Written Answers. - Human Rights Abuses.

Tuesday, 22 February 2000

Dáil Eireann Debate
Vol. 514 No. 6

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  135.  Mr. J. Bruton  Information on John Bruton  Zoom on John Bruton   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   the action, if any, he will take on the defiance by France of the 1997 findings of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe requiring it to re-open the case of a person (details supplied) who is still imprisoned in solitary confinement in Fresnes prison and in view of the fact that he was tried in his absence without legal representations; if diplomatic sanctions are contemplated against France by the other 14 EU member states; and, if not, the reason in this regard. [5159/00]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  Abdelhamid Hakkar was convicted in France in 1989 of killing a policeman and sentenced to life imprisonment. He was denied the right to representation by a lawyer of his choice and subsequently refused to attend the trial. In 1991, Mr Hakkar filed an application with the european commission for human rights alleging that France had violated the European Convention on Human Rights. In 1997, the Commission found that France had violated Article 6 of the Convention – the right to a fair trial. The Committee of Ministers of the Council endorsed this view and recommended the reopening of the case to the French authorities. To date this has not happened.

Ireland, as Chairman in Office of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, regards the compliance by member states with rulings of the European Court of Human Rights as being of the utmost importance. We have urged the French authorities to reopen Mr Hakkar's case and will support whatever action is appropriate within the committee to ensure that Mr. Hakkar's right to a fair trial is upheld. The Human Rights Committee of the Committee of Ministers is at present drafting an interim resolution against France, which will be brought to the Committee of Ministers in March should no progress be forthcoming in the case of Mr. Hakkar.

As the Deputy will be aware, this issue is one that has become a matter of great public interest in France and beyond. Compliance by member states with their commitments and obligations within the council has been one of the central pillars of Ireland's current chairmanship of the Council of Europe. Ireland has noted reports of [1414] recent measures adopted by the French national assembly regarding the reopening of procedures in such cases. In light of this, we hope to make further progress on the issue in the Committee of Ministers by the end of March.

  136.  Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)  Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he has received a report from the Irish consul in Milan, Italy, on an alleged assault by the Milan police on two young Irish women (details supplied) on 16 January 2000. [5207/00]

  137.  Mr. Higgins (Dublin West)  Information on Joe Higgins  Zoom on Joe Higgins   asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs  Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen   if he will make a formal protest to the Italian minister for police regarding the treatment of two young Irish women (details supplied) by the police in Milan on 16 January 2000. [5208/00]

Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): Information on Brian Cowen  Zoom on Brian Cowen  I propose to take Questions Nos. 136 and 137 together.

I have received a report from the honorary consul-general in Milan concerning complaints by the two people to whom the questions relate, supported by a certificate from a doctor who examined one of them, about alleged assaults on them by police officers in a night club and in a police station after they were taken into custody on 23 January 2000. The complainants also allege that they were not allowed to make telephone calls and were refused interpretation facilities.

The honorary consul-general has reported that they were charged with refusing to give their identity details and with resisting the police. She has requested a copy of the police report.

On 2 February the Embassy in Rome sent a formal note to the Italian Ministry of Foreign Affairs expressing its concern about the alleged physical assaults and violent ill-treatment and the alleged refusal to allow telephone calls or to provide interpretation.

The embassy requested that the complaints be investigated and that the embassy be informed of the outcome.

It is open to the persons concerned to take the matter further by making civil complaints against the police. A list, supplied by the embassy, of English-speaking lawyers in Milan who could assist in that connection has been sent to them. It is not possible for the embassy itself to make a civil complaint.

I will let the Deputy have copies of the police report and of the response of the Foreign Ministry as soon as they are received.


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