Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee : Ireland. 07/24/2000.
A/55/40,paras.422-451. (Concluding Observations/Comments)

Convention Abbreviation: CCPR
HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE
Sixty-ninth session



CONSIDERATION OF REPORTS SUBMITTED BY STATES PARTIES
UNDER ARTICLE 40 OF THE COVENANT



Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee

Ireland


1. The Committee examined the second periodic report of Ireland (CCPR/C/IRL/98/2) at its 1846th, 1847th and 1848th meeetings (CCPR/C/SR.1846-1848), held on 13, 14 and 15 July 2000, respectively. At its 1858th meeting, on 21 July 2000, the Committee adopted the following concluding observations.


1. Introduction


2. The Committee appreciated the high quality of the report of Ireland, which was comprehensive, responded to the concluding observations made by the Committee after the examination of the initial report and generally conformed with the Committee’s guidelines for the preparation of States parties reports. The Committee also appreciated the additional oral and written information provided by the State party delegation during the examination of the report; this information was highly instructive and enhanced the dialogue between the Committee and

the delegation. Furthermore, the Committee welcomed the publication and wide dissemination of the report by the Government and its willingness to involve non-governmental organizations in the process.

3. Recalling its earlier comments, the Committee notes with satisfaction that the problems of terrorism have diminished and that, despite the problems experienced, the State party has maintained its democratic institutions and respect for the rule of law.


2. Positive aspects


4. The Committee notes with appreciation the increased use of the Covenant by the courts as an aid to the interpretation of common law and constitutional rights, and the withdrawal of several reservations made upon ratification of the Covenant.

5. The Committee welcomes the fact that the recently enacted Human Rights Commission Act provides for the establishment of a Human Rights Commission.

6. The Committee welcomes the establishment in 1997 of the Standing Interdepartmental Committee on Human Rights, which is mandated to consider all aspects of Ireland’s international human rights obligations, including the preparation of reports due under human rights treaties, as well as the Joint Department of Foreign Affairs/Non-Governmental Organizations Standing Committee on Human Rights. It further welcomes the operation of the Constitution Review Group, which is reviewing the 1937 Constitution with a view to proposing reforms necessary to bring it in line, inter alia, with international human rights standards.

7. The Committee expresses satisfaction that the state of emergency declared in 1976 was ended in 1995 and that the Emergency Powers Act of 1976 has now lapsed.

8. The Committee welcomes the Child Trafficking and Pornography Act 1998 and the Sexual Offenders (Jurisdiction) Act 1996, which allows prosecution in respect of offences committed outside Ireland. It also notes with satisfaction the abolition of corporal punishment in public and private schools.

9. The Committee notes with satisfaction the enactment of the Family Law (Divorce) Bill 1996, the Freedom of Information Act of 1997, and the Civil Legal Aid Act of 1995 by which legal services are provided to persons of modest means at little or no cost through legal centres based throughout the country.

10. The Committee welcomes the initiatives being undertaken in the area of human rights education, including education for primary and secondary students, members of the police (Garda) and the legal profession.


3. Principal subjects of concern and recommendations

11. The Committee expresses continuing concern that not all Covenant rights are guaranteed in the domestic law of the State party. The consequent lack of domestic recourse will limit the power of the proposed Human Rights Commission to take action in the courts to enforce those rights not covered.

12. The State party should ensure that all Covenant rights and freedoms are guaranteed and that effective remedies are available to any person whose rights or freedoms are violated, in accordance with article 2 of the Covenant.

13. While it welcomes the existence of a mechanism to investigate complaints made against the police force, namely the Garda Complaints Board, the Committee regrets that the Board is not fully independent, in that investigations of complaints against the Garda are often entrusted to members of the Garda without consultation with the Board. It emphasizes that the availability of recourse to the courts to address allegedly unlawful conduct by the police does not displace the need for independent and transparent investigation of allegations of abuse.

14. The Committee recommends that, in the context of its current review of the Garda Complaints Act of 1986, the State party take steps to ensure that the Garda Complaints Board is not dependent on the Garda for the conduct of investigations. Consideration should be given to the establishment of a police ombudsman. In the case of death resulting from action by members of the Garda, the State party should ensure that allegations are investigated by an independent and public process.

15. The law establishing the Special Criminal Court does not specify clearly the cases which are to be assigned to that Court but leaves it to the broadly defined discretion of the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP). The Committee is also concerned at the continuing operation of the Offences Against the State Act, that the periods of detention without charge under the Act have been increased, that persons may be arrested on suspicion of being about to commit an offence, and that the majority of persons arrested are never charged with an offence. It is concerned that, in circumstances covered by the Act, failure to respond to questions may constitute evidence supporting the offence of belonging to a prohibited organization. The application of the Act raises problems of compatibility with articles 9 and 14, paragraph 3 (g), of the Covenant. The Committee regrets that legal assistance and advice may not be available until a person has been charged.

16. Steps should be taken to end the jurisdiction of the Special Criminal Court and to ensure that all criminal procedures are brought into compliance with articles 9 and 14 of the Covenant.

17. The Committee expresses concern that the seven-day period of detention without charge under the Drug Trafficking Act raises issues of compatibility with article 9, paragraph 1. It is also concerned that legal aid is not available to detainees between arrest and charge and does not extend to visits to persons in detention.

18. The State party should ensure that all aspects of detention, including the period of detention and availability of legal aid, are administered in full compliance with article 9 of the Covenant.

19. The Committee recommends that the review of the Constitution should take fully into account the obligations of the State party under article 4 of the Covenant, particularly in regard to permitted derogations.

20. While noting the many advances that have been made in regard to the participation of women in all aspects of political, social and economic life, the Committee is concerned at the continuing inequalities faced by women in Ireland, which are reflected in the under-representation of women in certain occupations and in political life and in the generally lower salaries paid to women as compared with men. The Committee is also concerned that the references to women made in article 41 (para. 2) of the Constitution could perpetuate traditional attitudes toward the role of women. In that provision, the State “recognizes that by her life within the home, woman gives to the State a support without which the common good cannot be achieved. The State shall, therefore, endeavour to ensure that mothers shall not be obliged by economic necessity to engage in labour to the neglect of their duties in the home”.

21. The Committee urges the State party to intensify its efforts to ensure equality of women in all spheres, particularly in public and political life and in decision-making bodies, in accordance with articles 3 and 26 of the Covenant. It encourages the State party to strengthen its efforts to monitor the situation of women by collecting gender-disagreggated data in these spheres and by “gender-proofing” all draft legislation to ensure neutrality.

22. The Committee is concerned that exemptions under the Employment Equality Act, which allow religious bodies directing hospitals and schools to discriminate in certain circumstances on the ground of religion in employing persons whose functions are not religious, may result in discrimination contrary to article 26 of the Covenant.

23. The Committee is concerned that the circumstances in which women may lawfully obtain an abortion are restricted to when the life of the mother is in danger and do not include, for example, situations where the pregnancy is the result of rape.

24. The State party should ensure that women are not compelled to continue with pregnancies where that is incompatible with obligations arising under the Covenant (art. 7) and General Comment No. 28.

25. While the Committee notes the many improvements in prison conditions, it recommends that further efforts be made to ensure that all prisons and detention centres are brought up to the minimum standards required to ensure respect for the human dignity of detainees and to avoid overcrowding, in accordance with article 10. The Independent Prison Authority, whose establishment is envisaged in a current bill, should have power and resources to deal with complaints of abuse made by prisoners.

26. In regard to proposed changes to the law regarding asylum-seekers, the State party should ensure that the grounds on which detention may be authorized and the right of access to judicial review of detention decisions are in full conformity with the provisions of article 9 of the Covenant. It should also ensure that requirements relating to the place of residence of refugees do not infringe the rights to liberty of movement protected under article 12.

27. With respect to the Travelling community, the Committee continues to be concerned about the generally lower living standards of members of this community, their low levels of participation in national political and social life and their high levels of maternal and infant mortality.

28. The State party is urged to continue its efforts to take positive action to overcome discrimination and to ensure the equal enjoyment of rights by members of the Travelling community and in particular to improve their access to health, education and welfare services, including accommodation, and their participation in political and public life. The State should also pursue actively programmes to change attitudes and to promote understanding between the Travelling and the settled communities (arts. 26, 27).

29. The Committee recommends that further action be taken to ensure full implementation of the Covenant in these matters:

(a) Withdrawal of the remaining reservations to the Covenant;

(b) Reform of constitutional provisions requiring judges to make a declaration with religious references (art. 18);

(c) Provision for prompt review of detention on mental health grounds, i.e. within a few days (art. 9);

(d) Repeal or reform of discriminatory aspects of legislation requiring the registration of alien husbands of Irish women citizens, which is not required of alien wives of Irish male citizens (arts. 3, 26);

(e) Ensuring the full and equal enjoyment of Covenant rights by disabled persons, without discrimination, in accordance with article 26; and

(f) Improving remedies for victims of domestic violence.


4. Dissemination of information about the Covenant (art. 2)

30. The Committee requests that the third periodic report be submitted by 31 July 2005. That report should be prepared in accordance with the revised guidelines adopted by the Committee and should give particular attention to the issues raised in the present concluding observations. The Committee requests that these concluding observations and the next periodic report be widely disseminated in the territory of the State party.


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Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Geneva, Switzerland