Dáil Éireann - Volume 472 - 11 December, 1996

Written Answers. - Refugees and Displaced Persons.

63. Mr. E. Byrne asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the plans, if any, there are for the international force for eastern Zaire to include a specialised international civilian human rights component to monitor the voluntary nature of any repatriation and ensure that the international force does not participate in any forced repatriation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [24008/96]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The Government unequivocally supports the principle of voluntary repatriation in respect [1559] of all refugees and displaced persons, including those of the Great Lakes region. With our EU partners our priority concerns are to ensure that their immediate humanitarian needs are met and that those who have returned to their homelands are reintegrated peacefully without threat of their rights or security. In keeping with existing EU policy in relation to the Great Lakes region we will continue to support appropriate measures to safeguard the human rights of those who have fallen victim to the crisis in Eastern Zaire.

The mandate of the multinational force established under Security Council Resolution 1080 of 15 November in response to the crisis in Eastern Zaire is to “facilitate the immediate return of humanitarian organisations and the effective delivery by civilian relief organisations of humanitarian aid to alleviate the immediate suffering of displaced persons, refugees and civilians at risk”, as well as “to facilitate the voluntary, orderly repatriation of refugees by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees as well as the voluntary return of displaced persons”. In the case of both refugees and internally displaced persons the authorisation provided by Resolution 1080 thus stipulates their “voluntary” return; there is no question of the force playing a coercive role in regard to such repatriation.

We understand from the lead-country in the multinational force, Canada, that its Commander, General Baril, has appointed a legal and human rights adviser to the civilian liaison team which is advising him in the execution of his duties. This should also serve to ensure that the force carries out its functions in the context of full respect for human rights. While the repatriation process in Rwanda has to date gone relatively smoothly, it is to be expected that there will be tensions in relation to property rights and other matters. With our European partners the Government fully accepts the urgent need for human rights monitors. This is reflected in the positive response which has been given to the appeal for funding to support the deployment of a further 300 human rights monitors recently made by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights. These will augment the human rights monitors already deployed under the UN Human Rights Field Operation for Rwanda which Ireland and the European Union have strongly supported. The Government's ongoing support for human rights monitoring is reflected in the fact that the £2.25 million package being provided by Ireland in response to the current crisis in Eastern Zaire includes £250,000 in support of additional monitors as well as support for the efforts of the Government of Rwanda to reintegrate returning refugees.

Following last month's decision by the European Union to provide 170 million ECU in support of immediate and long-term humanitarian and development assistance, the European Commission is also preparing a [1560] comprehensive plan of action for EU assistance to the Great Lakes region which will seek to support social and economic rehabilitation, the reconstruction of independent and equitable justice systems, the rebuilding and reinforcement of administrative systems and constitutional institutions and regional peace-building. It is hoped that the comprehensive approach thus being taken by the European Union will, with appropriate human rights monitoring and safeguards for refugees and other vulnerable sectors of the population, help to create the necessary conditions of a lasting settlement in the Great Lakes region at both political and humanitarian level.