that it is expected to go ahead in April. The visit is part of the EU's bilateral activities with Algeria to promote human rights and democracy and is part of the MEDA programme, the principal financial instrument of the EU for the implementation of the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. The human rights dialogue between the EU and Algeria will be enhanced by the recently negotiated EU-Algeria Association Agreement under the Euro-Mediterranean Partnership. In particular, Article 2 of the agreement states that respect for democratic principles and fundamental human rights, as set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, will guide the internal and international policies of the parties and will constitute an essential element of the agreement. The agreement also commits Algeria to develop the rule of law and democracy, including the upholding of fundamental freedoms. Ireland expects to see these commitments implemented fully in practice.

Question No. 70 answered with Question No. 32.

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