International human rights jurist criticises
One of the many delegations to have visited the republican
prisoners in Castlerea prison included the well known
international lawyer and human rights expert Piet de Pauw, from
Belgium, earlier this month.
Piet de Pauw has been involved in many international human rights investigations, including Kurdish leader Ocalan's case and the imprisonment and treatment of the Kurds in Turkey. He also inquired into many cases of abuse of human rights in Afghanistan and in the Basque country, where he looked at the conditions of detention of Basques held in Spain and France. De Pauw has also been a member of many delegations who have to visited republican prisoners in Long Kesh, Maghaberry and Portlaoise.
After visiting Castlerea, Piet de Pauw pointed out that the Dublin government is in clear default on their commitments entered into under the Good Friday Agreement (GFA) to release the prisoners. ``There is no question that these prisoners qualify for release under the terms of the GFA,'' he said. ``It is inexcusable that the Dublin government has sought to make an exception of their case.
``It is reprehensible that a government, which is party to an agreement designed to resolve conflict, should attempt to use prisoners in this way, in effect as hostages to acquire leverage in further negotiations. The failure of the Irish government to meet its commitments represents a device to destabilise the forces in support of the Agreement.
``At the human level, it is indefensible to weigh the deaths of victims. The widow of an RUC man killed during the conflict, who has watched the release of prisoners in the north, asks the question why should it be different when it comes to those guilty of the manslaughter of Mrs. McCabe's husband. It is an unanswerable question. To elevate the death of one particular victim of the conflict, above others, to give that death, however painful, a separate status, is unjust and invidious to the relatives of all other victims. You cannot differentiate one case against another.''
Piet de Pauw went on to point out that `the behaviour of the British Government over withdrawal of the outstanding warrants is equally unjustifiable''.
It was announced recently by Peter Mandelson that the British Government will not pursue the warrants for 22 sentenced escapees. However, warrants for Pearse McAuley, Nessan Quinlivan, Tony Duncan and Andy Martin, all facing extradition, have still not been withdrawn. Andy Martin awaits a High Court decision while Nessan Quinlivan, whose appeal to the High Court was rejected, is before the Supreme Court in Dublin on 6 February in his final appeal against extradition to England.
``Peace comes dripping slow,'' said de Pauw, quoting the famous bard. ``I have seen this attitude on many occasions. It is the attitude of the coloniser, who is fighting a rear guard action all the time, hoping against hope that he will succeed in terminating a peace process that he cannot bring himself to support. They have not moved on from Mrs. Thatcher's mindset of trying, no matter what the cost, or the injustice, to defeat their political opposition.''
``These elements cannot accept the democratic mandate of a majority of the people on this island who voted for the Good Friday Agreement. They would like to put the clock back, and undoubtedly they are using these tactics to make difficulties and to hold all progress back.''