Ireland must put in place a strong national preventative mechanism which can ensure that no place of detention – prison, police cell, hospital or care home – is beyond the reach of comprehensive and rigorous inspection.
That will be the message of Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) who will address the UN Committee Against Torture tomorrow as part of a large Irish NGO delegation and will raise a number of urgent issues of concern in relation to Ireland’s record of preventing torture and inhuman and degrading treatment.
The Irish NGOs will be joined by representatives of the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission to brief Committee members ahead of its public engagement with the Irish Government delegation led by Minister of State for Justice, David Stanton TD over two days on Thursday and Friday.
This is the second time Ireland’s record under the UN Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment has been examined by this Committee.
In its presentation to the Committee, the ICCL will deliver a statement on behalf of all the Irish NGOs on the key issue of inspection of places of detention.
In recognising the central importance of inspection as a way of preventing human rights violations, the UN has developed a specific instrument – the Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture – which provides for a combination of national inspections and international supervision.
Despite signing the Protocol in 2007, Ireland is now one of a tiny number of European States not to have ratified the Protocol or established a National Preventative Mechanism, as required under the Protocol.
Speaking today, ahead of the examination, ICCL Executive Director Liam Herrick said the key issue for Ireland in meetings its obligations under the UN Convention was to put in place sufficient and effective safeguards to ensure that vulnerable individuals are not victimised.
"In particular, the Convention requires that the State protects those who find themselves subject to detention – recognising that it is in closed spaces, where the most serious violations of human rights can take place.
"Ireland has a troubling history of failing to protect those we have placed in such closed spaces. In that context, it is essential that we now move to put in place a strong National Preventative Mechanism which can ensure that no place of detention – prison, police cell, hospital or care home – is beyond the reach of comprehensive and rigorous inspection.
"Given that Ireland is so late in setting up the necessary systems of inspection, it is incumbent on the Government to now set in place the most comprehensive and effective system possible, informed by consultation and building on the experience of other States.”
The ICCL will be presenting a focussed submission based on seven of the most urgent areas of Irish public policy where the extent or risk of ill-treatment is most acute.
1. Inspection of Places of Detention
2. The Importance of Access to a Lawyer in Garda Custody
3. Reproductive Health and the Effect of Irish Abortion Law
4. Rendition and Pre-Clearance at Irish Airports
5. System for Investigating Complaints of Garda Ill-Treatment
6. Outstanding Issues from Historical Ill-Treatment
7. Mental Health and Psychosocial Disability
Many of these issues, will also be addressed by other organisations, and in its presentation ICCL will focus particularly on policing issues, emphasising the importance of bringing Irish law and practice in line with European Union and European Convention on Human Rights standards regarding the right of suspects to have access to a lawyer and to have a lawyer present during questioning, and also referencing ongoing difficulties in measuring and responding to complaints of Garda misconduct.