Wednesday, 18 November 2009
Dáil Eireann Debate
79. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he supports the recommendations of the Goldstone report including that the perpetrators of war crimes be subject to trial by international and national courts under universal jurisdiction; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41912/09]
80. Deputy Eamon Gilmore asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the measures he and the European Union supports to address the immediate and environmental dangers to the civilian population in Gaza that were identified in the Goldstone report; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41910/09]
117. Deputy Joan Burton asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs his views on whether the Goldstone report is accurate; his further views on whether its recommendations should be followed and action taken in response to its findings; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [41913/09]
The Goldstone Report is a serious and important document, which seeks to sift fact from allegations and rumour, and to determine so far as possible what happened in and around Gaza in the conflict at the beginning of this year, and how to pursue accountability for any violations of international humanitarian law which occurred. The members of the Fact Finding Mission led by Judge Goldstone, and including retired Irish Colonel Desmond Travers, are to be commended for the diligence and fairness with which they have attempted to carry out their mandate, including in rising above the regrettably one-sided nature of the original Human Rights Council Resolution which led to the establishment of the Mission.
Ireland has spoken in favour of the Report in our current capacity as observers at the Human Rights Council, and voted in favour of the Resolution on the Report at the UN General Assembly on 5 November. Ireland was one of five EU member States to vote in favour. Some partners opposed the Resolution while most abstained, because of issues which had as much to do with the terms of the Resolution as with the Report itself. We ourselves had some reservations about the terms of the Resolution. We felt that it was premature to be asked to ‘endorse’ the Report as a whole and made this clear in our explanation of vote. However, on balance, we decided to support the resolution in order to send a political signal as to the importance that we attach to the report and the issues it raises.
While supporting the resolution, we made clear that, like many other States, we will need time to carefully consider the complex political and legal issues involved in some of the very wide-ranging recommendations of this lengthy Report. Our vote in favour does not pre-empt that consideration, or mean that we will necessarily agree with every word in the Report. Its recommendations intentionally have the potential — which I welcome — to set new benchmarks in international legal accountability for military actions, and for that reason require the most careful political and legal consideration by all States. This will not be a speedy process.
It is not for the Government to conclude if the Report’s findings are accurate as to fact: that will be the task of the investigative and judicial mechanisms it calls for. Nor do we have information of our own on which to make a judgement. But clearly the Report marshals a strong case to be answered. In the first instance, the Report calls for all sides in the conflict to establish authoritative and transparent investigations into the allegations, and we fully supported that call, which was the main operative effect of the General Assembly Resolution. The possibilities of action by international courts, or national courts under universal jurisdiction, are among the alternative measures suggested if those local investigations are not held.
The conflict in Gaza has served to exacerbate many of the problems already facing Gaza, including in the environmental sphere and related issues of sewage treatment and the availability of drinking water. While the conflict did involve some additional destruction to the infrastructure in both areas, the main problem is the continuing blockade of construction materials which is preventing the urgent action necessary to avoid huge environmental problems. I have repeatedly stressed the urgent need for an end to the blockade and a full opening of the crossing points to Gaza to normal commercial and humanitarian traffic, and movement of people, and I repeat that call today.
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