Header Item Order of Business (Continued)
 Header Item Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015: First Stage

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Dáil Éireann Debate
Vol. 873 No. 3

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  1 o’clock

(Speaker Continuing)

[Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath] Can I have an update on the legislation?

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It will come before the Dáil later this year.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton I wish to make a statement to the whole House and the Office of the Ceann Comhairle in particular. Most days, priority questions drift beyond the allocated 30 minutes, which means many of us cannot get questions in. Can we discuss staying within Standing Orders to ensure priority question time does not drift to an hour? Although Standing Orders allocate 30 minutes for priority questions, it drifts, and today it was 20 minutes over time, which meant at least four or five ordinary questions were not reached.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Stay to it, like the Order of Business.

Deputy David Stanton: Information on David Stanton Zoom on David Stanton It is unfair on those of us who go to the trouble of asking questions.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt I am being a little more indulgent today. I will take it up with the Ceann Comhairle. Technically, 32.5 minutes are allocated for the first five priority questions, given that half a minute is allocated for an introduction to each question.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Last week, the Oireachtas Joint Committee on Transport and Communications discussed bias within the State broadcaster. Later that evening, during the Private Members' motion, the issue was raised again, particularly surrounding the implementation of Irish Water. In this context, when is it expected that the broadcasting (amendment) Bill, which is to deal with the transition from the television licence to a broadcasting charge, will come before the House? Is it expected that the comments in the Oireachtas committee and here last week regarding bias will form part of the context of it?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath The Deputy should not bully RTE. It is a free press.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton I have no date for the legislation.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews What I want to ask, and how I want to ask it, is in an omnibus sense, wide reaching across many areas of legislation. The collective bargaining legislation is coming soon. Three Private Members' Bills have been dismissed and watered down. Could I have the Tánaiste's attention? Our country is still burgeoning with distress over many areas. Some 300,000 variable rate mortgages-----

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Which legislation is this?

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews It is a question on legislation. There is large-scale homelessness and there are deeply distressed mortgages leading to repossession.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, please.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews The Government has one year left out of a five-year term and the biggest majority ever in the history of the State.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Deputy left the Government. He should have stayed.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt This is not on the Order of Business, and you know it.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews It is.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Deputy Mathews had his chance.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt Ask a question on promised legislation.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews I have a list of A, B and C legislation. I am asking the Tánaiste to turbo-charge and concentrate the effectiveness of what is on the tracks.

Deputy Paul Kehoe: Information on Paul Kehoe Zoom on Paul Kehoe Deputy Mathews had more effect when he was over here.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews The Government is going at the same pace as if nothing had changed seven years ago. The country is in the work-out stage, like a post-war stage of reconstruction and the methodology of dealing with it is ineffective.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin A Leas-Cheann Comhairle, please.

Deputy John McGuinness: Information on John McGuinness Zoom on John McGuinness Deputy Mathews is entitled to be heard.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Is there some connection between the way the Government members talk about it and the way they legislate?

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The only thing disconnected here is Deputy Mathews.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Deputy should put down a Topical Issue on it.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan Ráiméis.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews Deputy Ó Fearghaíl made a very practical suggestion that the Tánaiste lift the phone to Ms Heffernan.

Deputy Patrick O'Donovan: Information on Patrick O'Donovan Zoom on Patrick O'Donovan The Deputy will end up in Fianna Fáil.

Deputy Peter Mathews: Information on Peter Mathews Zoom on Peter Mathews The Tánaiste should not underestimate her ability. Lift the phone to Ms Heffernan. It would be a new approach.

An Leas-Cheann Comhairle: Information on Michael Kitt Zoom on Michael Kitt The Deputy has covered a huge area.

Deputy Joe Carey: Information on Joe Carey Zoom on Joe Carey When will the greyhound industry (amendment) Bill be published and brought before the House for debate?

Deputy Finian McGrath: Information on Finian McGrath Zoom on Finian McGrath Let the dogs see the rabbit.

The Tánaiste: Information on Joan Burton Zoom on Joan Burton It will be out of the traps later in the year.

Universal Jurisdiction of Human Rights Bill 2015: First Stage

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I move:

That leave be granted to introduce a Bill entitled an Act to provide for a universal jurisdiction of human rights; to 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; for these purposes to amend the Criminal Justice (United Nations Convention against Torture) Act 2000 and the International Criminal Court Act 2006.

The Bill seeks to enable the charging and conviction of persons who breach international human rights law in cases of genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity, whether these breaches have occurred inside or outside the State. Universal jurisdiction can play a crucial part in the quest to obtain international justice for those who have suffered horrendous crimes.

  There are two types of universal jurisdiction. The first type can be enacted when a person who has breached international human rights enters the territory of a state which wishes to charge him or her. The offender's presence grants the state this universal jurisdiction. The second type of universal jurisdiction is practiced in absentia. This occurs when the person in question is not present in the state for the trial, but is tried for the crimes regardless. Spain, Germany, Belgium, France and Britain have long had universal jurisdiction statutes, which allow their national courts to pursue and prosecute war criminals. However, there is an unspoken rule in the West never to use international law against each other. This changed in 1998, when Spain, supported by France, Switzerland and Belgium, indicted the Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet, and sought his extradition from Britain, where he was having an operation. John Pilger has made the point that had Pinochet been sent for trial, he almost certainly would have implicated at least one British Prime Minister and two US Presidents in crimes against humanity. He was not extradited. Although unsuccessful, this attempt by Spain should be commended.

  It has also been argued that the use of universal jurisdiction by states has lost some of its relevance since the creation of the International Criminal Court, which was established as a permanent court for cases of genocide, war crimes, torture and crimes against humanity. However, the court has been a disaster since its inception in 1998. An example of this is the record number of petitions the court has received for Tony Blair to stand trial for war crimes. He has yet to be called before the court. How surprising. Mr. Blair was partially responsible for the deaths of more than 1 million people, has created almost 4 million refugees and has caused untold misery in the Middle East region, through the invasions of Afghanistan in 2011 and Iraq in 2003. He lied to both the British public and Parliament in the run up to the invasion in Iraq in 2003, claiming that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction. He later got to work for the US, EU and UN as a Middle East envoy. I must be missing something. Ireland has become complicit in some of these war crimes by allowing the United States to use Shannon Airport as a military air base. More than 2.25 million troops have passed through on their way to wars which have led to more than 1 million deaths.

  There have been many crimes against humanity, such as the mass murders in Rwanda and the slaughter by Suharto in Indonesia, the US in Vietnam, the Khmer Rouge in Cambodia and the Israeli defence forces in Gaza. There have been stories of families, wedding parties and whole villages being wiped out in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq, Libya and Yemen by the US, initiated by Barack Obama, George W. Bush and NATO forces. There have been reports of the disappearance of students in Mexico.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Would the Deputy include ISIS?

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace I would definitely include ISIS, and would throw the Russians in too, given that Russia has committed some serious crimes.

Deputy Brendan Howlin: Information on Brendan Howlin Zoom on Brendan Howlin Excellent.

Deputy Mick Wallace: Information on Mick Wallace Zoom on Mick Wallace There has been much debate recently in the Chamber regarding the issue of Irish neutrality. Sadly, we are not neutral, but have taken sides, and the Irish people are becoming more aware of this. It would be great if we could become a leader, not a follower, in the international community. The implementation of universal jurisdiction in Irish law would give us the power to try war criminals such as Tony Blair, George W. Bush, Barack Obama, Binyamin Netanyahu and Vladimir Putin for their horrendous crimes. I came across a quote from Henry Kissinger on universal jurisdiction:

Any universal system should contain procedures not only to punish the wicked but also to constrain the righteous. It must not allow legal principles to be used as weapons to settle political scores.

It is interesting that he said this, given that he was largely responsible for the deaths of 600,000 innocent people in Cambodia, when the US bombed the living daylights out of the country between 1969 and 1973. He is wanted for questioning in France, Chile and Argentina on these charges. Later, he said universal jurisdiction was a breach of each state's sovereignty, which translates as, the US can do what it likes when it likes where it likes, and if people do not like it, tough.


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