State Must Ensure that An Garda Síochána Define and Prohibit Racial Profiling

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) has called for the State to ensure that Garda powers are exercised in a consistent and unbiased way, including the defining and prohibition of racial profiling by An Garda Síochána.

In its report to the UN Human Rights Committee, which will be examining Ireland’s obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) from July 4th – 5th 2022, the Commission submitted over 100 recommendations, including important recommendations on policing, gender based violence and historic human rights abuses. The State will be appearing before the Committee in July.

In particular, the Commission is concerned about the ongoing failure of the State to take full accountability for Ireland’s long and dark history of institutional abuse; the continuing and widespread discrimination faced by Travellers; ongoing deficiencies in the State’s response to gender-based violence, including trafficking; the incompatibility of Ireland’s international protection framework with human rights obligations; and inadequate safe-guards to ensure access to justice and the rule of law.

State action to eradicate structural and institutional racism, ableism, ageism and sexism is also required to ensure the equal protection of civil and political rights for all individuals and groups.

As we reflect on the lessons learned from the pandemic, there is an opportunity to futureproof our human rights commitments by putting in place protective measures to prevent rights abuses, as other crises emerge and intensify.

The Commission recommends:

On Policing, that the State prioritises legislation through amendments to the Garda Síochána (Powers) Bill to define and prohibit racial profiling; and to include an express requirement to record the racial and ethnic origin of a person being stopped and searched, and the location at which the power is exercised. Also that the Garda Síochána (Digital Recording) Bill should prescribe the criteria for the selection of locations where CCTV is to be installed in order to safeguard against blanket surveillance of certain communities.

On Gender Based Violence, that the State ensures adequately resourced provision of specialised and accessible services and refuge spaces across the country, and provides supports for victims of gender based violence to access these services. Alongside this, it is important that the State prioritises the improvement of disaggregated data on violence against women and domestic violence, so we better understand how ethnic minority women access and experience domestic and sexual violence services.

On Reproductive Rights, that the State decriminalise abortion in all circumstances and ensure equality of safe and timely access to abortion across the entire country. The Commission regrets that to date, no draft legislation around safe access zones has been brought forward. The Commission also recommends that remote consultations for abortion services continue beyond the Covid-19 pandemic.

On Historical Human Rights Abuses, that identified perpetrators should be prosecuted and punished with penalties proportionate to the gravity of the offence. The State should also provide a detailed update on the financial contributions of religious congregations to redress. We must also ensure that redress schemes for past human rights violations are based on the right to truth, justice, reparation, non-recurrence and memory processes.

On Trafficking in Persons, that a new National Referral Mechanism be urgently progressed and that it ensures international protection can be pursued prior to, during or after identification as a victim of trafficking, and that such victims have access to all rights and assistance available.

On the Impact of the Pandemic, that the State carries out a thorough inquiry into the pandemic response, including an examination of the impact on civil and political rights and the development of legal and policy measures to mitigate the disproportionate impact of future crises on structurally vulnerable groups, and to ensure their representation and active participation in emergency planning and decision-making structures.

On Political Participation, that the State extend gender quotas to local, Seanad, and European Parliament elections, to ensure at least 40% of election candidates are women, and that additional positive action measures, such as reserved Parliamentary seats and a quota system to support the political participation of under-represented groups, are introduced.

On Conditions of Detention, that the State prioritises greater use of alternatives to imprisonment and remand detention to address prison overcrowding and improve prison conditions, particularly for groups over-represented in the prison population.

On Fair Trial and Equal Access Before the Law, that the State abolish the Special Criminal Court and repeal the Offences Against the State Acts.

On Embedding  Human Rights Obligations, that the State incorporate ICCPR into domestic law, and establishes of an Oireachtas Committee on Human Rights and Equality.

Chief Commissioner Sinéad Gibney said:

“It’s important that Ireland sets out in public to the UN how it is meeting its human rights obligations and faces direct questioning to account for those obligations. The ICCPR plays a vital role in the implementation of international law and human rights, and countries like Ireland who have ratified it, are obliged to legally protect and preserve an individual’s freedom from injustice, inequality and discrimination in all forms.

“The specific use of police powers by the State can disproportionately impact marginalised individuals and groups, which is why it’s so important to ensure they are exercised in a consistent and unbiased way. Across the globe we’ve seen examples of how bias can negatively affect community policing, and it’s crucial that the current consolidation of Garda powers ensures effective oversight.”

ENDS/

The full Submission to the Human Rights Committee on Ireland’s 5th Periodic Report is available at https://www.ihrec.ie/app/uploads/2022/06/Ireland-and-the-International-Covenant-on-Civil-and-Political-Rights.pdf

For further information, please contact:

Sarah Clarkin, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 852 9641 / 087 468 7760

sarah.clarkin@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Information for Editors

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is an independent public body, appointed by the President and directly accountable to the Oireachtas. The Commission has a statutory remit set out under the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 to protect and promote human rights and equality in Ireland, and build a culture of respect for human rights, equality and intercultural understanding in the State.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s NHRI and is recognised as such by the United Nations. The Commission is also Ireland’s National Equality Body for the purpose of a range of EU anti-discrimination measures.

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