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Archive for the ‘International Law/International Human Rights’ Category

Guest Contribution: Saoirse Brady (FLAC) on the Direct Provision System

March 11, 2010 1 comment

We are delighted to welcome this guest contribution from Saoirse Brady, Policy and Campaigns Officer,  Free Legal Advice Centres. You can find out more about Saoirse on our Guest Contributors page.

To mark the tenth anniversary of the direct provision and dispersal system, FLAC launched its report One Size Doesn’t Fit All.   The report updates the 2003 FLAC report Direct Discrimination? which looked at the way in which asylum seekers and persons seeking other forms of protection were accommodated in Ireland, set apart from other destitute individuals.  The title of the report refers to the way in which the direct provision and dispersal system is operated: Residents are not treated as human beings but rather as a collective group without individual needs or personal circumstances.

Direct provision and dispersal was introduced as a nationwide policy in April 2000. It was introduced initially to alleviate the housing shortage faced by the Eastern Health Board due to the high numbers of people coming to seek asylum in Ireland.  Ireland is a party to the 1951 UN Refugee Convention and it is important to understand that anyone who comes to Ireland “to seek and to enjoy… asylum from persecution” is entitled to enter and remain here until a final determination is reached on their protection status.    Despite the dramatic decrease in the number of asylum seekers, the Department of Justice, Equality and Law Reform (DJELR) continues to operate the policy of accommodating persons seeking protection in centres where they are given three meals a day at set times and a weekly allowance of €19.10 for an adult and €9.60 for a child. This is the only social welfare payment never to have increased.

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Minister for Foreign Affairs addresses UN Disarmament Conference

On Tuesday the Minister for Foreign Affairs addressed the UN Conference on Disarmament. This Geneva based body is the main forum for the discussion of disarmament of weapons and was established in 1979. Ireland has been at the forefront of some of the recent efforts to bring about the restriction on the use of Cluster Munitions with the 2008 Dublin Conference succeeding in agreeing the text to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It prohibits the stockpiling, production and transfer  of cluster munitions that come within the Convention. It will enter into force on August 1st 2010.

In his speech at the Conference Minister Martin stressed the need to ensure compliance with the Non-Proliferation Treaty on nuclear weapons which has been in force since 1970. The Minister also  spoke of Ireland’s long-held position as regard to non-proliferation.

This week marks the anniversary of another proud moment in Irish and international history, with the fortieth anniversary next Friday, the 5th of March, of the entry into force of the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT).  In 1958, one of my distinguished predecessors, Frank Aiken, introduced the first of a series of UN resolutions which called for prevention of the further dissemination of nuclear weapons. He worked tirelessly for a treaty on nuclear disarmament and non-proliferation.  The lasting achievement of the NPT has been to diminish the spectre of a nuclear war. The nuclear-weapon States made binding commitments to nuclear disarmament and other States undertook not to acquire nuclear weapons.  This commitment to nuclear disarmament by the nuclear-weapon States was transformed into practical steps at the 2000 NPT Review Conference, at which the seven-member New Agenda Coalition, including Ireland, played a central role.

While the Minister did not mention Iran specifically his reference to renewed US leadership in the area, in the guise of its negotiations with Russia for the reduction in the number of nuclear weapons held, and his call for a nuclear weapon free Middle East could be read as support for action to be taken within the UN to prevent powers in the Middle East such as Iran from attaining nuclear arms. While negotiations have continued with Iran, it has been reported that Russia is now willing to support more sanctions against Iran if it continues to prevent full inspection of its nuclear facilities. The cause of nuclear disarmament is still very much alive and while Ireland will probably have little impact upon any action that is taken against Iran, showing support for the enforcement of international law remains important.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Visits Gaza

February 25, 2010 1 comment

Today, the Minister for Foreign Affairs, Micheál Martin T.D. visited Gaza. The trip was announced yesterday by the Department of Foreign Affairs.  In the press release the Minister stated that

My purpose in visiting Gaza is humanitarian, in order to assess for myself the conditions obtaining for Gaza’s population in light of the completely unacceptable blockade imposed on the Strip for some two-and-a-half years now.

I have repeatedly expressed my serious concerns over the situation in Gaza and called for an end to the unjust blockade imposed against its population 

The Director of Operations of UNRAW (United Nations Relief and Works Agency) is Irish born John Ging. John Ging was born in Portlaoise and is a former Irish Army officer who has served in Rwanda and Kosovo. He has also obtained a law degree from NUI, Galway and is a qualified barrister. He has been Director since 2006 and has been very vocal in bringing attention to the many problems in Gaza.

The Department of Foreign Affairs has been involved in Gaza for many years through Irish Aid . Since 2006 there has been a Representative Office in Ramallah. The attention that the visit of Minister Martin will bring to Gaza is important as it keeps front and centre the plight of the ordinary residents whose conditions have worsened since the introduction of the Isreali blockade following last winter’s war.

Blog Carnival on the Proposed Child Rights Constitutional Amendment (Expressions of Interest)

February 22, 2010 Leave a comment

On Friday 26 February, Human Rights in Ireland will host a mini Blog Carnival on the draft wording for a constitutional amendment on the child set out in the final report of the Oireachtas Committee on the Constitutional Amendment on Children.

Postings could take a number of different forms, including:

– Analyses of the draft wording in terms of its capacity to address current shortcomings in children’s rights protection under the constitutional framework. Topics of particular interest would include the implications of the draft wording for the realisation of children’s rights in areas such as child protection, adoption/guardianship, child poverty, refugee children, children in care and children in custody.

– Issues surrounding a forthcoming referendum on the draft wording. What forms are the various campaigns around any such referendum likely to take? What obstacles exist with regard to advancing or improving the wording as it stands? What factors will influence the ultimate outcome of such a referendum?

As well as relying on the in-house expertise of Human Rights in Ireland bloggers, those in the human rights, community, voluntary and other related sectors are invited to submit proposals for commentary that they may wish to make on the budget. Blog posts should be between 400-1,000 words (max).

Those interested are asked to contact me at aoife.nolan@qub.ac.uk (before noon 24 February 2010) so that a full Blog Programme can be ready to upload on 26 February.

Passports and assassinations

February 19, 2010 1 comment

The revelation at the start of this week that assassins had made use of Irish, British, German and French passports to perpetuate a murder in Dubai has shocked many. However this is far from the first time this has been done and rarely if ever is anyone held accountable for it.  The repercussions are often more political than legal. During the 1980s Margarete Thatcher ordered the closing down of Mossad’s base in London and an assurance that British passports would not be used again by Israeli forces after a similar event. However, if it is proved to once again that there are  Mossad agents involved it will only reinforce the notion that certain states can continue to act unlawfully even in situations where there are clear breaches of international and domestic law.

At the request of Dubai, Interpol have issued a ‘red notice’ to help in the idenficiation of the assassins of Hamas cammader Mahmoud al-Mabhhouh(who incidently also entered Dubai using a false passport). While most suspicision has fallen upon Israel, there is as yet no evidence to directly link Mossad to the assassination, though it is possible that more evidence will emerge.

Micheál Martin T.D., the Minister for Foreign Affairs, invited the Israeli ambassador to discuss the issue with him this morning. The tone of the press release was not as strident as the statements from the British Foreign Secretary David Miliband M.P. The Department of Foreign Affairs stated that:

It was stressed that, regardless of who was responsible, the Government takes grave exception to the forgery and misuse of Irish passports which could devalue the standing of the passports and potentially put at risk the safety of Irish citizens travelling abroad.

An important question is what action could the Irish Government take if it is proved that Israel or any other state was behind the assassination. The most obvious place to start is the law surrounding state responsibility. The International Law Commission’s Draft Articles on State Responsibility provide in article 1 that every state is responsible for its international wrongful acts and certainly the forging or otherwise of passports, which generally remain the property of the issuing government would be considered such. International wrongful acts can be bilateral or as the International Court of Justice averred in the Barcelona Traction Case international. It would also have to be under Article 2 (a) an act attributable to the state and therefore there would have to be proof that it was Mossad agents involved in the assassination. If it were for instance Hamas that ordered the assassination it would be very difficult to assert that any state had direct or indirect control of Hamas. The Nicaragua case before the ICJ has set a very high standard for elements of direct or indirect control of armed bands. Israel has not made a declaration of acceptance of the permanent jurisdiction of the ICJ and therefore if Ireland wished to take a case against Israel it would have to rely on a treaty that granted jurisdiction to the ICJ or some other court or tribunal. Countermeasures cannot be taken by one state against another punitively and therefore it would be difficult for Ireland to take an action unless there is an ongoing breach of international law.Indeed according to the ICJ in the Gabčíkovo-Nagymaros Project countermeasures must be proportional and non-punitive.

Of course if it was proved to be Israel that is involved, Ireland may be willing to accept an apology for the use of Irish passports, however this does not resolve the more disturbing broader issue of extra-judicial killings.

Obama meeting with the Dalai Lama

February 12, 2010 Leave a comment

The White House has confirmed that President Obama will go ahead with his meeting with the Dalai Lama on February 18th. This followed the postponement of the meeting prior to President Obama’s trip to China in November where in a joint statement with President Hu it was stated that;

We did note that while we recognize that Tibet is part of the People’s Republic of China, the United States supports the early resumption of dialogue between the Chinese government and representatives of the Dalai Lama to resolve any concerns and differences that the two sides may have.

The announcment of the visit has not been welcomed in Beijing. This has followed on from a number of recent disputes between China and the United States about the US’s continued support for Taiwan and the confirmation that it intends to continue with an agreed sale of arms to it that was negotiated under the Bush administration. This has followed on from disputes on trade relations, sanctions against Iran and the criticism of President Obama’s failure to discuss in-depth human rights concerns during his state visit in November.

A recent Economist article stated that there needed to be recognition that making room for China as a new superpower does not necessarily mean giving in to it. Indeed this has been a problem for a number of countries such as Ireland. This is probably best demonstrated by the critisism of President Mary Robinson when she met the Dalai Lama, over the objections, though not outright prohibition, of the Government in 1991. While Ireland has given financial aid to the Tibetan community in India, the need to keep up good relations with China for economic and geopolitical reasons while also maintaining a forthright approach to human rights issues can often be difficult. The riots in Lhasa in 2008 and the stifling of information coming out of Tibet since does raise concerns and it may thus indeed be proper for President Obama to meet with the spiritual leader and keep the issue of the people of Tibet in the public arena.

Department of Foreign Affairs’ Conflict Resolution Unit

February 5, 2010 2 comments

In 2007  the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs opened its Conflict Resolution Unit. The rationale behind the move was based upon

Given Ireland’s proud tradition of UN peacekeeping, our commitment to overseas development aid, our experience of the peace process in Northern Ireland and our commitment to human rights and the international rule of law, we are well placed to offer assistance to other countries on their path to peace and stability. The CRU is based within the Department’s Political Division, and cooperates closely with Development Cooperation and  Anglo-Irish Division.

At the time of  the unit’s creation, the then Minister of Foreign Affairs Dermot Ahern T.D. was reported as stating that Ireland’s experience in Northern Ireland, its long history of peacekeeping meant that we were particularly suited to take on this role. Though editorials at the time argued that as Ireland is a threat to nobody and unlikely to be suspected of putting its own interests ahead of international peace and securitythis seems to show a rather naïve appreciation of what a western country and a member of the EU can potentially be percieved as internationally.

The creation of this unit has resulted in a number of initiatives in co-operation with the United Nations and NGOs in areas such as Peacebuilding, Peacemaking and Human Rights in Conflict. One of the most interesting areas of focus is in Women Peace and Security . This is the response of the Irish Government to UN Security Council Resolution 1325 on Women, Peace and Security which states that:

7. Urges Member States to increase their voluntary financial, technical and logistical support for gender-sensitive training efforts, including those undertaken by relevant funds and programmes, inter alia, the United Nations Fund for Women and United Nations Children’s Fund, and by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and other relevant bodies;

8. Calls on all actors involved, when negotiating and implementing peace agreements, to adopt a gender perspective, including, inter alia: (a) The special needs of women and girls during repatriation and resettlement and for rehabilitation, reintegration and post-conflict reconstruction; (b) Measures that support local women’s peace initiatives and indigenous processes for conflict resolution, and that involve women in all of the implementation mechanisms of the peace agreements; (c) Measures that ensure the protection of and respect for human rights of women and girls, particularly as they relate to the constitution, the electoral system, the police and the judiciary;

Ireland is involved in a scheme which has been put together with Timor Leste, Liberia and Northern Ireland in a cross-learning initiative to aid developing Ireland’s National Action Plan and to facilitate the sharing of experiences of women in conflict situations. This has involved mini-conferences where models, experiences and recommendations were shared among the countries with more planned for 2010. Dame Nuala O’Loan has recently been appointed as Ireland’s Special Envoy on Women Peace and Security and she will now lead this initiative. This is an innovative  move within both this Unit and the Department as a whole which hopefully will result in positive futures for all women who are involved and caught up in conflict.