Government "Short-Changing" Council of Europe say Human Rights Groups
Two leading human rights groups, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) have said that the Government is "short-changing" the Council of Europe, by refusing to implement key recommendations in a new report by its Commissioner for Human Rights.
Mr Thomas Hammarberg, the Council of Europe's top human rights official, published his first report on Ireland in Strasbourg this afternoon (30 April 2008). Speaking shortly afterwards, ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:
"Commissioner Hammarberg has produced a report which highlights deficiencies in the protection of some of the most vulnerable people in Ireland, including children, migrants, asylum seekers and Travellers. He has also called on the Government "to take effective measures to prevent renditions taking place through Irish territory and airspace, and to review the current inspection and monitoring arrangements with a view to ensuring that effective and independent investigations are carried out into any serious allegation of extraordinary renditions"" [see paragraph 114 of the Commissioner's report].
Mr Kelly added:
"The Government's response short-changes the Council of Europe by offering platitudes in place of firm commitments to implement the Commissioner's recommendations. On the renditions issue, it is completely inexcusable that the Government refuses to implement his recommendation for a review of inspection and monitoring arrangements [see the Government's response on page 58 of the Commissioner's report]. As Thomas Hammarberg makes clear [see paragraph 114 of the Commissioner's report], the "mere suspicion" that Ireland could have aided or abetted renditions "seriously undermines the credibility and authority" of the Government".
Mr Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the IPRT said:
"In relation to the ongoing scandal that is the detention of children in adult prisons, the Commissioner clearly states that he is "concerned with the current interim provision resulting in imprisonment for children in an out-dated facility together with adult prisoners up to the age of 21" [see paragraph 72 of the Commissioner's report]. The Commissioner's concerns make clear that, while the Government is committed to have all child detainees housed in appropriate facilities by 2012, for a wealthy developed country it is unacceptable that the use of St. Patrick's or Thornton Hall should be contemplated for that period."
"We also fully support the Commissioner's analysis of how alternatives to custody are being operated in relation to young offenders. The Commissioner rightly acknowledges the progress made under the Children Act, but highlights the absence of proper independent oversight and guidelines as potential areas of difficulty for the future. His comments in this regard should be seen as a constructive pointer to how Ireland might continue our progress in diverting children from our justice system."
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 present Commissioner, Mr Thomas Hammarberg, was elected by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe and took up his position on 1 April 2006.
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 current Taoiseach, Minister for Foreign Affairs, Minister for Justice, Equality & Law Reform, Minister for Health and Children, Minister for the Environment, Heritage & Local Government, Minister of State for Children and Minister of State 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 Mayor of Dublin and Deputy Lord Mayor of 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.
He also visited institutions and sites including the Accommodation Centre for Asylum Seekers, Kinsale Road, Cork; the Central Mental Hospital, Dublin; Cuanlee Women's Refuge, Cork; Glanmire Community College, Co. Cork; St. Patrick's Institution for Young Offenders, Dublin; Traveller specific accommodation at Avilla Park and temporary halting site at St. Mary's, Dunsink Lane, North Dublin and the Trinity House Detention School, Oberstown, Lusk, Co. Dublin.
The Commissioner presented his 58-page report on Ireland to the Committee of Ministers and the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe in Strasbourg today (30 April 2008). The full text of the report (document CommDH (2008) 9), which includes a response from the Irish Government, will available (from 2pm on 30 April 2008) on the Commissioner's website, at the following address: http://www.coe.int/t/commissioner