Shadow report highlights concerns about Ireland’s compliance with UN human rights standards

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties, the Free Legal Advice Centre and the Irish Penal Reform Trust today published a Shadow Report on Ireland’s compliance with the International Protocol on Civil and Political Rights. The report was launched by Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court is timed to coincide with the third periodic report by Ireland to the UN Human Rights Committee. In addition to the report of the member state on its human rights situation the procedure also allows NGOs and national human rights institutions to present their own views on the national human rights situation. For NGOs, the opportunity to present shadow reports to the committee amounts to a key opportunity to voice their human rights concerns and criticisms at an international level.

The Shadow Report to the Third Periodic Report of Ireland under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights highlights what the organisations say are significant gaps in the country’s human rights performance. Particular attention is drawn to the following issues:

  • Collusion regarding extraordinary rendition of prisoners by the CIA, the government is criticised for its failure to carry out searches of flights suspected of carrying unlawful prisoners
  • The failure to provide for full equality for all families, with legal status only being accorded to those families based on marriage ignoring non-traditional families
  • Ireland’s policy on abortion, in particular the Government’s failure to protect the health of women by not introducing legislation aimed at clarifying the legal implications of the various constitutional referendums is the cause of concern
  • Poor conditions of detention in prisons, including the continued use of slopping-out in four prisons, increasing overcrowding in Mountjoy and the Dochas Centre, and the fear that a new prison at Thornton Hall will result in an increase in the prison population
  • The persistence of imprisonment for debt, reform of the law is called for to amend the law on contempt
  • The absence of universal child benefit, attention is drawn to the fact that the ‘habitual residence’ condition in the child benefit system has a significant negative impact on children of asylum seekers.

The report was presented to the Human Rights Committee whose members raised questions regarding abortion, imprisonment and sentencing, immigration, religious control of education, and ethnicity and travellers.

COE Human Rights Report on Ireland Released

As part of his visit to Ireland last November, COE Commissioner for Human Rights Thomas Hammarberg visited the Centre for Criminal Justice and Human Rights and met with members to discuss and highlight issues of particular concern. This visit is mentioned in his Report which was released yesterday. The Report makes a total of 34 Recommendations, which are listed below. The Government of Ireland’s response to these recommendations is included as an Appendix.

National system for protecting human rights

– Ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.
– Adjust the legal aid scheme to the extent that it reflects actual cost of living standards.
– Review the mandates of the different human rights complaints bodies with a view to optimising their effectiveness and independence as well as closing current protection gaps, with particular reference to the remits of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children.
– Provide comprehensive and comparative information to the public on the mandates and functions of different complaints mechanisms.
– Facilitate the interaction of authorities with civil society representatives at all levels to ensure that their experience and expertise can benefit policy formulation and implementation.
– Conduct a base-line study to assess the extent to which human rights are integrated into education and training, so that further needs can be identified and addressed for ensuring that human rights awareness reaches all walks of society.
– Develop a national action plan on human rights as an inclusive process for continuously improving human rights in Ireland.

Children’s rights

– Implement the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 so as to significantly reduce the number of children experiencing consistent poverty.
– Use the opportunity of the proposed constitutional amendment to incorporate the best interests of the child as a general principle in the Irish Constitution, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.
– Prohibit corporal punishment of children in a comprehensive way.
– Provide for professional care in the accommodation facilities for separated children and assign a guardian ad litem to each separated child.
– Address the increasing demand for choice within the educational system, in particular with regard to cultural and religious diversity.
– Provide adequately resourced separate facilities and services for minor psychiatric patients, and make early intervention at a local level possible for such children.

Juvenile justice

– Ensure full implementation of the Children Act 2001 and its sentencing principles, for example, by providing guidance and specific training to the judiciary.
– Develop further the system of alternative sanctions for juvenile delinquents and ensure adequate funding for the system across the country.
– Review the current system of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders so that it does not lead to an increased use of detention and ensure its independent monitoring.
– Apply the Children Detention School model when the detention of juvenile offenders is deemed a necessary measure and discontinue the imprisonment of children in adult facilities.

Non-discrimination and women’s rights

– Review the resource needs of the Equality Tribunal to minimise its backlog of cases.
– Clarify the scope of legal abortions through statutory law in line with domestic jurisprudence and provide for adequate services for carrying out such abortions in Ireland.
– Change the law on birth registration in such a way that transgender persons can obtain a birth certificate reflecting their actual gender.
– Provide the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence with adequate resources for the effective fulfilment of its broad mandate while, in particular, ensuring effective support for women victims of violence through services supplied by both state and civil society operators.

Measures against racism and xenophobia

– Monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan against Racism and the local anti-racism and diversity plans in close cooperation with civil society and ethnic and cultural minority representatives, while preparing new action plans to succeed the current ones.
– Improve data collection on racist and xenophobic incidents.
– Provide for the racist motivation of a crime to be considered as an aggravating circumstance in Irish criminal law.

Situation of Travellers

– Work closely with Travellers when preparing, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes designed for the Travellers.
– Promote the participation of Travellers in political decision-making at local and national level.
– Ensure that Travellers are effectively protected against discrimination and racism under national and international law.

Treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers

– Ensure that the right to remain in Ireland during the procedure is granted to asylum-seekers who appeal asylum decisions which raise questions in relation to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.
– Reconsider the provision in the proposed Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which would direct costs for so called “frivolous and vexatious” proceedings to the legal counsel of the applicant.
– Provide family accommodation to families with children seeking asylum in Ireland.
– Introduce temporary work permits for asylum-seekers.
– Introduce statutory provisions regulating family reunification for all groups of people.
– Implement the principle of the best interests of the child in decisions within the field of immigration and refugee law related to children.

Fight against terrorism: extraordinary renditions

– Review the current inspection and monitoring arrangements in Ireland with a view to ensuring that effective and independent investigations are carried out into any serious allegation of extraordinary renditions