Irish Penal Reform Trust

Ireland’s human rights record under the spotlight by UN peers – IPRT

10th November 2021

Ireland’s human rights record, including its failure to ratify international human rights treaties and its treatment of people in prison, will be examined by the UN Human Rights Council Working Group as part of Ireland’s third Universal Period Review (UPR) from 13.30 today (10.11.2021), via live webcast.

To inform the review, the Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) petitioned other UN States to make recommendations on Ireland’s human rights record relating to imprisonment. Chief among the concerns we raised are:

  • the ongoing detention of people with severe mental illness who are suffering psychiatric distress for long periods in prison;
  • the lack of prison inspection reports, which means the current human rights situation in prisons is not known;
  • a prisoner complaints mechanism that is “not fit for purpose” and therefore does not protect against potential abuse;
  • no transparency by the prison service over the lengths of time that people are held in solitary confinement; and
  • Ireland’s failure to meet its commitments to ratify the OPCAT.

Today, States will submit questions to Ireland on its performance across a number of human rights treaties. The Irish State delegation will need to outline to its UN peers what actions they have taken to improve the human rights situation in Ireland and fulfil its human rights obligations.

During Ireland’s second UPR review in 2016, more than 20 States recommended that Ireland ratify an important international torture prevention treaty, the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture (OPCAT). Ireland had accepted this recommendation in 2011 and again in 2016. However, despite signing the treaty designed to prevent torture in all places of detention over 14 years ago, Ireland has not yet ratified the treaty. Given the ongoing impacts this has for all people deprived of their liberty in Ireland – including prisons, nursing homes and psychiatric units – it is expected that this failure will be once again highlighted at the examination later today.

Speaking in advance of the hearing, IPRT Executive Director Fíona Ní Chinnéide commented:

“The State is failing thousands of people and their families by not having robust and effective inspections and oversight mechanisms in place that protect against torture, abuse and ill-treatment in all places of detention, from residential centres for people with disabilities to Garda cells and prisons. Gaps in accountability, transparency and oversight can allow a culture of impunity to exist in places of detention.

“Ireland’s 14-year delay in strengthening its protection of people deprived of their liberty through ratification of the OPCAT treaty is unacceptable and contradicts Ireland’s view of itself as a leader in the promotion of human rights on the international stage. We need strong, time-specific questioning from our international peers on OPCAT and other and accountability mechanisms later today."

IPRT has previously engaged with the UN UPR process, alongside other human rights mechanisms, to put international pressure on the State to end the practice of imprisoning children in adult prisons in Ireland. The end of this practice in 2016 speaks to the strength of UN processes, including UPR.

The UN Working Group’s Report on Ireland is due to be distributed at 15.30 (Geneva) Friday 12 November. The UPR Working Group is scheduled to adopt the recommendations made to Ireland shortly thereafter on 12 November.
 

For all media enquiries, contact Pamela: +353 (0) 86 043 3060 or communications@iprt.ie


NOTE TO EDITORS

  • The questioning of Ireland by representatives from Sudan, Germany, and Ukraine can be viewed live online from 13.30 local time (14.30 Geneva): https://media.un.org/en/webtv/
  • UN-issued press notice on Ireland’s review (08.11.2021): https://unric.org/en/irelands-human-rights-record-to-be-examined-by-universal-periodic-review/  
  • At the UPR pre-sessions in October 2021, IPRT asked recommending States to recommend that Ireland:
    • publish the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill before end December 2021;
    • ratify the OPCAT and establish a National Preventive Mechanism no later than July 2022;
    • strengthen the powers of the Inspector of Prisons, including the power to publish reports directly; and
    • introduce the new internal prisoner complaints mechanism before the end of 2021.
  • As part of the UPR process, IPRT has also asked recommending States to recommend that Ireland:
    • conduct a human rights impact assessment to evaluate whether measures taken in response to Covid-19 in prisons are proportionate and necessary;
    • set out in legislation the maximum number of days for which a person can be held in solitary confinement;
    • ensure all people in prison have access to toilets in private; and
    • transfer governance of prison healthcare to the national health service.
  • IPRT’s full submission to the UPR (March 2021) is here: https://www.iprt.ie/iprt-submissions/iprt-submission-to-irelands-third-un-universal-periodic-review/
  • Further information about Ireland’s review under UPR, including national and stakeholder reports, is available on the UN Human Rights Council website: https://www.ohchr.org/EN/HRBodies/UPR/Pages/IEIndex.aspx
  • The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) is Ireland's leading non-governmental organisation campaigning for the rights of everyone in prison and the progressive reform of Irish penal policy, with prison as a last resort. See www.iprt.ie

Respect for rights in the penal system with prison as a last resort.

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