Heed Commissioner's Wake-Up Call, say Human Rights Groups
Two leading human rights groups, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) have called upon on the Government to heed today's "wake-up call" from the Council of Europe's Commissioner for Human Rights, Mr Thomas Hammarberg.
The Council of Europe's top human rights official presented his preliminary observations on his visit to Ireland at a press conference in Dublin this morning. Speaking shortly afterwards, ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:
"Thomas Hammarberg's visit is a human rights wake up call to the Government. Speaking earlier this week, the Commissioner publicly highlighted the Government's unsatisfactory response to the use of Shannon Airport as part of a CIA rendition circuit. Today, he has focused on children, and stressed that further Constitutional and legislative reforms are necessary to fully protect their human rights."
"The ICCL warmly welcomes the Commissioner's remarks, and calls upon the Government heed them, and to finally live up to its responsibilities as a member State of the Council of Europe" he concluded.
The Commissioner's preliminary observations on youth justice and the detention of children were also welcomed by the IPRT. Mr Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the IPRT said:
"Mr Hammarberg has added his voice to those deeply concerned about the conditions in which young people are detained in Ireland especially in St Patrick's Institution. He has highlighted how far we have yet to go to ensure that Ireland complies with its international obligations to protect the rights of these vulnerable young people."
"The Government must respond to the opportunity presented by Mr Hammarberg's visit to undertake radical reform in the prison system to bring it in line with international standards. In particular, it must reduce the numbers of children in detention and expedite plans to close St Patrick's Institution so that the rights of all children and young people in detention are fully protected."
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Note to editors:
The Commissioner for Human Rights is an independent institution within the Council of Europe, mandated to promote awareness of and respect for human rights in 47 Council of Europe member States.
The Commissioner conducts official country visits to carry out comprehensive evaluations of human rights situations. During his visit to Ireland, he met with members of the Government including the Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Minister for Health and Children, Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Minister for Children and Minister for Integration Policy. Further talks were held with parliamentarians, the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, President of the High Court, Attorney General, Commissioner of An Garda Síochána and the Lord Mayors of Dublin and Cork. Mr Hammarberg also met with the Irish Human Rights Commission, the Ombudsman for Children, the Equality Authority and representatives of civil society, including the ICCL and the IPRT.
The Commissioner presented his preliminary observations on Friday 30 November at 11h15 during a press conference organised at Buswells Hotel in Dublin.
The Commissioner's visit report will contain both an analysis of human rights practices and detailed recommendations about possible improvements. The report will be presented to the Council of Europe's Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly in early 2008. Subsequently, it will be published and widely circulated in the policy-making and NGO community as well as to the media.