To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade the steps other than statements of condemnation which have been taken or will be taken at EU and international level against the preparators of the chemical attack in Idlib, Syria, which is a violation of International law; and if he will make a statement on the matter.
- Darragh O'Brien.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 12th April, 2017.
To ask the Minister for Foreign Affairs and Trade if his attention has been drawn to the deaths of at least 52 adults and 20 children due to sarin and chlorine gas exposure in Khan Sheikhoun, Syria (details supplied); and if his department will play a role in an investigation of this incident..
- Seán Crowe.
For ORAL answer on Wednesday, 12th April, 2017.
Ref No: 18298/17 Lottery: 34
I propose to take questions 57 and 60 together.
I was horrified to learn of the chemical attack in Khan Sheikhoun last week which killed scores of civilians and seriously injured many more. The attack was simply barbaric, and my thoughts are with the victims and their families. I condemn unreservedly the attack and those responsible.
The attack further underlines the need for accountability and a genuine political transition in Syria. The search for a sustainable peaceful resolution to the conflict, and, as part of that, ensuring full legal accountability for all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria, is an international priority for Ireland.
Ireland’s response goes far beyond statements. Ireland is a strong and consistent supporter of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) whose Fact Finding Mission (FFM) was set up in 2014 to “establish facts surrounding allegations of the use of toxic chemicals, reportedly chlorine, for hostile purposes in the Syrian Arab Republic”. We support their work financially with annual contributions amounting to nearly €1million since 2014. In addition, my Department has contributed €200,000 specifically to the OPCW-UN Joint Investigative Mission to eliminate chemical weapons in Syria.
More broadly, Ireland also supports the work of the Independent International Commission of Inquiry established in August 2011 by the Human Rights Council to investigate all alleged violations of international human rights law since March 2011 in Syria. Furthermore, in December, Ireland and a group of likeminded countries successfully pressed for the adoption of a resolution by the UN General Assembly to establish an International Impartial and Independent Mechanism to investigate and prosecute all war crimes and crimes against humanity committed in Syria. My Department is currently considering how best Ireland can continue to support the work of the Mechanism.
Ireland also supports EU sanctions targeting the regime and its supporters, and will continue to do so as long as repression continues. The sanctions currently in place include notably an oil embargo, restrictions on certain investments, a freeze of the assets of the Syrian central bank within the EU, export restrictions on equipment and technology that might be used for internal repression as well as on equipment and technology for monitoring or interception of internet or telephone communications. In addition, over 200 persons and 70 entities are targeted by a travel ban and an asset freeze over the violent repression against the civilian population in Syria. Last month the EU added four high-ranking Syrian military officials to the sanctions list for their role in the use of chemical weapons against civilians.
Ireland has also supported calls for sanctions at UN level also and very much regrets that a draft UN Security Council resolution that would have established a sanctions regime, a committee and an expert panel to hold accountable those using and producing chemical weapons in Syria was not passed on 28 February.
Ireland is not currently a member of the Security Council but is a member of the cross-regional Accountability, Coherence and Transparency (ACT) group at the UN, which has framed a Code of Conduct, now supported by 112 Member States, regarding Security Council action against genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes. Last week, we joined with our ACT partners in calling on all members of the Security Council to apply the Code by supporting timely and decisive action against the use of chemical weapons in Syria and not to vote against a credible draft resolution to that effect. Ireland will continue to support all efforts to ensure a lasting peace and full accountability for war crimes in Syria.
The principles and values underlining this support are important motivating factors for Ireland’s candidature for election to the Security Council for the 2021-2022 term when we hope to bring Ireland’s voice to the Council’s table.