Amnesty International Report: Statement by the Minister for Foreign Affairs
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr Brian Cowen T.D., today welcomed Amnesty International's audit of Ireland's compliance with international human rights standards. "We welcome any independent analysis of Ireland's human rights policies, domestic and international, and are studying Amnesty's audit with interest. There are many issues highlighted within the audit with which we agree. NGO's are important partners for the Department of Foreign Affairs in the examination of human rights issues and I welcome any contribution to a constructive dialogue on those issues". He added, however, that it is regrettable that Amnesty has chosen to present their welcome analysis as an "attack" on the Government.
The Minister went on to reject claims in Amnesty's report that Ireland failed in its Presidency of the Council of Europe to deal adequately with the crisis in Chechnya. "I am disappointed that Amnesty has misrepresented Ireland's skilful handling of Chechnya while holding the Presidency of the Council of Europe."
He went on to explain "Chechnya was the dominant political issue during Ireland's Presidency of the Council of Europe. It received the constant personal attention of my predecessor, Mr David Andrews TD, and myself. The Council of Europe is now playing a concrete role in Chechnya, including by maintaining human rights experts on the ground to register and follow-up on human rights violations. This role was initiated under Ireland's Presidency. Our role was acknowledged at the time and subsequently, including by the Council's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Alvaro Gil-Robles. In a recent interview with The Irish Times (26 March 2001), the Commissioner said that "it was in large measure due to Ireland's interest that so much has been achieved."
The Committee of Ministers acts on the basis of consensus of its members. Ireland's approach as President of the Committee was to maintain active pressure for fulfilment by Russia of its obligations to the Council and, at the same time, ensure a meaningful response by the Council of Europe, including a concrete contribution on the ground to protecting the human rights of individual Chechnyans. Ireland's view was, and remains, that the Council could not make that contribution unless Russia remained a member of the organisation.
Ireland took the view that suspending Russia from the Council of Europe would be counter productive and continues to take that view. No other member state has supported Russia's suspension. Important commitments were secured from Russia, including on the investigation of human rights violations.
Concluding, the Minister said "Ireland remains actively involved in pressing Russia to fulfill its commitments, including those secured during our Council of Europe Presidency."