Next week, the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission will appear before the UN in Geneva to present its findings on Ireland’s human rights performance. Issues will include access to abortion, prisoner treatment, support for victims of people trafficking, and policing accountability.
The Geneva meeting on July 27 and 28 will be the first attended by the Irish State since 2011 and will fulfill its obligations under the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (UNCAT).
Chief commissioner Emily Logan will present the commission’s findings, while the State will be represented by junior minister for Justice and Equality, David Stanton. He will detail Ireland’s progress in meeting its obligations.
Speaking on the publication of the commission’s 68-page report, Ms Logan said the report “highlights the broad spectrum of current challenges facing people, including those in detention and in custody, those arriving to Ireland seeking asylum, and the State treatment of the most vulnerable children and adults in our society”.
“It makes clear recommendations for action,” Ms Logan said, adding that while the report shows positive developments in some areas, “significant gaps in human rights protection remain, which need to be addressed”.
The commission raised concerns about the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act, regarding access to judicial reviews, “as well as regarding the potential impact of assessment and certification procedures on women and girls, particularly in the context of a risk of suicide”.
It said Ireland’s abortion laws “impede a woman’s right to bodily autonomy and have a disproportionate impact on women who face difficulties in travelling to seek a termination of pregnancy”, citing women from poorer backgrounds, women living in detention, and migrant women as examples of those significantly affected by restrictions.
The report asks that the Oireachtas committee tasked with considering the Citizens’ Assembly’s findings on the Eighth Amendment note the commission’s findings, “as well as the findings of other UN treaty-monitoring bodies”.
“The commission reiterates its endorsement of recommendations by various UN treaty-monitoring bodies, during the reporting period, that Ireland revise its legal framework on abortion,” the report said.
On human trafficking, the commission recommended that Ireland have assistance and protection for victims on a statutory basis.
“The commission is concerned that victims of trafficking in human beings can be subject to secondary victimisation, for example in securing compensation,” the report states.
“Irish legislation focuses on the criminalisation of trafficking in human beings, and does not expressly define ‘victim of trafficking in human beings’.”
Garda stations are not subject to unannounced inspections, the report says, which leaves a gap in national oversight of police custody.
The report also warns that women’s prisons remain the most overcrowded in the State.