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 Header Item Written Answers Nos. 44-57
 Header Item Shannon Airport Facilities
 Header Item Good Friday Agreement
 Header Item Foreign Naval Vessels
 Header Item Religious Persecution
 Header Item Brexit Issues
 Header Item Humanitarian Aid Provision
 Header Item Middle East Issues
 Header Item Undocumented Irish in the USA
 Header Item Human Rights
 Header Item Human Rights Cases
 Header Item Election Monitoring Missions
 Header Item Foreign Conflicts

Wednesday, 12 April 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 947 No. 1

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Written Answers Nos. 44-57

Shannon Airport Facilities

 44. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he discussed the ongoing use of Shannon Airport by the US military with his counterpart on his most recent official visit to the US; his plans to change the current arrangement; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18234/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I have not yet had the opportunity to meet with the new US Secretary of State Mr. Rex Tillerson since he was sworn into office on 1 February. I look forward to meeting him and to discussing all aspects of our bilateral relationship.

The Air Navigation (Foreign Military Aircraft) Order 1952, made under the Air Navigation and Transport Act 1946, gives the Minister for Foreign Affairs primary responsibility for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft in Ireland.

Successive Governments have made landing facilities available at Shannon Airport to the United States for well over 50 years. These arrangements are governed by strict conditions, including that the aircraft must be unarmed, carry no arms, ammunition or explosives, that they do not engage in intelligence and that the flights do not form part of military exercises or operations. The arrangements do not amount to any form of military alliance with the US. These conditions are applicable to foreign military aircraft from all other countries seeking to land in Ireland or overfly Irish airspace and are guided by and reflect Ireland’s traditional policy of military neutrality.

Arrangements for the regulation of activity by foreign military aircraft are kept under ongoing review. In line with this, my Department ensures that detailed and robust procedures are in place to ensure that all relevant parties are fully aware of the requirements relating to applications for permission for foreign military aircraft to overfly or land in the State.

Good Friday Agreement

 45. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will provide an update on the efforts his Department is making to maintain and strengthen the Good Friday Agreement. [13878/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Government’s firm position is that the Good Friday Agreement and the successor Agreements must be implemented in full, and this is reflected in the Programme for Partnership Government. The Agreements, and the principles and values underpinning them, are at the core of the Government’s approach to peace, reconciliation and prosperity on this island. The Government will continue to work tirelessly for that full implementation in both letter and spirit.

While this commitment is something which is very much part of the daily work of my own – and indeed many other Departments, there are two significant challenges which are specific priorities at the moment: the talks in Belfast and the impact of Brexit.

I have already reported to the House on the talks process in Belfast, in which I am representing the Government, aimed at implementing outstanding commitments from previous Agreements and supporting the formation of a new power-sharing Executive in Northern Ireland.

I have spoken before about the interlocking institutions being at the heart of the Good Friday Agreement. The devolved institutions are the lifeblood within the Agreement and the Government will spare no effort in working to support their re-establishment. I know that all members in this House share our objective in this regard.

In the context of the two year Brexit process having been triggered, an effective Northern Ireland Executive is vital so that Northern Ireland can directly engage with the challenges arising from the UK withdrawal from the EU. Devolution is also necessary for the operation of the North South institutions under the Good Friday Agreement.

Cooperation on our island has always been important but it is crucial in the context of Brexit. The role of the North South Ministerial Council will be central in the months and years ahead and I look forward to the resumption of its work, immediately following formation of an Executive in Northern Ireland.

I very much hope that the necessary agreement between the parties will be reached on formation of the Executive as soon as possible, so that it can directly represent the interests of the people of Northern Ireland in the context of the UK’s departure from the European Union. While there is no substitute for direct representation of Northern Ireland’s interests by an Executive, the Government has of course sought to protect the interests of the island as whole in its extensive preparatory work on Brexit.

On the basis of our continuing intensive political and diplomatic engagement with every EU Member State and the EU Institutions, I am greatly heartened by the solidarity and support that our EU partners have shown for the imperative of protecting the peace process on our island, founded on the Good Friday Agreement. The Government will continue to do all it can to ensure that all provisions of the Good Friday Agreement are recognised and understood in the EU-UK negotiations process and respected and upheld in the final outcome.

Foreign Naval Vessels

 46. Deputy Mick Wallace Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if officials in his Department had communication with the US authorities or other Departments regarding the presence of a ship (details supplied) in Cobh harbour on 21 March 2017; if so, the details of this communication; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18235/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan In response to a request from the US Embassy, my Department granted permission for a visit by the US naval vessel, USS Donald Cook, to visit the port of Cobh from 21-25 March 2017. The purpose of the visit to Ireland was crew rest and relaxation.

Routine courtesy visits by naval vessels to foreign ports are a regular feature of international relations and help to further bilateral ties between friendly nations. Ships from our own Naval Service also regularly pay such visits to foreign ports. Permission was granted in this case in consideration of the deep ties of friendship between Ireland and the US.

As is the case, for all requests for ships to pay routine calls to Irish ports, my Department seeks the views of other Departments and agencies including An Garda Síochána, the Naval Service and the relevant port prior to permission being granted.

In seeking permission for this visit, clear assurances were received from the US Embassy that the vessel in question would not be carrying any nuclear weapons and would not engage in any military exercises while in Irish territorial waters. These conditions are imposed in line with Ireland’s longstanding policy that visiting naval vessels not carry nuclear weapons and not engage in military exercises while in Irish territorial waters.

  Question No. 47 answered with Question No. 35.

Religious Persecution

 48. Deputy Mattie McGrath Information on Mattie McGrath Zoom on Mattie McGrath asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will provide an update on discussions he has had at European Council level relating to the persecution of the Christian population in the Middle East. [13879/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan At the outset I would like to express my horror at the two attacks on Coptic Churches in northern Egypt on Sunday, and to extend my deepest condolences to the victims and their families.

The political turmoil which has overwhelmed many countries in the Middle East in recent years has led to increased concerns about the safety of several religious minorities and other minority groups. Daesh and other terrorist groups have attacked and murdered many communities and groups of people for their religious beliefs and/or way of life. The only means of securing the protection of Christian communities and other minorities across the Middle East is through the promotion of sustainable political solutions to the conflicts which have for so long destabilised the region and have been the key factor in the promotion of radical and extremist ideologies. Ireland has consistently called for inclusive, democratic solutions to the unrest in the Middle East and North Africa region.

More generally, Ireland is deeply concerned by the persecution of Christians and other minorities in the Middle East. Ireland strongly condemns all forms of persecution on the basis of religion or belief, irrespective of where they occur or who the victims are. We attach great importance to combating all forms of discrimination based on religion or belief and incitement to religious hatred. We firmly believe in tolerance, non-discrimination, freedom of expression, freedom of thought, conscience, religion or belief.

Ireland consistently raises the issues of racism and intolerance and advocates for inclusive societies at the UN Human Rights Council, during the Council’s Universal Periodic Review of the human rights records of UN Member States, as well as at the Council of Europe and the OSCE. The promotion of inclusive societies where the human rights of all individuals are respected is a core objective of our engagement on issues such as the promotion of freedom of expression and freedom of religion or belief.

During our Presidency of the Council of Ministers in 2013, Ireland played a key role in the development and adoption of the EU Guidelines on Freedom of Religion or Belief. These Guidelines provide a framework for the promotion of freedom of religion or belief in the EU’s external human rights policy. They emphasise the universality of this right and acknowledge its centrality to safeguarding diversity. In 2015 Ireland also pressed for the inclusion of a reference to the promotion of freedom of religion or belief in the EU Action Plan for Human Rights and Democracy 2015-2019.

Ireland has made freedom of religion and belief a priority of our engagement at the UN General Assembly. As Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade, I have condemned all forms of persecution, intolerance and discrimination based on religion or belief on a number of occasions, most recently on 24 September 2016 at the 71st Session of the UNGA. Ireland has consistently supported resolutions on freedom of religion or belief at the UN Human Rights Council, including co-sponsorship of the Resolution at the most recent session of the HRC in March.

In addition, Ireland frequently raises and will continue to raise the issue of the persecution of Christians through its official bilateral contacts, stressing the responsibility of governments to protect all citizens and minorities, irrespective of their religion or belief.

I can assure the Deputy that Ireland will continue to actively support freedom of religion or belief across our foreign policy.

Brexit Issues

 49. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if during his discussions with his European counterparts he has requested that Ireland receive a veto on the EU-Britain deal on Brexit similar to that received by Spain; if so, and if he did not receive support, the basis on which Ireland is being treated differently to Spain; and if he has not requested such a veto, the reason therefor. [18295/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan A central pillar of the Government’s response to last year’s UK referendum on EU membership has been strategic outreach to EU partners and Institutions to ensure that the unique Irish perspective on Brexit is understood before negotiations begin. To that end, a significant programme of engagements with EU partners began after the referendum some time ago and will continue. To date, there have been over 400 engagements across government at either political or senior official level. For my part, since the UK referendum, I have had in excess of 70 meetings or conversations, including with each of my EU counterparts. In March alone, I met with the Foreign Ministers from Italy, Luxembourg, Germany and Denmark and, most recently, met with my Swedish and Austrian colleagues in the margins of the Foreign Affairs Council on 3 April.

It is clear that this extensive political, diplomatic and official campaign has been effective in ensuring understanding and recognition of our unique circumstances and specific issues. This is clearly reflected in the draft negotiation Guidelines circulated to the EU27 on 31 March, as well as in Prime Minister May’s letter of notification and the European Parliament’s resolution on Brexit, all of which contain strong a strong acknowledgement of our unique concerns, including in relation to the Good Friday Agreement.

As regards to Gibraltar, it should be recalled that it is part neither of the UK nor of the EU, but is a UK overseas territory. Moreover, its constitutional status is disputed. The situation is therefore completely different to that of Northern Ireland, the constitutional status of which, and how that status might change on the basis of the principle of consent, are set out definitively in the Good Friday Agreement.

The text in the draft Guidelines is consistent with Irish Government policy that the status of Gibraltar is a bilateral issue between Spain and the UK.

Moreover the draft Guidelines make reference to Gibraltar within the context of the framework for future EU-UK relationship, which itself will be the subject of a separate negotiation and agreement at a later stage. In all likelihood, that agreement will require ratification by all EU27 Member States, including Ireland.

This is entirely distinct and separate from the Irish Government’s priority of ensuring that the unique circumstances on the island of Ireland, including the Good Friday Agreement, are recognised and protected within the context of the Article 50 negotiations leading to a withdrawal agreement.

Humanitarian Aid Provision

 50. Deputy Bernard J. Durkan Information on Bernard Durkan Zoom on Bernard Durkan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the extent to which unilaterally or together with his EU and UN colleagues, the international community can become effectively and positively involved in the ongoing refugee crisis in Syria and Iraq; if consideration has been given or is likely to be given to the establishment of safe havens to provide early relief to those affected by war; his views on whether there will be progress in this area; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18300/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh Ireland continues to respond to the unprecedented levels of humanitarian need as a result of crises across the Middle East. We have provided a total of €76.5 million in humanitarian assistance for victims of the Syrian conflict since 2012 and a further €5.75 million for Iraq. Furthermore, through our contributions to the EU and to the UN Central Emergency Response Fund, Ireland is making a strong contribution to the broader EU and UN humanitarian responses in the region.

The number of people who have been forced to flee their homes as a result of these conflicts continues to grow. When I visited Lebanon and Jordan last month I witnessed for myself the needs of people forced from their homes and the huge pressures being placed on host communities. Ireland will continue to support refugees and host communities with our humanitarian assistance.

At the conference co-chaired by the EU and the UN last week in Brussels, the international community pledged a total of $6 billion for critical humanitarian programmes to assist Syria and the region in 2017. I promised that Ireland would provide at least €25 million this year to support those affected by the Syria crisis.

We will continue to monitor the situation in Syria, Iraq and the wider region closely. Providing safe havens within conflict zones is extremely difficult however, especially where civilian protection is not prioritised. Safe havens require UN mandates and robustly-equipped peacekeeping personnel. Unfortunately, political will is lacking in many conflicts today, including from some on the UN Security Council. However, in other places, the UN is active and there are twice as many UN peacekeepers deployed today as 15 years ago. Ireland continues to play a significant role in peacekeeping missions and we will continue to keep the issue of safe havens in different conflict situations under review.

Middle East Issues

 51. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his plans to formally recognise the state of Palestine; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18290/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan As I have reported to the House, I am keeping under continuous review whether the immediate recognition by Ireland of a state of Palestine, prior to its real achievement on the ground, could be a helpful step towards the goal of resolving the conflict. And, if so, when that might have the greatest impact.

  My two visits to the region have contributed to that ongoing consideration, and I have discussed the question with both local leaders and EU colleagues.

  The motions passed by the Dáil and the Seanad in this regard in 2014 are obviously important factors, but ultimately this is a decision for the Government, and there are many factors to take into account, both positive and negative.

  I am also acutely conscious that the situation on the ground has continued to deteriorate, and efforts to reanimate the political process have not yet been successful. I have condemned a number of recent negative actions, including announcements of settlement construction.

  I am continuing to weigh these and other factors in relation to recognition on an ongoing basis.

Undocumented Irish in the USA

 52. Deputy Charlie McConalogue Information on Charlie McConalogue Zoom on Charlie McConalogue asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he will report on his discussions with US officials regarding immigration reform, in particular the plight of undocumented Irish citizens in the US; his plans to meet US officials in the near future to discuss this further; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18004/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan The Government and Ireland’s diplomatic representatives in the United States of America systematically avail of opportunities to raise the situation of the undocumented Irish with the US Government and Congressional representatives, expressing our hope that their situation will be regularized.

I raised these issues during my meetings with senior members of Congress from both sides of the aisle and representatives of the new Administration when I visited Washington DC in January and early February. In these discussions (which included Speaker Ryan and Congressman Neal), I emphasised that the Government’s objectives remain constant: relief for the undocumented and finding greater pathways for legal migration to the United States.

An Taoiseach subsequently used the opportunity of his meetings with President Trump, Vice-President Pence, Speaker Ryan, and other senior US leaders during the St. Patrick’s Day events in Washington DC to raise immigration-related issues and to convey the continuing importance which we attach to them.

Minister of State Joe McHugh was also very active on these issues during his recent visit to New York where he met a number of emigrant support groups who are directly involved in supporting the undocumented and heard their perspectives on recent developments.

In addition to these contacts at political level, the Embassy in Washington and our Consulates across the United States continue to work with Irish immigration centres on a daily basis in providing support to Irish citizens in the United States.

Our Embassy in Washington DC remains in ongoing contact with key immigration stake-holders within the Irish community across the US. The Government and my Department are committed to providing practical support to undocumented Irish citizens in the US, while also continuing to advocate for immigration reform.

The Government will continue to avail of opportunities to raise these important issues in our contacts with the US and to seek relief for undocumented Irish citizens.

  Question No. 53 answered with Question No. 30.

Human Rights

 54. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan his views on recent events in Hungary including the silencing of critical media outlets; the steps that have been taken at EU level in view of such events; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18291/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan Respect for the fundamental values on which the European Union is founded and which are set out in the Treaty, including respect for the rule of law and freedom of expression, must continue to be at the forefront of all efforts which Member States and the institutions make to tackle the very many challenges now confronting the EU.

The Government has been following closely recent developments in Hungary. In the EU context these are of course matters in the first instance for the European Commission, which is charged with ensuring the application of the treaties and is responsible for promoting the general interest of the Union.

The question of the legislation adopted this week by the Hungarian government has been raised within the European Commission. I also understand that the European Parliament will hold a debate on the current situation in Hungary, which is scheduled for 26 April.

The issues which have been raised also fall very much within the human rights remit of the Council of Europe.

Human Rights Cases

 55. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if the Irish ambassador to Egypt attended the latest mass trial in Cairo involving a person (details supplied); if he has considered the calls on his Department to begin an international legal challenge against Egypt on the grounds of human rights violations against the person; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18294/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan This consular case continues to be a top priority for the Government and substantial resources and time are being devoted to it, by the Taoiseach and the Government and by my Department.

The Taoiseach has in recent days renewed the Government’s appeal to the Egyptian President to release this Irish citizen and return him to Ireland without delay. This is the Government’s objective, and we are working day-in and day-out to seek to secure that outcome. I reiterated our position when I met my Egyptian counterpart, Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry, again last month. In recent days I have also spoken again with EU High Representative Mogherini about the case and I also availed of the opportunity of my meeting with the Secretary General of the Arab League, who is a former Egyptian Foreign Minister, to enlist his assistance in trying to persuade the Egyptian authorities to release this man.

The trial in which this person is accused was back in court on 5 April and officials from the Irish Embassy were present in court to observe proceedings. Our Ambassador was not there because he was in Dublin that same day and I was meeting him for consultations on this case. The hearing saw more witnesses called and cross-examined. The trial is clearly moving forward and there are indications that an end to it may be in prospect. At that hearing, lawyers representing our Irish citizen made a request for his release on health grounds and the presiding Judge undertook to examine the matter. The same judge has previously ordered on a number of occasions that there should be medical evaluations of this man’s health. The next hearing in the case is scheduled to take place on 26 April.

I am aware of calls for the Government to pursue other avenues in order to seek to secure this citizen’s return to Ireland, including international legal action. Our approach throughout this case has been based on a very thorough analysis of all the information, experience and expertise available to us, and has benefitted from extensive consultations with a range of partners and third countries who have had cases involving citizens in comparable situations. While we continue to keep all options under review, it remains our view at this point that the best approach is to continue to work through political and diplomatic channels. This approach holds out the best prospect of a positive resolution to this case at the earliest possible time. Our approach is also informed by our concern not to take any action which would be likely to be detrimental for this citizen’s interests.

Election Monitoring Missions

 56. Deputy Maureen O'Sullivan Information on Maureen O'Sullivan Zoom on Maureen O'Sullivan asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if he has satisfied himself with the workings of the election observation roster operated by his Department in view of questions surrounding selections of rosters without interviews including updating the current list; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18229/17]

Minister of State at the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Joe McHugh): Information on Joe McHugh Zoom on Joe McHugh The Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade maintains and administers a roster of observers for election observation missions, organised in the main by the EU and OSCE.

  The current election observation roster was established in May 2013, following a review of the previous roster and a public call for applications. The Information Note for Applicants which accompanied the call, stated that should a large number of applicants meet the minimum eligibility requirements, a smaller number would be interviewed. In the event, just 263 eligible applications were received for a roster to comprise 200 individuals, with 10 reserve panelists. As a result, it was decided that and interview stage would not be necessary and the selection process was carried out on the basis of the written applications.

  For each election mission, the EU or OSCE set out their specific requirements and, on the basis of expressions of interest from roster members, the Department draws up a list of applicants. In selecting nominees to be put forward, the specific criteria set by the EU or OSCE, including relevant local and regional experience, language proficiency, gender and length of time since serving on a mission, provide the main bases for decision-making.

  Overall, Irish nominees have a high success rate and in 2016, a total of 68 observers participated in OSCE and EU Election Observation Missions.

  I am confident that the roster is well equipped to deal with the requirements of the EU and OSCE. We envisage that the current roster will operate until May 2018, but will be kept under review. Details regarding the next call for roster members will be published on the Irish Aid website (www.irishaid.ie) later this year.

Foreign Conflicts

 57. Deputy Darragh O'Brien Information on Darragh O'Brien Zoom on Darragh O'Brien asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan the steps other than statements of condemnation which have been taken or will be taken at EU and international level against the preparators of the chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, which is a violation of international law; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [18289/17]

 60. Deputy Seán Crowe Information on Seán Crowe Zoom on Seán Crowe asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan if his attention has been drawn to the deaths of at least 52 adults and 20 children due to sarin and chlorine gas exposure in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria (details supplied); and if his Department will play a role in an investigation of this incident. [18298/17]

Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade (Deputy Charles Flanagan): Information on Charles Flanagan Zoom on Charles Flanagan I propose to take Questions Nos. 57 and 60 together.

  I was horrified to learn of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun last week which killed scores of civilians and seriously injured many more. The attack was simply barbaric, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I condemn unreservedly the attack and those responsible.

  The attack further underlines the need for accountability and a genuine political transition in Syria. The search for a sustainable peaceful resolution to the conflict, and, as part of that, ensuring full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, is an international priority for Ireland.

  Ireland’s response goes far beyond statements. Ireland is a strong and consistent supporter of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) whose Fact Finding Mission (FFM) was set up in 2014 to “establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”. We support their work financially with annual contributions amounting to nearly €1million since 2014. In addition, my Department has contributed €200,000 specifically to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria.

  More broadly, Ireland also supports the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry established in August 2011 by the Human Rights Council to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in Syria.  Furthermore, in December, Ireland and a group of likeminded countries successfully pressed for the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly to establish an International Impartial and Independent Mechanism to investigate and prosecute all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. My Department is currently considering how best Ireland can continue to support the work of the Mechanism.

  Ireland also supports EU sanctions targeting the regime and its supporters, and will continue to do so as long as repression continues.  The sanctions currently in place include notably an oil embargo, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank within the EU, export restrictions on equipment and technology that might be used for internal repression as well as on equipment and technology for monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications. In addition, over 200 persons and 70 entities are targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze over the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria. Last month the EU added four high-ranking Syrian military officials to the sanctions list for their role in the use of chemical weapons against civilians.

  Ireland has also supported calls for sanctions at UN level also and very much regrets that a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have established a sanctions regime, a committee and an expert panel to hold accountable those using and producing chemical weapons in Syria was not passed on 28 February.

  Ireland is not currently a member of the Security Council but is a member of the cross-regional Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group at the UN, which has framed a Code of Conduct, now supported by 112 Member States, regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Last week, we joined with our ACT partners in calling on all members of the Security Council to apply the Code by supporting timely and decisive action against the use of chemical weapons in Syria and not to vote against a credible draft resolution to that effect. Ireland will continue to support all efforts to ensure a lasting peace and full accountability for war crimes in Syria.

  The principles and values underlining this support are important motivating factors for Ireland’s candidature for election to the Security Council for the 2021-2022 term when we hope to bring Ireland’s voice to the Council’s table.


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