On Wednesday 11th May 2016, Ireland was questioned about its human rights record on a wide range of issues as it underwent its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) in Geneva. The UPR is a significant innovation of the UN’s Human Rights Council, and involves a periodic review of the human rights records of all 193 UN Member States.
IPRT welcomed the significant interest shown in the situation of prisoners, with more than 30 countries raising concerns and making recommendations to Ireland on meeting the human rights of adults and children in prisons and places of detention.
Ireland’s continued failure to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT) almost ten years after signing the treaty, was consistently highlighted. As well as the OPCAT, serious concerns were also raised on the detention of children in adult prison facilities, the regular overcrowding in certain prisons that only exacerbates existing problems, the poor sanitary conditions and ‘slopping-out’ still experienced by some prisoners, the culture of abuse of power by a small but significant minority of prison officials as highlighted by the Inspector of Prisons, as well as other issues besides.
Ireland’s obligations to finally ratify the OPCAT were made clear by our peers, as more than 20 countries specifically recommended its ratification. Although some reform of the complaints procedure has been effected in recent years, there is still no fully independent complaints mechanism (independent investigators are remunerated from the Irish Prison Service budget) and no Ombudsman for prisoners.
While IPRT was disappointed that a commitment to ratify the OPCAT was not included in the Programme for Partnership Government published Wed 11th May 2016, IPRT awaits the Governments response to the recommendations received as part of the UPR in the Report of the Working Group of The Universal Periodic Review on Ireland.