Human rights officers mooted for Gardaí

Liam Herrick.

Human rights officers should be appointed to every area of policing as part of a comprehensive framework to address persistent problems in An Garda Síochána.

The call from the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) is one of a series of recommendations being made to the Policing Commission, which has been tasked to draw up a blueprint for a reformed police force.

In its submission, the ICCL also call for:

  • A powerful authority to oversee all state surveillance along with a special parliamentary committee;
  • A statutory mechanism to implement the recommendations of the Commission on the Future of Policing in Ireland;
  • The “urgent” establishment of an anti-torture inspection system;
  • An ombudsman for victims.

ICCL executive director Liam Herrick, said “major steps” had been taken by successive governments, in response to various controversies, to improve the accountability and effectiveness of An Garda Síochána.

“It remains the case, however, that these reforms have ultimately not been successful in resolving the structural difficulties within Irish policing,” said Mr Herrick, adding that the problems of deficient management and breaches of discipline have “persisted”.

The ICCL broke its recommendations into four groups.

First, it called for the creation of a comprehensive framework on a statutory basis to embed human rights “in all aspects of policing”, including a human rights “monitoring index”.

It said: “We also recommend that human rights officers, with the authority to engage with and make recommendations in all areas, be employed in each of the policing institutions.”

The report said that it was crucial that there was a statutory mechanism to implement the recommendations of the Policing Commission.

Second, the ICCL called for greater accountability and transparency, starting with the publication of all internal Garda policies and practices.

In relation to legal accountability, it called for better rights for suspects, including access to a lawyer, doctor, and psychiatrist in detention.

It said there should be a review of Garda disciplinary procedures and the establishment of a statutory scheme for witness protection.

On independent oversight, it called for urgent ratification of the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture and the creation of a national preventative mechanism to inspect conditions in all places of deprivation of liberty.

Third, on State security and surveillance, it recommended the creation of a statutory unified supervisory authority to oversee “all” State surveillance, including State security and policing.

This should be backed up with a parliamentary oversight, with sufficient controls and security clearance.

Fourth, the ICCL called for a fostering of human rights, involving a “commitment to human rights principles on the part of gardaí at every level”.

It said human rights training needed to be integrated “into all aspects of Garda education”.

The ICCL also called for adequate resources for community policing.

ICCL launching its document at a seminar at the Wood Quay Venue in Dublin City Council
offices at 6pm today.


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