Statement on the views of the UN Human Rights Committee

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has published its views on termination of pregnancy in a foreign country.  The UN Human Rights Committee, a group of independent experts, issued their findings following a communication from Amanda Mellet in 2013. Ms Mellet had been informed in 2011 that her foetus would die in utero or shortly after birth and that she would have to travel to access a termination. In her communication to the Committee, Ms Mellet claimed that Ireland had breached her rights under Articles 7, 17, 19, 2, 3, and 26 of the UN International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The UN Human Rights Committee’s call for Ireland to amend its law on abortion echoes its recommendations to Ireland in 2014 following its examination of the State’s compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It also echoes the recent recommendations of other UN Committees that the State take all necessary measures to revise its legal framework on abortion to ensure that it is in line with international human rights law. In 2015 the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission endorsed these recommendations.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission notes the commitment in the Programme for a Partnership Government to establish a Citizen’s Assembly to consider the Eighth Amendment. The Commission also notes Tánaiste Frances Fitzgerald’s comments today that the Government will address the findings of the UN Human Rights Committee through a Citizen’s Assembly and special Dáil committee.

The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission considers that the UN Human Rights Committee’s views should be considered in full by the Citizen’s Assembly to ensure that Ireland’s legal framework complies with our international obligations.

Notes to Editor

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the UN Human Rights Committee

  1. Ireland ratified both the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights on 8 December 1989.
  2. The UN Human Rights Committee is the body of independent experts that monitors implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its State parties. More information available here: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/CCPR/Pages/CCPRIndex.aspx
  3. Since ratification, Ireland has been examined four times on its compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by the UN Human Rights Committee, most recently in 2014. Following its examination in 2014 the Committee produced recommendations to the State, known as “concluding observations”, which are available here: http://docstore.ohchr.org/SelfServices/FilesHandler.ashx?enc=6QkG1d%2fPPRiCAqhKb7yhsieXFSudRZs%2fX1ZaMqUUOS9yIqPEMRvxx26PpQFtwrk%2bh
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  4. Under Article 1 of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights Ireland has recognised “the competence of the Committee to receive and consider communications from individuals subject to its jurisdiction who claim to be victims of a violation by that State Party of any of the rights set forth in the Covenant”.
  5. Under Article 5(4) of the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights the UN Human Rights Committee is obliged to “forward its views to the State Party concerned and to the individual”. In this case, the Committee adopted its views concerning communication No. 2324/2014 on 31 March 2016.

Communication No. 2324/2014 submitted by Amanda Jane Mellet

  1. In her communication to the UN Human Rights Committee, Ms. Mellet made four claims under Articles 7, 17, 19 and 2(1), 3, and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
  2. Article 7 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “No one shall be subjected to torture or to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. In particular, no one shall be subjected without his free consent to medical or scientific experimentation.”
  3. Article 17(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “No one shall be subjected to arbitrary or unlawful interference with his privacy, family, home or correspondence, nor to unlawful attacks on his honour and reputation.”
  4. Article 19(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “Everyone shall have the right to hold opinions without interference.”
  5. Article 2(1) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “Each State Party to the present Covenant undertakes to respect and to ensure to all individuals within its territory and subject to its jurisdiction the rights recognized in the present Covenant, without distinction of any kind, such as race, colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”
  6. Article 3 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “The States Parties to the present Covenant undertake to ensure the equal right of men and women to the enjoyment of all civil and political rights set forth in the present Covenant”.
  7. Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights provides: “All persons are equal before the law and are entitled without any discrimination to the equal protection of the law. In this respect, the law shall prohibit any discrimination and guarantee to all persons equal and effective protection against discrimination on any ground such as race, .colour, sex, language, religion, political or other opinion, national or social origin, property, birth or other status.”

UN Human Rights Committee’s views on communication No. 2324/2014

  1. “The Committee considers that the fact that a particular conduct or action is legal under domestic law does not mean that it cannot infringe article 7 of the Covenant” (para. 7.4)
  2. “By virtue of the existing legislative framework, the State party subjected the author [Amanda Mellet] to conditions of intense physical and mental suffering” (para. 7.4)
  3. “Many of the described negative experiences she went through could have been avoided if the author [Amanda Mellet] had not been prohibited from terminating her pregnancy in the familiar environment of her own country” (para. 7.4)
  4. “The Committee considers that the author’s suffering was further aggravated by the obstacles she faced in received needed information about her appropriate medical options from known and trusted medical providers” (para. 7.5)
  5. “The Committee considers that, taken together, the above facts amounted to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment in violation of article 7 of the Covenant” (Para. 7.6)
  6. “The Committee considers that the interference in the authors decision as to how best cope with her non-viable pregnancy was unreasonable and arbitrary in violation of article 17 of the Covenant” (para. 7.9)
  7. “The Committee concludes that the failure of the State party to provide services to the author that she required constituted discrimination and violated her rights under article 26 of the Covenant” (para. 7.11).
  8. The UN Committee’s views are available at the following link: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/_layouts/treatybodyexternal/Download.aspx?symbolno=CCPR/C/116/D/2324/2013&Lang=en
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