Dáil Éireann - Volume 634 - 21 March, 2007

Written Answers. - Human Rights Issues.

Mr. Ferrisasked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if his attention has been drawn to the ongoing human rights abuses in Guinea; if steps are being taken here and at European Union level to condemn the brutal killings of innocent civilians; and if he will use Ireland’s influence to encourage the EU to hear the grievances of the people of Guinea and to enforce financial sanctions on the dictatorial government of Guinea. [10464/07]

  Mr. D. Ahern:The Government is greatly concerned by recent events in the Republic of Guinea, notably the violence which took place in January and February. While we have few direct bilateral connections with Guinea, we fully support efforts by the European Union to promote peace and political progress there. On behalf of the EU, the German Presidency on 19 January issued a statement in response to the first wave of violence, which expressed alarm at the loss of life, appealed to all parties to ensure that the political changes deemed necessary were carried out peacefully and in keeping with the constitution and warned against acts of intimidation or actions that could spark further violence. When EU Heads of Mission in Guinea presented this statement to the local authorities, they also made clear our broader concerns about the rule of law in Guinea and the need for certain democratic freedoms to be better realised.

Violence resumed in February with more protesters killed and arrested, before a general strike called by trade unions and civil society organisations was suspended again on 27 February after President Conté agreed to appoint Mr. Lansana Kouyaté, a respected former Ambassador of Guinea to the UN, as the new Prime Minister. Mediation by the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) played a very significant role in this breakthrough. On 2 March, the EU Presidency issued a second statement that underlined the Union’s expectation that Prime Minister Kouyaté be provided with executive powers as foreseen in the 27 January agreement between the Government and its opponents and called on all parties in Guinea to support the Prime Minister in his pursuit of the economic and [254] social recovery of Guinea. The statement also called on the new Government to give priority to improving the human rights situation and the rule of law and asked that those who were responsible for the killing of innocent people during the crisis be brought to justice.

The EU is now focused on actively assisting Prime Minister Kouyaté to implement vital political and economic reform. The EU uses its relationship with Guinea through the Cotonou partnership agreement as a means of encouraging democratisation, human rights reform and economic development, and from April 2005, it suspended €65 million of its European Development Funds allocation in response to Guinea’s failure to fulfil obligations under the Agreement regarding respect for human rights, democratic principles and the rule of law. Following recent reviews of the situation, progress has been made towards releasing the remainder of Guinea’s allocation under the 9th European Development Fund.

In addition to Ireland playing its part in formulating the EU’s response to the crisis, Irish Aid provided over €785,000 in funding in 2006 to support the work in Guinea of the World Health Organisation, UNICEF and Plan Ireland (a non governmental organisation). With our EU partners, Ireland will continue to follow developments in Guinea closely and will support dialogue and cooperation with the new Government in order to consolidate democracy and the rule of law, with a particular focus on the Parliamentary elections to be held this year.

Question No. 159 answered with Question No. 108.

Question No. 160 answered with Question No. 138.