Dáil Éireann - Volume 571 - 01 October, 2003
Written Answers. - Diplomatic Representation.
Mr. Costello Mr. Costello
181. Mr. Costello asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs the efforts he has made to ensure that the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay are being afforded the basic protections of the Geneva Conventions; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [21067/03]
Mr. Cowen Mr. Cowen
Minister for Foreign Affairs (Mr. Cowen): As the Deputy may be aware, the treatment of persons in detention is regulated by two well established branches of international law – human rights law and international humanitarian law. In the case of those detained on suspicion of having committed a criminal offence, the relevant rules are provided by international human rights instruments, chief among which is the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights or ICCPR. Among the rights recognised by the ICCPR are that of an arrested person to be informed of the charges against him or her at the time of the arrest, and the right to a fair trial before a competent, independent and impartial tribunal established by law.
In the case of persons detained as prisoners of war, the provisions of international humanitarian law, in particular the Third Geneva Convention relative to the treatment of prisoners of war of 12 August 1949, must additionally be applied. The convention gives a detailed list of the rights enjoyed by prisoners of war, including the right to give only basic information to his or her captors, and the right to pursue religious, intellectual and physical activities while in captivity. Importantly, should a detaining power wish to try a prisoner of war for any criminal activity, such a trial must be held by an independent and impartial court and the prisoner must have the opportunity to present his or her defence with the assistance of a qualified advocate or counsel.
It has been claimed that persons detained in the Guantanamo Bay naval base in Cuba can be regarded as falling into a third category of detainee – that of “unlawful combatants,” who, while not being entitled to prisoner of war status, are being provided with selected prisoner of war privileges. I have previously expressed to the House the Government's concern that the detainees in Guantanamo Bay be treated in accordance with the provisions of international human rights and humanitarian law.
The United States authorities are well aware of the Government's position, which has been conveyed to them on a number of occasions. These concerns were conveyed most recently to the US Embassy in Dublin by my Department last week. There is no doubt that the United States is very conscious of the level and nature of international concern about the treatment and status of the prisoners held in Guantanamo Bay. In all contacts with the US authorities on the issue we have been assured that they are keenly aware of their obligations under international humanitarian law, and that they will live up to these obligations. The Government recognises the danger posed by terrorist networks such as al-Qaeda. However, in confronting those who abuse and violate all forms of human rights, it is essential that the highest standards be maintained at all times.
Question No. 182 answered with Question No. 114.
Dáil Éireann 571 Written Answers. Diplomatic Representation.