Statement following the publication of the ‘concluding observations’ of the UN Committee against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, on Ireland’s State Examination

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission (‘the Commission’) welcomes the detailed examination of Ireland by the UN Committee against Torture (‘the UN Committee’) which took place in Geneva in July, and the associated “concluding observations” published on the 11th August, which offer detailed  recommendations to the State.

The Commission, as Ireland’s national human rights and equality institution, appointed by the President and accountable to the Oireachtas, submitted an independent report to the UN Committee to inform the expert UN Committee’s assessment of Ireland under the Convention against Torture. The Commission also travelled to Geneva in July to appear before  the UN Committee on its independent monitoring of the State.

Improvements identified by the UN Committee since Ireland’s first examination in 2011, include; establishing, resourcing and ensuring the independence of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission; the closure of St Patrick’s institution for the detention of juveniles; providing additional protections for victims of crime; developing a new strategy on domestic violence; legislating to criminalise female genital mutilation (FGM); reforming the law on international protection, and adopting legislation on capacity.

The UN ‘concluding observations’ however reflect crucial gaps in Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture highlighted by the Commission’s monitoring, these include:

On Ireland’s non-ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) – The failure, after almost a decade to ratify OPCAT, exposes gaps in the national preventive monitoring of places where people are deprived of their liberty, including in Garda stations.

  • The Commission welcomes the UN Committee recommendation that the State ratify OPCAT and establish a National Preventative Mechanism.
  • The UN Committee also echoed the Commission’s concerns regarding the absence of a statutory right to legal representation during police interrogation

On International Protection – The UN Committee raised concerns regarding immigration-related detention as well as refusals of leave to land, matters also highlighted by the Commission in its private meeting with the UN Committee.

  • The Commission welcomes the clear direction from the UN Committee to ensure that detention of asylum seekers should be established in legislation as a measure of last resort, and for as short a period as possible, and that those detained for immigration purposes should be separated from convicted and remand prisoners.

On conditions of detention, the UN Committee urged Ireland to tackle matters of ongoing concern in the penal system to align prison conditions with the UN standards known as the ‘Mandela Rules.’

  • The Commission has acted under its legal powers as amicus curiae (friend of the court) in four cases involving allegations by children that they have been detained in conditions amounting to solitary confinement at the Oberstown Detention Centre. The UN Committee has recommended that the State: ‘Abolish solitary confinement of minors as a disciplinary measure, strengthen existing and develop new educational and rehabilitation programmes aimed at encouraging pro-social behaviour and improve extra-regime activities for minors’ (para 18(d)).

On access to justice and remedy for historical abuses – the UN Committee set out its views on ongoing issues of serious concern relating to those who suffered abuses within Magdalene Laundries, industrial schools, mother and baby homes or as a result of symphysiotomy

  • The Commission welcomes the State’s commitment to invite the UN Special Rapporteur on the Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence in seeking to finally secure accountability and redress for past wrongs. Cognisant of the age of many of the survivors of historical abuse, early interaction with the UN Special Rapporteur is recommended.

On gender-based violence – The absence of a specific offence of domestic violence in law is of particular concern to the UN Committee, which has also called for a statutory exemption from the minimum legal aid contribution, for victims of domestic violence who cannot afford the contribution, to be incorporated in the Domestic Violence Bill 2017

  • The Commission, following on from its 2016 national consultation on the rights of women, emphasised the need for protections and supports for victims of gender-based violence, including an explicit offence of domestic violence to be established in law, and to ensure that victims of domestic violence are able to access justice and protection in a timely way.

On residential care settings – Concerns raised by the UN Committee expose ongoing gaps arising from the State’s failure to ratify the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD), together with the failure to ratify OPCAT.

  • The Commission has emphasised in its engagement with the UN Committee the need for Ireland’s ratification of the UNCRPD. With ratification promised, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission has been identified as a formal national monitoring mechanism, in addition to the Commission having an advisory committee made up of people with lived experience of disabilities.

The UN Committee also emphasised, in line with Commission recommendations, the need for training of personnel on the requirements of the Convention for anyone working with a person deprived of liberty, and the need for improvements in data and information collection.

The Commission further welcomes the State’s engagement with UN Committee against Torture, its commitment to building on the progress made, and to following up with the UN Committee one year from now on the steps taken in relation to serious and urgent priority matters identified by the UN Committee.

In line with our statutory functions, the Commission will continue to monitor and report on the State’s progress.

ENDS/

For further information, please contact:

Brian Dawson, IHREC Communications Manager,

01 8589601 / 087 0697095

bdawson@ihrec.ie

Follow us on twitter @_IHREC

Editor’s Note:

The UN Concluding Observations on Ireland and the Convention against Torture are available to download from the Commission website at  http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CAT/Shared%20Documents/IRL/INT_CAT_COC_IRL_28491_E.pdf

Ireland’s record under the UN Convention against Torture (UNCAT) was examined at a hearing in the UN in Geneva on the 27th and 28th July. This is the second time that Ireland has gone before the Committee, a group of international and independent experts tasked with examining states’ compliance with the Convention against Torture.

The full independent report from the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission submitted to UNCAT is available at: https://www.ihrec.ie/our-work/policy-and-engagement/reports-international-bodies/cat/ ‎

The UN Convention Against Torture (UNCAT)

Ireland ratified the Convention in 2002, and is one of 162 countries that have agreed to abide by the standards it sets out.  Each state has a responsibility to take effective measures to prevent any torture, and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment in any territory under its jurisdiction. Central to this responsibility includes the establishment of necessary legislative, administrative, judicial and other infrastructure to ensure this happens.

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 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 Commission is directly accountable to the Oireachtas.

The Commission has been granted “A” status as a national human rights institution (NHRI) by the UN. This international recognition underlines the Commission’s domestic and international standing and institutional independence. Although there are three levels of accreditation, only those awarded an “A” status are fully compliant with the Paris Principles and, as a result, are accorded voting, speaking and seating rights at UN human rights treaty bodies.

As the national human rights institution, the Commission’s monitoring of Ireland’s human rights, and recommendations, inform the expert UN Committee’s assessment and questioning of how Ireland is meeting its obligations under the Convention.

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