Header Item Gaelscoil Issues (Continued)
 Header Item Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]

Thursday, 9 March 2017

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 942 No. 2

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(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Noel Rock: Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock] This school in effect straddles two constituencies: Dublin North-West and Dublin Bay North. In its back garden, in effect, is a large brownfield site ripe for development. It is quite clear that this will see development most likely through 2018 and 2019 and therefore the demographic pressures in this area and on this school will continue to increase. Both constituencies at large are subject to huge population growth. My own is one of the fastest growing in the country, so I can clearly see the case and can clearly see that this is now in process. The Minister has met with representatives of the school and parents whose children attend it and I can see that he is listening to them. I therefore appreciate the contribution of the Minister of State on behalf of the Department on this occasion. I will continue to do my work on behalf of the parents and those concerned in the area in respect of the school. I thank the Minister of State for her contribution. Perhaps I will raise the matter again in the future.

Deputy Catherine Byrne: Information on Catherine Byrne Zoom on Catherine Byrne Again, I thank the Deputy for giving me the opportunity to outline the position regarding Gaelscoil Cholmcille. I understand perfectly well where the Deputy is coming from and the real need to give parents choices in the education of their children. Because Gaelscoileanna all across the country have become very popular in the past number of years, particularly in the Dublin region, there is probably a need to develop further from the current position. Regarding the Minister's commitment on the demographic demands, as he outlined, he has met the school principal and they are looking to re-examine the demographic pressures in the catchment area. As Deputy Rock said, this is now on the way. I hope there will be a greater response to his question in the future and that the Minister will be able to fill him in on time as the weeks go on.

Deputy Noel Rock: Information on Noel Rock Zoom on Noel Rock There is a clear acknowledgement of the future pressures that might build up here. The work the Minister, Deputy Bruton, is doing in general is encouraging, but it is great to see in this specific case that he and the Department are planning for the future and considering this in a holistic, cohesive manner. The Minister of State, Deputy Byrne, would be familiar with the great groundswell of enthusiasm for the Irish language which is building right across the State, certainly within Dublin. Dublin South-Central and Dublin North-West have become areas of great groundswell for the language. I appreciate the Minister of State's honest response to the question and thank her for it.

Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015: Second Stage [Private Members]

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I move: "That the Bill be now read a Second Time."

  I apologise to all the staff being dragged in here at this hour on a Thursday evening.

  The Bill will provide for a universal jurisdiction of human rights; enable the charging and conviction of persons who breach international human rights law in cases of, but not limited to, genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State; and, for these purposes, amend the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2006.

  The principle of universal jurisdiction is an essential tool to reduce the unevenness in the sphere of international justice. Currently, officials and decision makers from powerful states are at a remove from justice, while those from weaker states are not afforded this unfortunate layer of protection. The responsible use of universal jurisdiction is essential if we are to work towards a world in which crimes against humanity do not go unpunished, no matter where the perpetrators come from.

  The jurisdiction of the International Criminal Court is limited, with only 110 states parties. The Rome Statute of the ICC is not universally ratified and it does not have jurisdiction over crimes committed before July 2002. Without the principle of universal jurisdiction, this situation leaves us with safe havens all around the world and no justice for crimes committed over 15 years ago. These are just the technical issues, completely overshadowed by the political reality that the ICC is being, and has been, strangled by the UN Security Council and that it is no longer fit for purpose. The veto powers have corrupted both the council and the ICC so that the acceptable face of terrorism - the US, the UK, France, NATO and others - can protect themselves from justice.

  Universal jurisdiction plays a central role in the enforcement of international humanitarian law and the conditions for opening criminal proceedings or justifying a refusal to open them must be clearly defined at national level. It is essential that the legislation be properly used to prosecute war crimes, using both national and extraterritorial jurisdiction.

  We have the Geneva Conventions, the United Nations Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, the Convention on the Rights of the Child and many other fundamentally important laws that are abused every day, so often without consequence. The world order to which successive complicit, right-wing Governments of Ireland have unfortunately subscribed, whereby, to quote Denis Halliday, "powerful states use military might to make the rules for their exploitive, political, and natural resource greed is palpable and explosive in the Middle-East, Africa and elsewhere, and makes a mockery of the notion of international justice and accountability."

  In 1984, the United Nations Convention against Torture was signed by all nations bar a small handful. In recent years, we have seen the travesty of Abu Ghraib, the CIA dark site prisons, Guantánamo Bay, the rendition programme and the CIA torture report, and there has been no justice. About four years ago, a debate even opened in America about the legitimacy of torture. The current US President, the man our leader is going over to have an awkward handshake with next week - said that torture "absolutely" works. This is an insane situation. We are moving backwards and humanitarian law is not being upheld. Torture is a crime under any circumstances, irrespective of whether one calls it "enhanced interrogation techniques" or something equally ridiculous. Perpetrators cannot continue to operate with immunity.

  The most glaring case of top-down institutional torture in recent years is, sadly, one in which Ireland played a part by allowing the American military the use of Shannon Airport, yet no one has faced justice for the crimes surrounding the Iraq and Afghanistan invasions and the ICC refuses to carry out its function in this respect despite a wealth of evidence.

  In 2005, the Prime Minister of Malaysia appointed a war crimes commission to investigate, among other matters, crimes of torture. The former co-ordinator of the UN humanitarian programme in Iraq, Denis Halliday, was a member of the commission. The trial held in Kuala Lumpur heard harrowing witness accounts from victims of torture who suffered at the hands of US soldiers and contractors in Iraq and Afghanistan. The commission met many victims of torture who had been detained in the prisons of Bagram, Abu Ghraib and Guantánamo. These included Satar Jabar, the man in the now infamous photo of the tortured man in the hood.

  In May 2012, the commission found George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld and their legal advisers, Alberto Gonzales, David Addington, William Haynes, Jay Bybee and John Yoo, guilty of war crimes in absentia.

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