Amnesty International welcomed the Irish Government’s commitment to advancing global human rights, and a new interdepartmental committee to progress its domestic human rights compliance, in its review of Ireland’s foreign policy published today.
“As the review notes, Ireland has long been a champion of human rights and equality in its foreign policy, particularly at the United Nations. Today’s review articulates and solidifies Ireland’s position in this regard. However, in promoting Ireland’s trade and investment priorities, the Government must view its human rights priorities as intertwined,” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.
“We are encouraged by Ireland’s recommitment to advancing human rights, international justice and sustainable development in today’s review. We note and welcome its restating its existing global human rights priorities including gender equality, combatting discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity, promoting and protecting Human Rights Defenders, and defending the role of civil society. Ireland has helped secure substantial progress in these areas globally.”
“We also welcome Ireland’s continuing attention to major regional human rights concerns, including the search for resolution of the Israeli–Palestinian conflict and the situation in Syria and the Middle East.”
“The search for sustainable and human rights based development during the post-2015 negotiations, in which Ireland is playing a key role, is a deservedly significant theme . We further welcome the commitment to developing a national plan on Business and Human Rights. We look forward to this process outlining how business interests and human rights can – and must – go hand in hand.”
Amnesty international also noted the review’s discussion on internet freedom and security.
“Particularly positive is the review’s emphasis on ‘keeping cyberspace open, free and secure’. As the review notes, the internet has become a vital tool for people’s exercising their human rights in recent times. But some governments are using the web technology to crack down on freedom of expression and censor information on human rights violations. The US and UK governments have undermined online freedoms with their indiscriminate mass surveillance programmes. We look forward to seeing Ireland’s efforts on this front,” said Colm O’Gorman.
Amnesty international also welcomed Ireland’s commitment to continue its leadership on global arms control, including through promoting implementation of the Convention on Cluster Munitions and the Arms Trade Treaty.
“As the review notes, the proliferation of weapons of all forms fuels conflict and human rights abuses around the world. We are pleased that this remains a key priority for Ireland. We are also heartened that Ireland will engage in the debate on the next generation of weapons: lethal autonomous weapons. This is a new and worrying frontier. These are weapons that by themselves would select, attack, kill and wound human targets – without human intervention once activated. This raises extremely serious human rights concerns, potentially threatening the right to life,” said Colm O’Gorman.
Amnesty International urged that human rights concerns be reflected in the implementation of other areas of foreign policy.
“The review references the role played by the World Bank and other international financial institutions ‘charged with helping ensure international economic stability and sustainable development’. While the impacts of these institutions can be positive – for example, contributing to economic growth and poverty reduction – too often the impact is negative. We hope that Ireland will push for these institutions to accept that they have, at a minimum, a responsibility to ensure respect for human rights in the activities they support,” said Colm O’Gorman.
“We urge more generally that human rights are not just seen as Ireland’s values to be played out in the UN and other dedicated human rights fora. Economic growth and stability are indeed important. They are central to Ireland’s meeting its human rights commitments at home and its ability to continue to promote human rights around the world. But we hope that in promoting Ireland’s trade and investment priorities, the Government will not allow its economic interests to trump its responsibility to promote and protect human rights.”
Amnesty International also welcomes the review’s statement that work to achieve true reconciliation in Northern Ireland will remain a priority objective.
“We are encouraged that the peace and conciliation process in Northern Ireland remains a solid priority for Ireland. We urge that it supports the ongoing call for a comprehensive approach and mechanism to address the past in Northern Ireland. If such a mechanism is established, we urge Ireland provide full cooperation with its investigations in respect of allegations of collusion south of the border,” said Colm O’Gorman.
Amnesty International also noted the references to Ireland’s own adherence to core international and European human rights treaties.
“We are pleased to see the review reflect the need for coherence between Ireland’s position on the international stage and its domestic implementation of human rights. We very much welcome the announcement of a new Interdepartmental Committee on Human Rights, to improve such coherence. We note the committee’s proposed role in progressing Ireland’s ratification of human rights treaties. We sincerely hope that the inordinate delay in ratifying some key treaties is quickly overcome. These include the Enforced Disappearances Convention, Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture, all signed in 2007,” said Colm O’Gorman.
Image: © Amnesty International