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Council of Europe issues report on Human Rights in Ireland

April 30th, 2008 · 1 Comment · Social Policy

Late last year the Council of Europe’s Human Rghts Commissioner, Thomas Hammarberg, conducted an official visit to Ireland upon an invitation from the Irish government. There was little coverage of the visit at the time but he met with statutory and non statutory bodies involved in human rights and visited locations including prisons, mental health institutions and direct provision centres for asylum seekers.

Hammarberg is from Sweden and has a distinguished record in human rights monitoring and enforcement at statutory, non statutory and intergovernmental level. He is in the middle his term of office and he and his officials make visits to member states of the Council of Europe, making thematic recommendations on human rights issues and promoting the development of human rights structures at national level.

The Commissioner’s Report was published today and before it gets lost in the coverage of Bertie Ahern’s visit to Washington it is worth some consideration. In it he makes 34 recommendations (listed below) on issues including the rights of children, asylum seekers, women, ethnic minorities, undocumented minors, abortion and on overall human rights and anti discrimination resolution procedures. The Irish Government’s response is also included in an appendix to the document. I expect that to be questioned and factchecked by NGO’s and bloggers amongst others in the days to come.

National system for protecting human rights

1. Ratify Protocol No. 12 to the European Convention on Human Rights and the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings.

2. Adjust the legal aid scheme to the extent that it reflects actual cost of living standards.

3. Review the mandates of the different human rights complaints bodies with a view to optimising their effectiveness and independence as well as closing current protection gaps, with particular reference to the remits of the Ombudsman and the Ombudsman for Children.

4. Provide comprehensive and comparative information to the public on the mandates and functions of different complaints mechanisms.

5. Facilitate the interaction of authorities with civil society representatives at all levels to ensure that their experience and expertise can benefit policy formulation and implementation.

6. Conduct a base-line study to assess the extent to which human rights are integrated into education and training, so that further needs can be identified and addressed for ensuring that human rights awareness reaches all walks of society.

7. Develop a national action plan on human rights as an inclusive process for continuously improving human rights in Ireland.

Children’s rights

8. Implement the National Action Plan for Social Inclusion 2007-2016 so as to significantly reduce the number of children experiencing consistent poverty.

9. Use the opportunity of the proposed constitutional amendment to incorporate the best interests of the child as a general principle in the Irish Constitution, in line with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

10. Prohibit corporal punishment of children in a comprehensive way.

11. Provide for professional care in the accommodation facilities for separated children and assign a guardian ad litem to each separated child.

12. Address the increasing demand for choice within the educational system, in particular with regard to cultural and religious diversity.

13. Provide adequately resourced separate facilities and services for minor psychiatric patients, and make early intervention at a local level possible for such children.

Juvenile justice

14. Ensure full implementation of the Children Act 2001 and its sentencing principles, for example, by providing guidance and specific training to the judiciary.

15. Develop further the system of alternative sanctions for juvenile delinquents and ensure adequate funding for the system across the country.

16. Review the current system of Anti-Social Behaviour Orders so that it does not lead to an increased use of detention and ensure its independent monitoring.

17. Apply the Children Detention School model when the detention of juvenile offenders is deemed a necessary measure and discontinue the imprisonment of children in adult facilities.

Non-discrimination and women’s rights

18. Review the resource needs of the Equality Tribunal to minimise its backlog of cases.

19. Clarify the scope of legal abortions through statutory law in line with domestic jurisprudence and provide for adequate services for carrying out such abortions in Ireland.

20. Change the law on birth registration in such a way that transgender persons can obtain a birth certificate reflecting their actual gender.

21. Provide the National Office for the Prevention of Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence with adequate resources for the effective fulfilment of its broad mandate while, in particular, ensuring effective support for women victims of violence through services supplied by both state and civil society operators.

Measures against racism and xenophobia

22. Monitor the implementation of the National Action Plan against Racism and the local anti-racism and diversity plans in close cooperation with civil society and ethnic and cultural minority representatives, while preparing new action plans to succeed the current ones.

23. Improve data collection on racist and xenophobic incidents.

24. Provide for the racist motivation of a crime to be considered as an aggravating circumstance in Irish criminal law.

Situation of Travellers

25. Work closely with Travellers when preparing, implementing and monitoring policies and programmes designed for the Travellers.

26. Promote the participation of Travellers in political decision-making at local and national level.

27. Ensure that Travellers are effectively protected against discrimination and racism under national and international law.

Treatment of migrants and asylum-seekers

28. Ensure that the right to remain in Ireland during the procedure is granted to asylum-seekers who appeal asylum decisions which raise questions in relation to Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

29. Reconsider the provision in the proposed Immigration, Residence and Protection Bill which would direct costs for so called “frivolous and vexatious? proceedings to the legal counsel of the applicant.

30. Provide family accommodation to families with children seeking asylum in Ireland.

31. Introduce temporary work permits for asylum-seekers.

32. Introduce statutory provisions regulating family reunification for all groups of people.

33. Implement the principle of the best interests of the child in decisions within the field of immigration and refugee law related to children.

Fight against terrorism: extraordinary renditions

34. Review the current inspection and monitoring arrangements in Ireland with a view to ensuring that effective and independent investigations are carried out into any serious allegation of extraordinary renditions.

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