Cowen Urges Russia to Bring those Responsible for Human Rights Abuses in Chechnya to Justice
The Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Brian Cowen T.D., has called on Russia to conduct a thorough investigation into reports of civilian killings and human rights abuses in Chechnya and to bring those responsible for abuses to justice. The Minister was speaking this morning at a major Human Rights Conference in Dublin Castle. The two day Conference, which is organised jointly by the Government, the Council of Europe and the Venice Commission, is focusing on the protection of human rights in the 21st Century and is one of the main events of Ireland's Presidency of the Council of Europe.
"A key aim of the conference is to see how political and legal approaches to human rights issues can be mutually supportive", the Minister said. The delegates from 41 countries include Mr. Evgeny Gusarov, Deputy Foreign Minister of the Russian Federation, and Mr. Alvaro Gil-Robles, the Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, who reported to the Conference on his visit this week to Moscow and Chechnya .
Speaking in his capacity as Chairman of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Minister Cowen welcomed the news that Russia is actively considering the possibilities of an international presence in Chechnya and Council of Europe assistance in the restoration of democratic structures there.
The Minister also announced that the new Human Rights Commission, which will shortly be established by the Oireachtas in accordance with the terms of the Good Friday Agreement, and its counterpart in Northern Ireland will draft a Charter of Rights for all of the people of the island. "This is an exciting and challenging concept which will result in the people, North and South, enjoying a level of human rights protection second to none", the Minister said. The Minister also indicated that the Minister for Justice, Equality and Law Reform, Mr. John O'Donoghue T.D., has been studying options for the incorporation of the European Convention on Human Rights into domestic law and will be making proposals to the Government in the near future.
Minister Cowen deplored the fact that in the Western Balkans and in the Caucasus region hundreds of thousands of refugees and displaced persons live in the most terrible conditions and called on the parties to the Stability Pact for South Eastern Europe to abide by the commitments they have made. "In the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia", he said, "the people of Serbia continue to suffer under the Milosevic regime. More than 3,000 Kosovo Albanians who disappeared during the war remain unaccounted for and the exodus of almost 200,000 Kosovo Serbs to Serbia is a potential new source of instability in the region".
Looking ahead to the next session of the UN Commission on Human Rights which opens in Geneva on 20 March, Minister Cowen expressed confidence that Ireland and its EU partners will succeed in convincing a majority of members of the Commission of the merits of the case for the abolition of the death penalty. ""All members of the UN are pledged under its Charter to promote human rights," he said, "The pursuit of the resolution on the abolition of the death penalty is a fulfilment of that pledge". The Minister also confirmed that Ireland will be the leading sponsor in Geneva of resolutions on religious intolerance and people with disabilities.Top