Wednesday, 8 March 2000
Dáil Eireann Debate
49. Mrs. Owen asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he will express Ireland's concern at the lack of human rights in Mexico with particular regard to the threats to people working in the national human rights centre, PRODH, based in Mexico city; if he will raise the matter with the Mexican Ambassador to Ireland; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [7167/00]
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): I share the Deputy's concerns regarding the human rights situation in Mexico. It is widely acknowledged, including by the Mexican authorities themselves, that there are a range of systemic human rights deficiencies in Mexico which require to be addressed. I am heartened by the increasing willingness of the Mexican authorities to acknowledge these grave deficiencies and to initiate a dialogue on human rights issues with their international partners including the EU.
This new approach has been reflected in a number of positive developments, including acceptance by Mexico of the human rights clause in the EU-Mexico Global Agreement, increasing cooperation with EU countries in terms of practical human rights projects, recognition of the jurisdiction of the Inter American Court of Justice, the constructive engagement by the Mexican authorities with the visit last November by the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Mrs. Mary Robinson, and the admission of Mexico to observer status at the Council of Europe, under the auspices of the Irish Presidency.
It is against this background of a developing dialogue that embassies of the European Union in Mexico city were able to hold a meeting late last year with the Mexican authorities, in which they discussed their concern about threats made against officials of the PRODH organisation, a concern fully shared in the Mexican Foreign Ministry. In addition to the threats made, one PRODH official, Ms Digna Ochoa, had been attacked on two occasions, as a result of which arrangements for official security protection have  been agreed between the Mexican authorities and PRODH.
Much work will require to be done over time to translate the Mexican Government's human rights commitments into a new reality on the ground throughout the country. The European Union intends to maintain a continuing dialogue with the Mexican authorities to help achieve this objective.
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