Dáil Éireann - Volume 681 - 28 April, 2009
Written Answers. - Human Rights Issues.
Deputy Ruairí Quinn Deputy Ruairí Quinn
Deputy Ruairí Quinn asked the Minister for Foreign Affairs if he has raised with the Ambassador of Pakistan the issue of blasphemy laws which curtail freedom of speech within Pakistan; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [16775/09]
Deputy Micheál Martin Deputy Micheál Martin
Deputy Micheál Martin: I am concerned about a number of human rights issues in Pakistan, including the blasphemy laws. The blasphemy laws are designed to punish those judged to have engaged in derogatory behaviour towards Islam, such  as insults to the Prophet Mohammed and the Qu’ran. As implemented, the laws can serve to interfere with the right of individuals to practise their religion freely and curtail freedom of speech within Pakistan.
The provisions in Pakistan’s Penal Code which provide for a death sentence in certain blasphemy cases are also in breach of international standards on restricting the use of the death penalty to the most serious crimes. However, I am not aware of any cases of the death penalty having been imposed in cases involving blasphemy.
Human rights issues are raised with Pakistan in the context of our bilateral consultations with the Pakistani authorities, as well as at EU level. I shall seek to ensure that the issue of the blasphemy laws is included in future consultations. The subject was last raised in the bi-annual human rights demarche carried out by the EU Troika on 28 December which formed part of the human rights dialogue between the EU and Pakistan. On that occasion, the EU encouraged the Government of Pakistan to promote tolerance, to protect freedom of belief and freedom of expression effectively and to reform discriminatory legislation, in particular the blasphemy laws. EU Council Conclusions on 28 April and 8 December 2008 reaffirmed the importance of human rights in Pakistan as a central priority for the EU.
The blasphemy laws were also a subject of discussion during the Universal Periodic Review of Pakistan by the UN Human Rights Council in May 2008. Following the review, Pakistan undertook to introduce checks to regulate investigations into blasphemy and apostasy. Ireland, together with other EU Member States, actively participated in this review. The EU is carefully monitoring the progress that Pakistan is making on its commitment in this respect.
Combating religious intolerance has traditionally been a priority in Ireland’s international policy in the field of human rights. Ireland has actively supported resolutions on the elimination of religious intolerance at the UN Human Rights Council and at the UN General Assembly, most recently co-sponsoring a resolution on the topic of discrimination based on religion or belief which was adopted at the tenth session of the UN Human Rights Council in March of this year.
Dáil Éireann 681 Written Answers. Human Rights Issues.