Human Rights and Equality Commission to Appear Before UN in Monitoring of State’s Human Rights Obligations

Ireland’s Rights Record on Torture and Degrading Treatment Under Scrutiny

18th July – A report to assess Ireland’s performance on combatting torture and ill treatment has been published today by the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (“the Commission”).

The detailed monitoring report provided to the UN, brings forward eighty recommendations for State action, ahead of a United Nations (UN) appearance by the State for the first time since 2011 to account for its record in fulfilling its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).

Chief Commissioner Emily Logan will appear before the UN in Geneva to present the Commission’s findings, which will inform the State examination and questioning on compliance with the Convention, which takes place on the 27th and 28th July. The Minister of State at the Department of Justice and Equality, David Stanton T.D. is expected to lead the State delegation, providing detail on the progress made by Ireland.

The findings and recommendations focus on areas such as prisoner treatment, conditions of detention, support to victims of trafficking in human beings, policing accountability and oversight, care of people seeking International Protection, redress for victims of historical abuses and ensuring protection for vulnerable children and adults in care.

In the period since the last examination of Ireland, the Commission is clear in its report that there has been considerable positive legal, policy and institutional developments. These include the final closure of St Patrick’s Institution in April of this year, progress on prison conditions including “slopping out”, legislation put in place to outlaw Female Genital Mutilation (FGM), the development of a Domestic Violence Strategy and publication of the Domestic Violence Bill 2017, and the passing of the 2015 Assisted Capacity Legislation.

As the national human rights institution, the Commission’s role in its reporting is to independently assess the Irish State on its human rights progress. A number of issues and recommendations for action are raised within the detailed report.

On Preventing Torture and Ill Treatment

  • The Commission reports that Ireland’s failure after almost a decade to ratify the additional Optional Protocol to the Convention (OPCAT) and develop the required National Preventative Mechanism are hampering Ireland’s capacity to prevent torture and ill treatment (P4-6).
  • The need for the State to take action to combat trafficking in human beings by placing assistance and protection for victims on a statutory basis (P10) is emphasised following on from the significant ‘Case’ of a Vietnamese woman arrested in Ireland, in which the Commission acted as amicus curiae (friend of the court).

On Persons Seeking Protection in Ireland

  • Following the landmark Supreme Court ruling on the right to work of asylum seekers, the Commission, which acted as amicus curiae (friend of the court); recommends the repeal of the absolute prohibition on asylum seekers rights to work, and the introduction of a time limited period (6-9 months) following which a person awaiting decision should be able to seek employment (P18).
  • The Commission has reported that 2016 saw 4,127 people refused leave to land in the State, significantly higher numbers than in preceding years (P14); current restrictive family re-unification provisions are likely to cause significant hardship to asylum seeking families. (P12)

On Policing Accountability and Oversight

  • Garda stations are currently not subject to unannounced inspections, leaving a gap in national oversight of police custody (P23) while the right of access to a solicitor during questioning needs to be established on a statutory basis (P24)
  • Women’s prisons remain the most overcrowded in the State with alternatives to custody for lower risk prisoners required (P39) while budgets for prison work, training and education have fallen consistently from 2013-2017 (P33)
  • The Commission prompts the State to advance necessary reforms and resourcing of policing oversight bodies including the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, the Garda Síochána Inspectorate and the Policing Authority, including human rights and equality training for personnel (P20-25).

On Prison Detention and Alternatives to Custody

  • There is an absence of a database on deaths of prisoners in custody alongside other data deficiencies on the prison population profile, required to provide necessary care and treatment. (P28 & 34). The need for an Ombudsman to investigate complaints by prisoners is established (P29-30).
  • Solitary Confinement can see adult prisoners locked up for 19+ hours for extended periods of time contrary to UN standards.
  • The Commission, in line with its amicus curiae (friend of the court) role in a current case involving the segregation of four children at Oberstown reiterates that solitary confinement should never be imposed on children. (P31-32)

On Treatment of Vulnerable Adults and Children

  • Evolution in thinking on mental health is not reflected in policy or services, such as the shift to community based services (P41-42) or the placement of people with intellectual disabilities in psychiatric care settings (P49)
  • Legislative gaps see people detained and treated involuntarily, often without recourse or review (P43-48)
  • The important need for Assisted Decision-Making (Capacity Act) 2015 to be brought into operation, alongside Ireland’s urgent ratification of the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD)

On Access to Justice and Remedy for Historical Abuses

  • The Commission reiterates that people who have suffered abuses must have clear access to justice in line with international human rights standards. Redress must be provided to those who suffered abuses within Magdalene Laundries, mother and baby homes or as a result of symphysiotomy (P53-58).

The Commission in the report, also reiterates again, on reproductive health, the recommendations of various UN treaty monitoring bodies on Ireland’s legal framework (P9-10)

Emily Logan, Chief Commissioner of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission stated today:

“This Commission report will independently inform the UN questioning of Ireland. It highlights the broad spectrum of current challenges facing people, including those in detention and in custody, those arriving to Ireland seeking asylum, and the State treatment of the most vulnerable children and adults in our society. It makes clear recommendations for action.

“Today’s report shows that while positive developments have been seen in some areas, including the closure of St. Patricks Institution and some progress in legislation around assisted capacity and domestic violence, significant gaps in human rights protection remain, which need to be addressed.”


For further information, please contact:

Síle Murphy Q4PR –

Phone: 01 475 1444 / 086 0288132

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Notes to editor:

The full text of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission’s submission to the UN Committee Against Torture on Ireland’s second periodic review is available at the following link:

Ireland’s UN examination detail

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will present this report to the UN in Geneva ahead of Ireland’s formal questioning which takes place on the 27th and 28th July.

The UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

The United Nations Convention Against Torture, fully titled the “Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment” is an international human rights treaty. Ireland ratified UNCAT in 2002, and was last examined in 2011.

Under the UN Convention consideration is given not only to acts, which intentionally inflict severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, but also more broadly to acts of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment when committed with official consent.

Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission was set up on 1 November 2014 as an independent public body, directly accountable to the Oireachtas, 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 Act 2014 sets out the functions of the Commission,

(a) to protect and promote human rights and equality,

(b) to encourage the development of a culture of respect for human rights, equality, and intercultural understanding in the State,

(c) to promote understanding and awareness of the importance of human rights and equality in the State,

(d) to encourage good practice in intercultural relations, to promote tolerance and acceptance of diversity in the State and respect for the freedom and dignity of each person, and

(e) to work towards the elimination of human rights abuses, discrimination and prohibited conduct

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission is Ireland’s national human rights institution 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.