Ireland’s human rights record tainted by rendition and failure to protect children

IRELAND has been highlighted by human rights group Amnesty International for failing to protect vulnerable children and the mentally ill and resisting probes into United States intelligence agencies’ use of Shannon Airport.

The group’s annual international report published yesterday includes Ireland in a country-by-country analysis of more than 150 nations and territories with varying degrees of commitment to the protection of human rights.

The report notes with approval the recent establishment of the Garda Ombudsman Commission and Cosc, the Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, as well as the drafting of legislation outlawing human trafficking and imposing controls on the export of goods and services for military use.

However, it also notes concerns about the restrictions on bail and the right to silence introduced for people in custody last year and draws attention to the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s opinion that several Irish prisons are unsafe for both prisoners and prison staff.

Mentioned are the cases of Gary Douch, whose killing in Mountjoy Prison is under investigation and Terence Wheelock, whose death after detention in a Garda cell is also being investigated.

The report is also critical of the country’s record in tackling racism, gender inequality and discrimination against Travellers, and it notes the criticisms from the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services about the scarcity of services and supports for patients.

Commenting on the report, Noeleen Hartigan of Amnesty’s Irish section said it showed a need for the Government to write into law the right of access to mental health services for anyone who needed them.

“Mental health services in Ireland are underfunded, of poor quality and inaccessible to the majority of people who need them. Everybody has the right to the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health,” she said.

The report highlights the continued controversy over the use of Irish territory by the United States CIA for flights linked with the practice of extraordinary rendition — the illegal transfer of suspects between places of detention without any legal process.

It notes the Government’s resistance to calls from the European Parliament and other bodies to put in place an inspection system to ensure aircraft refuelling at Shannon were not engaged in practices that breached international law.

“Despite numerous independent reports indicating Shannon’s compliance in the US government’s policy of kidnap and torture, the Irish Government has turned a blind eye,” Ms Hartigan said.

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