Dáil Éireann - Volume 475 - 18 February, 1997

Written Answers. - Rwandan Crisis.

88. Mr. R. Burke asked the Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs the Government's response to the statement made by a person (details supplied) which argued that the Government must renew its support for military interventation in eastern Zaire to assist between 200,000 and 500,000 Hutu refuges still in Zaire; and the Government's reaction to this person's demand that Ireland must stop financial assistance to Rwanda until the integrity of the Rwandan Government, which is seriously undermined by the continued imprisonment without trial of more than 100,000 men, women and children since 1994 and by the Government's refusal to allow the free movement of human rights monitors, is re-established. [4416/97]

Tánaiste and Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Spring): The Government remains extremely concerned regarding the humanitarian situation of the remaining refugees and internally displaced people in eastern Zaire. I understand that the United Nations agencies along with the World Food Programme have been engaged in providing emergency relief supplies to the refugees since mid-December. The international agencies engaged in the humanitarian effort have recently been assured by local authorities that access to refugee camps will not be restricted. This is a welcome development as humanitarian efforts had previously been hampered by security difficulties and problems in relation to flight clearances and access to refugees. The World Food Programme, which is the lead international agency responsible for supplying emergency food stocks to the camps, has been airlifting emergency relief supplies into eastern Zaire on a twice-daily [182] basis since 6 February. I understand that this has improved the health and nutritional status of the refugees in the camps.

However, it is clear that the deteriorating security situation in eastern Zaire may have an adverse efect on the viability of the present relief effort. While it is possible to conceive of circumstances in which military intervention could be feasible, it is not clear that this is the situation at this point. What is required as this stage is the continuing active engagement by the international community with two principal aims; first, to contribute to the search for political progress as an alternative to the military pursuit of political objectives; and, second, to ensure adequate access for humanitarian assistance. In this regard we strongly welcome the recent appointment of Ambassador Mohammed Sahnoun as joint special representative of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity in the Great Lakes region. Along with our European partners we look forward to supporting the work of Ambassador Sahnoun, including through the good offices of the EU Special Envoy, Mr. Aldo Ajello, in seeking to find a lasting solution to the problems of the region. The Government will continue to monitor this situation closely.

The Government and our EU partners continue to support the early holding of an international conference on peace, security and stability in the Great Lakes region under the auspices of the United Nations and the Organisation of African Unity in order to address the root causes of the crisis in the region and to ensure respect for commitments, thus bringing about a peaceful and comprehensive resolution of the conflicts in the region.

The return and reintegration of over 1.2 million refugees from Zaire and Tanzania to Rwanda in the last two months poses enormous challenges for the Government of Rwanda. Among these challenges are the need of ensure that the basic requirements of the returnees for food, shelter and basic services are met; the need to bring the perpetrators of the 1994 genocide to justice and the need to ensure that the human rights, both of the returnees, and of genocide survivors, are respected. If Rwanda is to experience sustainable reconciliation and economic development over the coming years, it is vital that the international community continue to engage with the Government of Rwanda as well as with NGOs and UN agencies.

The Government is aware of the enormous problems which the judicial system in Rwanda faces, including the continued imprisonment of a large number of genocide suspects. This issue has been raised on a number of occasions with the Government of Rwanda, who is well aware of our concern for the welfare and human rights of the prisoners. The Irish Government has funded the work of the International Committee of the Red Cross in Rwandan prisons since 1995 and intends to continue this funding in the coming year.

[183] It is important that the Government, as part of the international engagement, continues to assist the Government of Rwanda in developing its legal systems and expertise in order that a justice system, which has the confidence of all, is fully established. In this context, the Government has given direct bilateral assistance to rehabilitate the judicial system in Rwanda, including grants to train magistrates, to facilitate the training of communal police and to establish a genocide secretariat for the formulation of legislation pertaining to crimes of genocide. Support has also been given to the International Criminal Tribunal in Arusha to issue indictments and to bring to trial those responsible for genocide. The Government welcomes the beginning of genocide trials both in Arusha and in Rwanda as an important step towards ending the culture of impunity and to promoting reconciliation.

The Government attaches great importance to the issue of human rights in Rwanda and commends the vital work of the United Nations human rights field operation in Rwanda. Ireland has recently provided IR£250,000 to fund Human Rights Monitors for Rwanda. I understand that, desite the appalling killings of five human rights workers in Cyangugu on 5 February, human rights monitors are continuing to carry out their work. I also understand that the Government of Rwanda has expressed its willingness to assist human rights monitors in this work. The United Nations human rights field operation in Rwanda, in common with the other international agencies and NGOs operating in Kigali, remains in close consultation with the Government with regard to security arrangements.

Since 1994, the Government has provided almost £12 million in emergency humanitarian and rehabilitation assistance to the Great Lakes region. This funding has been made available through a variety of channels. This includes grants made to Irish and international NGOs, UN agencies, the International Committee of the Red Cross, as well as direct bilateral assistance to the Government of Rwanda.