Irish Penal Reform Trust

UN Committee against Torture publishes list of issues prior to reporting

25th May 2020

In advance of Ireland’s third periodic hearing under the UN Convention against Torture, the Committee against Torture (‘the Committee’) has requested information from Ireland to monitor the State's implementation of the Convention, including follow-up issues on the Committee’s previous concluding observations on Ireland.

IPRT made a submission to the Committee in early 2020 to inform its questions for the State in the Committee’s list of issues prior to reporting (LoIPR). Many of the concerns detailed in IPRT's submission are reflected in the Committee’s LoIPR for Ireland’s third periodic review. This includes requests for information on:

  • The current status of the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill;
  • Prospects for the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT) by the State party 13 years after signing it; and on the establishment of a national preventive mechanism;
  • Whether the Inspector of Prisons has visited all prison establishments in Ireland during the period under review and has published monitoring reports;
  • Training on the provisions of the Convention and the absolute prohibition of torture for all public officials, in particular police and prison staff;
  • Specific measures taken by the State party during the period under review to further decrease the prison population and overcrowding;
  • The reported rise in the number of female prisoners;
  • The number of remand prisoners and how long they stay on remand;
  • Steps taken to improve the material conditions of detention, in particular with regard to in-cell sanitation facilities, including ensuring of privacy in the use of toilet facilities and their separation from places where prisoners take their meals;
  • Steps taken during the period to review the entire prison healthcare system;
  • Whether steps have been taken to reduce the use of solitary confinement;
  • Whether a completely independent mechanism for the consideration of prisoner complaints and a new individual complaints procedure have been established during the period under review, with greater involvement and oversight by an independent body.

In the ‘Other Issues’ section of the LoIPR, the Committee has requested specific information on Ireland’s response to COVID-19, “given that the prohibition of torture is absolute and cannot be derogated from, including within the framework of measures related to states of emergency and other exceptional circumstances”. The Committee explicitly asks the State to “specify the measures taken in relation to persons deprived of their liberty and in other situations of confinement…”. In the context of restrictive measures imposed in prisons in response to COVID-19, this is a welcome line of questioning from the Committee.

The ratification of OPCAT was a concern for other civil society groups in their submissions to the Committee, including the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL), the Immigrant Council of Ireland, and the Irish Centre for Human Rights (ICHR) at the School of Law, National University of Ireland, Galway as well as Ireland’s national human rights institution, the Irish Human rights and Equality Commission (IHREC). Click on the name of each organisation to view their submissions in full. All other submissions made by civil society are available here

The ratification of OPCAT is one of IPRT's 5 key priorities for the Programme for Government 2020+ and has been one of our priority areas for campaigning for many years. An opportunity now exists for an incoming government to deliver on the ratification of OPCAT, 13 years after signing. More on our work on OPCAT: opcat-ireland.com

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