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UN Human Rights Committee prepares to Examine Ireland's Record

14th May 2008

Press Release   - For Immediate Release            

14 May 2008  

Ireland Faces Summer Grilling from UN, say human rights groups

The Government faces a "summer grilling" from the United Nations Human Rights Committee according to official papers released by the UN today (14 May 2008).


Three leading human rights groups (ICCL, FLAC and IPRT) have welcomed the publication of the "list of issues" that the Committee will raise with an Irish Government delegation in Geneva this summer.


The UN's top human rights experts will quiz the State on its past record and on its future plans to:


-                     introduce legislation to recognise same-sex partnerships and other non-married relationships, as well as to allow transgender persons to change their gender officially;


-                     address concerns about the use of Irish airspace and airports for so-called "renditions". The UN wants to know if the State will continue to accept diplomatic assurances in this regard, and if it intends to carry out a public inquiry into renditions;


-                     end overcrowding and "slopping out" in Irish prisons and repeal measures allowing imprisonment of civil debtors.


The Committee also asked the Government to explain:


-                     how proposals in the Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill to arrest, detain and remove a person who is unlawfully present in the State without notice, and without 14 days to make representations is compatible with the State's human rights obligations;


-                     measures which have been put in place following the 2001 referendum on abortion and steps to protect women from continuing with a pregnancy where it impacts negatively on her right to life.

Speaking shortly after the release of the UN's "list of issues", ICCL Director Mr Mark Kelly said:


"In the six years since Ireland last appeared before the UN's Human Rights Committee, too little has been done to ensure that all of the rights in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights are guaranteed in Irish law.  Our organisations are working to ensure that the Human Rights Committee is fully-informed about the remaining shortcomings, and well-equipped to hold the Government to account for its lacklustre human rights performance".


Commenting on the questions raised, FLAC Director Ms Noeline Blackwell welcomed the publication of the list of issues and said:


"This examination of Ireland's human rights achievements is an important opportunity for dialogue between the government, a primary United Nations committee and those working to vindicate human rights in Ireland.  FLAC particularly welcomes the committee's spotlight on the plight of people imprisoned for non-payment of debts, and those who seek validation of their transgendered identity."


IPRT Director. Liam Herrick also welcomed the list of issues, particularly on the Committee's focus on the conditions in our prisons.


"The Committee's focus on continuing overcrowding and slopping out emphasises once again that the conditions in our prisons give rise to serious human rights concerns.  We hope that the State will now take the opportunity, in advance of meeting the Committee in July, of formulating a concrete plan to end slopping out and overcrowding in the short term.  These issues are urgent and it is not acceptable that prisoners must wait any longer for humane conditions to be put in place."



For Further Information and Comment  


For further information contact: Joanne Garvey on: (01) 799 4504 / 087 998 1574 (Press phone)


Mark Kelly (ICCL), Noeline Blackwell (FLAC) and Liam Herrick (IPRT) are available for interview and further comment.



Background Information


The UN's 4-page "List Of Issues To Be Taken Up In Connection With The Consideration Of The Third Periodic Report Of Ireland" (Document CCPR/C/Irl/Q/3) was made public today (14 May 2008).  It is appended to this press release, and can be downloaded from the UN's website at the following address: http://www2.ohchr.org/english/bodies/hrc/docs/AdvanceDocs/CCRP.C.IRL.Q3.doc  Ireland will appear before the UN Human Rights Committee to answer the questions that the Committee has raised in July 2008.


Three organisations, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), ICCL (Irish Council for Civil Liberties) and IPRT (Irish Penal Reform Trust) are jointly working on a Shadow Report to raise human rights issues of concern in the non-governmental sector. This shadow report will be presented to the UN Human Rights Committee in advance of the examination by the Committee of the Irish Government's report.


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