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Leading NGOs contribute to UN examination of Ireland's human rights record

14th July 2008

Government Undergoes Geneva Grilling on Human Rights Record.

Press release, for immediate release

Dublin & Geneva, 14 July 2008

The Attorney General, Mr. Paul Gallagher SC, is currently undergoing a grilling in Geneva by the UN's top human rights experts.

The UN Human Rights Committee this morning heard a delegation of Irish non-governmental organisations (NGOs), outline its concerns about Ireland's lacklustre performance under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

Representatives of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, FLAC (Free Legal Advice Centres), the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) were joined by several other Irish NGOs to brief the Human Rights Committee in advance of Ireland's formal examination this afternoon, 14 July 2008.

Speaking directly from Geneva, ICCL Deputy Director Tanya Ward said:

"For far too long, Ireland has relied on flimsy diplomatic assurances from the U.S. Government to defend its collusion in extraordinary rendition through Shannon Airport. We are bringing a global focus on the State's domestic failure to live up to its UN human rights obligations."

Liam Herrick, Executive Director of IPRT stated:

"Although our wealth has grown during the eight years since Ireland's last report to the Committee, physical conditions and regimes in our prisons are still below acceptable international standards. As we saw only this weekend, increasing levels of violence are making our prisons more dangerous. We are also deeply worried about Government plans to expand the use of imprisonment by increasing prison places and introducing new penal facilities for children and migrants".

Noeline Blackwell, Director-General of FLAC added:

"We are concerned that the Government is introducing discrimination into the nursery school by denying Child Benefit to the children of asylum seekers and new immigrants into the country.  And Ireland is becoming increasingly isolated in Europe because of our failure to accord recognition to transgendered people in their new gender."

In attempting to defend the Government's human rights record, the Attorney General has admitted that fully 30 per cent of prison cells still have no in-cell sanitation.

Furthermore, with regard to children in prison, the Attorney General has repeated a commitment that 16 and 17 year olds will be removed from the prison system "as soon as possible". However, he has made no mention of a time-frame and, at the same time, plans for child detention facilities within Thornton Hall prison are to go ahead. 

Most surprisingly, the Atttorney General has not mentioned overcrowding, which is currently a very serious issue in Mountjoy Prison and the Dóchas Centre. There is now a record prison population of 3,600, and there is still no sign of an enforceable ceiling being placed on prisoner numbers.

The Human Rights Committee will continue its scrutiny of Ireland's human rights record tomorrow (15 July 2008), at which time FLAC, ICCL and the IPRT will issue a further news release.

To download the ICCL/IPRT/FLAC Shadow Report on Ireland's compliance with the ICCPR, and for full and constantly updated information on Ireland's examination in Geneva, please visit www.rightsmonitor.org.

For all press enquiries please contact:

Walter Jayawardene

Campaigns & Communications Officer

Irish Council for Civil Liberties

9-13 Blackhall Place

Dublin 7

Ireland 

Tel. + 353 1 799 4503

Mob: +353 87 9981574   

Fax. + 353 1 799 4501

E-mail  walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie

Web     www.iccl.ie

NOTES FOR EDITORS

Event Timeline

Monday 14 July 2008:

  • DUBLIN, 10:30 am - 12:00pm: Official launch of Shadow Report at the Westbury Hotel, Dublin 2, Ireland. Keynote speaker: Mr. Justice Michael Kirby, Judge of the Australian High Court.
  • GENEVA, 9:15 - 10am: NGO Presentation to the Human Rights Committee, Palais Wilson, Geneva.
  • GENEVA, 3pm - 6pm (Local Time): Formal examination of Ireland under the ICCPR by the UN Human Rights Committee, Palais Wilson, Geneva.

Tuesday 15 July 2008:

  • GENEVA, 10.00am - 1:00pm: Formal examination of Ireland under the ICCPR by the UN Human Rights Committee, Palais Wilson, Geneva. (Continued).
  • GENEVA, 2pm: Examination of Ireland concludes; Government and NGOs release statements.

Early/ Mid August 2008:

  • United Nations Human Rights Committee expected to release concluding observations on Ireland's performance under the ICCPR.

The Shadow Report, a comprehensive and independent audit of the gaps in Irelands compliance with the human rights standards laid out in the ICCPR, was jointly researched by ICCL, FLAC and IPRT, and has been further endorsed by 15 NGOs and a number of religious and academic bodies. Some of the major human rights issues it covers are prison standards, family law, equality, minority and migrants' rights and 'extraordinary rendition'. It was launched this morning in the Westbury Hotel, Dublin, by Justice Michael Kirby of the Australian High Court.

Free Legal Advice Centres (FLAC) is an independent human rights organisation dedicated to the realisation of equal access to justice for all. It campaigns through advocacy, strategic litigation and authoritative analysis for the eradication of social and economic exclusion.

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties is the leading independent, non-governmental membership organisation working to defend and promote human rights and civil liberties in Ireland. It was founded in 1976 by, amongst others, Mary Robinson, Kader Asmal, and Justice Donal Barrington. Over the past three decades, the ICCL has campaigned in the sphere of civil liberties and human rights reform, using international human rights standards to assess State law and policy. The ICCL does not seek or accept Government funding for its work.

The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of people in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy. The IPRT is an NGO in Special Consultative Status with the Economic and Social Council of the United Nations

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