• Print
  • Email author
  • Bookmark and Share

Rights Groups Tell UN of Ireland's "Failure" to Combat Inhuman and Degrading Treatment

20th May 2011

Dublin/Geneva 20 May 2011

Media Release

Top United Nations experts will today (Friday 20 May 2011) hear directly from Irish human rights groups concerned about the State’s track record in preventing inhuman and degrading treatment.

At a high-level UN meeting in Geneva, the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) and the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) will outline the findings of their Joint Shadow Report on Ireland under the United Nations Convention against Torture, which highlights serious weaknesses in Ireland’s systems to prevent inhuman and degrading treatment.

While their representatives are speaking at the United Nations in Geneva, the IPRT and the ICCL will launch their Joint Shadow Report in Dublin (at 11am at Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2).

The Joint Shadow Report identifies serious shortcomings in relation to critical areas including: access to a lawyer during Garda questioning, prison conditions, safeguards against deportation and effective rehabilitation services for victims of torture. It makes fifty clear recommendations on the actions which must be taken to address these deficiencies in human rights protection in Ireland.

The Report, co-written and jointly published by the ICCL and the IPRT, is part of an independent civil society response to the State’s own 2009 report to the Committee against Torture, which glosses over gaps is Ireland’s human rights safeguards and remains mute on the situation in our prisons.

At the launch, the ICCL and IPRT issued a joint call for the Government to establish effective and independent complaints and inspection systems for places where people are deprived of their liberty.

Speaking at the Dublin launch of the Joint Shadow Report, Mark Kelly, Director of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said:

"International action to combat ill-treatment is never effective unless there are strong national mechanisms to monitor places where people are deprived of their liberty.  Ireland has yet to establish effective complaints and inspection mechanisms that would satisfy United Nations human rights quality standards. Until it does, the systemic problems identified in this report will not be solved.”

Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust added:

“Incredibly, given the national and international reports on overcrowding, lack of in-cell sanitation, and escalating inter-prisoner violence, the State report is largely silent on these acute human rights issues within the prisons. There is an urgent need for an independent complaints mechanism for prisoners, and an independent system for the investigation into deaths in prison. The NGOs present in Geneva will be calling on the UN Committee to make clear directions to the Irish Government to address these longstanding deficiencies in Ireland’s human rights protections.”

John Stanley of the Irish Refugee Council said:

“Ireland also has the lowest recognition rate for refugees in the European Union and it is impossible to exclude the risk that some people with a well-founded fear of persecution may be returned to places where there is a risk of torture and ill-treatment.  With no independent oversight at ports of entry, there is a real fear that immigration officers may be refusing entry and returning persons with valid protection claims on the next plane.”

ICCL and IPRT representatives are available for further comment and interview in both Dublin and Geneva.

For all media enquiries, or to arrange an interview with speakers, please contact:

  • Fíona Ní Chinnéide, Campaigns & Communications Officer, Irish Penal Reform Trust - T: + 353 1 874 1400;E: communications@iprt.ie
  • Walter Jayawardene, Communications Manager, Irish Council for Civil Liberties - T: + 353 1 799 4503; E: walter.jayawardene@iccl.ie


1. Launch of the Joint Shadow Report

The Joint Shadow Report to the First Periodic Review of Ireland under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was launched at Buswells Hotel, Dublin 2 on Friday 20th May, 2011 at 11am. Speakers at the launch were: Mark Kelly, Director, ICCL; Liam Herrick, Executive Director, IPRT; and John Stanley, Chairperson, Irish Refugee Council.

The launch of the report coincides with the closed NGO briefing session in Geneva (Fri 20 May 2011, 11am GMT), at which representatives of ICCL, IPRT and Amnesty International Ireland will present critical issues directly to the UN Committee against Torture.

2. Joint Shadow Report on the UN CAT

A shadow report is designed to ensure that a human rights body, such as the UN Committee against Torture, does not rely solely on a Government’s account of how it is meeting the terms of an international human rights instrument, but has full access to the observations, claims and concerns of human rights defenders and other groups independent of Government.

The Joint Shadow Report to the First Periodic Review of Ireland under the United Nations Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment benchmarks Ireland’s performance under the United Nations Convention against Torture, and makes 50 clear recommendations to Government on action required to enable the State to meet its obligations under this treaty.

The Joint Shadow Report is the product of over a year’s research and consultation by the ICCL and IPRT with the Irish NGO community, including Amnesty International Ireland, the Children’s Rights Alliance, the Immigrant Council of Ireland, Women’s Aid and Spirasi. The report has been endorsed by 31 Irish NGOs.

Key issues detailed in the Joint Shadow Report include: the lack of independent oversight over investigations into deaths in custody; inhumane and degrading treatment in Irish prisons; policing, police detention and public order; non refoulement, deportation and extraordinary rendition; and rehabilitation services for victims of torture.

Some if its key recommendations include:

  • People detained in Garda stations should be afforded access to a lawyer during Garda interviews. (p43)
  • Delays in the handling of complaints by the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission should be eradicated, if necessary by the allocation of additional resources (p45)
  • The State should take all necessary measures to improve conditions of detention including reducing overcrowding and setting safe custody limits.
  • The State must eradicate the “slopping out” of human waste in Irish prisons as a priority issue.
  • Independent oversight of decisions to refuse leave to land at ports of entry should be introduced as a matter of urgency.
  • An independent appeals mechanism for immigration-related decisions, including deportation decisions, should be promptly established.

The Joint Shadow Report, including the full list or recommendations, is available for download here: http://www.iprt.ie/files/ICCL-IPRT-report-web.pdf

3. Ireland’s Examination under UNCAT

The Committee against Torture (CAT) monitors implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment by State parties which have ratified the Convention. Ireland ratified UNCAT in 2002.

On 23 and 24 May, 2011 a high-level Irish Government delegation will be publically examined for the first time by the UN Committee against Torture on the extent to which it is meeting its human rights obligations under the Convention.

The hearing will be webcast live online from 9am GMT at: http://www.livestream.com/iprt It will also be the subject of regular twitter updates on @ICCLtweet and @IPRT.

On 3 June the UN Committee against Torture will adopt its concluding observations on Ireland’s compliance with the UN Convention against Torture – these observations will form a list of essential improvements which the Irish State will have to undertake to tackle in the coming years.

4. Irish Council for Civil Liberties | www.iccl.ie

The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is Ireland’s leading independent human rights watchdog, which monitors, educates and campaigns in order to secure full enjoyment of human rights for everyone.

5. Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) | www.iprt.ie

IPRT is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort.

viewed here