GENEVA (28 July 2017) - The Committee against Torture this afternoon concluded the consideration of the second periodic report of Ireland on its implementation of the provisions of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment.
In her introductory remarks, Patricia O’Brien, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, underlined that the support for human rights had always been at the centre of Irish policy, and that Irish appearances before the treaty bodies were viewed with the outmost seriousness.
Presenting the report, David Stanton, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration of Ireland, noted that Ireland had a strong human rights record and regarded the Convention against Torture as a key component of the international human rights instruments to which it was a party. Ireland was pleased to announce that children were no longer sent to adult prisons: all children aged 16 and 17 sentenced to detention by the courts were sent to the Children’s Detention Centre at Oberstown as of 31 March 2017. Effective measures were being taken to reduce prison overcrowding, such as the construction of 900 new prison places since 2007; the implementation of the innovative Community Return Programme which offered early temporary release to offenders who posed no threat to the community in return for supervised community service; and the pursue of alternatives to custody through the 2011 Criminal Justice (Community Service) Amendment Act. The Government had undertaken a fundamental reform of the asylum applications assessment system, and a wide range of initiatives to tackle domestic violence and the highly politicized issue of abortion.
Committee Experts congratulated the Government for having provided a good amount of staff and funding to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, and for having ensured its independence. Yet, they expressed concern that there was a lack of clarity as to whether or not persons deprived of their liberty were entitled to have access to a legal counsel during interrogations. They observed that very few criminal proceedings and investigations had been launched with respect to historical physical and sexual abuses of children at residential industrial schools and reformatories. In the same vein, full investigation, truth-telling and reparations had not been carried out in the cases of the Magdalene Laundries and the mother and baby homes. Experts underlined deficiencies in the Government’s Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme, out-of-court settlements to survivors of child sexual abuse, and pointed to a rare prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women. Major concerns remained with respect to the reform of the abortion law, female genital mutilation, implementation on intersex children of unnecessary medical or surgical treatments, abuse of older persons in care homes, the use of the Irish territory to facilitate rendition and a failure to fully fulfil non-refoulement obligations, the delay in the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, prison overcrowding, solitary confinement, and deaths in custody.
In his concluding remarks, Mr. Stanton said that the Government viewed the Committee as an essential friend and thanked it for its crucial work. He recognized the work of civil society organizations, which continued to focus on important issues and thanked the Committee for having recognized the progress made by Ireland so far.
The delegation of Ireland included representatives of the Ministry for Equality, Immigration and Integration; Irish Prison Service; Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade; Ministry of Justice and Equality; Ministry of Health; Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs; Ministry of Education and Skills; and the Permanent Mission of Ireland to the United Nations Office at Geneva.
The Committee will next meet in public on Thursday, 3 August, at 10 a.m. to begin the consideration of the fourth periodic report of Panama (CAT/C/PAN/4).
The second periodic report of Ireland can be read here:
Presentation of the Report
PATRICIA O’BRIEN, Permanent Representative of Ireland to the United Nations Office at Geneva, underlined that the support for human rights had always been at the centre of Irish policy. Ireland was actively engaged in the Universal Periodic Review and it played an active role in the strengthening of the treaty bodies. Irish appearances before the treaty bodies were viewed with the outmost seriousness and the Irish delegation looked forward to a genuine dialogue with the Committee against Torture.
DAVID STANTON, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration of Ireland, said that Ireland had a strong human rights record and that it regarded the Convention against Torture as a key component of the international human rights instruments to which it was a party. Ireland was pleased to announce that children were no longer sent to adult prisons: all children aged 16 and 17 sentenced to detention by the courts were sent to the Children’s Detention Centre at Oberstown as of 31 March 2017. St. Patrick’s Institution was closed effective 7 April 2017 and all references to it were now removed from the statute books. The Oberstown Campus had undergone a capital expenditure programme of €56 million over the last few years, resulting in six new residential units, a new education and recreational facility and a fully furnished medical suite. Great strides had been made in achieving the complete elimination of the practice of “slopping out” in the Irish prison system: with the opening of a new prison in Cork on 12 February 2016 and the refurbishment of Mountjoy prison, 99 per cent of prisoners now had access to in-cell sanitation. The Irish Prison Service’s Capital Strategy 2016-2021 outlined plans for the complete replacement of the outdated accommodation in Limerick and Portlaoise prisons and improvements across a number of other prisons, which would completely eliminate the practice by 2020, said the Minister. The Government had accepted all the recommendations made by the Irish inspector of prisons concerning the improvements to the prisoners’ complaints system, including to ensure that the Office of the Ombudsman had an oversight role in the complaints system for prisoners. The new IT-based complaints system was being developed and was expected to be approved by the Prisons Management Board by the end of the year.
Ireland was conscious of the need to engage with the civil society and consult on the mechanisms necessary for the ratification and implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture. The Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, which would enable the ratification of the Optional Protocol, aimed to provide for the inspection of all places of detention in the justice area – prisons, Garda stations and courts. A statutory instrument entitled Prison (Amendment) Rules 2017 which took into account the Nelson Mandela Rules concerning solitary confinement, had been recently put in place. Effective measures were being taken to reduce prison overcrowding, such as the construction of 900 new prison places since 2007; the implementation of the innovative Community Return Programme which offered early temporary release to offenders who posed no threat to the community in return for supervised community service; and the pursue of alternatives to custody through the 2011 Criminal Justice (Community Service) Amendment Act which required judges to first consider of community service as an alternative to imprisonment in cases where the sentence carried under 12 months in prison.
The International Protection Act 2015 represented a fundamental reform of the system for assessing the applications of those seeking international protection in Ireland and ensured that all aspects of a person’s claim – asylum, subsidiary protection and permission to remain – were considered together rather than sequentially. A wide range of initiatives to tackle domestic violence had been taken including the publication of the Second National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-Based Violence 2016-2021 and the Domestic Violence Bill which enhanced the legislative measures available within the civil law system to support and protect victims. The issue of abortion had been highly politicised and divisive for decades, said Mr. Stanton and informed the Committee that a Citizen’s Assembly had been established to consider a number of matters in this regard, including the Eighth Amendment to the Constitution. In terms of social legacy issues, Ireland accepted that it could not be proud of certain aspects of its social history, such as the Magdalen Laundries and mother and baby homes, and was taking efforts to establish truth and provide redress.
Questions by the Country Co-Rapporteurs
FELICE GAER, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Ireland, congratulated Ireland for having provided a good amount of staff and funding to the Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission, and for having ensured its independence.
There was a concern that some members of the Garda Síochána lacked clarity as to whether or not persons deprived of their liberty were entitled to have access to legal counsel during interrogations. Had the State party ensured that the law clearly set out that right? How did the State party intend to ensure that the Garda provided safeguards against torture to persons deprived of their liberty?
Turning to the historical physical and sexual abuses of children at residential industrial schools and reformatories, Ms. Gaer noted that very few criminal proceedings and investigations had been launched, or even contemplated, in response to the Ryan Report. How would the Government ensure that victims received redress and guarantees of non-repetition? This issue had been raised by several other United Nations committees and it was more than problematic as over 15,000 victims had come forward to the Redress Board. What was the additional information on all investigations of abuses perpetrated in Catholic schools and institutions? What measures was the Government taking to ensure that victims were not gagged from reporting abuse? Was the State party considering to undertake a broader investigation into allegations of the death of children in institutions? Civil society had expressed concern that Catholic orders under whose authority those abuses had been perpetrated had actually not reformed in order to prevent the victimization of children, and the delegation was asked how it ensured that religious orders implemented such measures. Was the Government considering revising the eligibility of the redress scheme to ensure that unaccompanied children in Mother and Baby Homes were also able to obtain redress?
Turning to the issue of the Magdalene Laundries and abuses committed between 1992 and 1996 against women and girls involuntarily confined there, Ms. Gaer expressed concern that Ireland did not seem to intend to go further and create an independent investigation into the allegations of ill-treatment. In April 2017, the Human Rights Committee had reiterated its concerns about the Irish performance regarding the accountability for Church-related institutional abuses, and had recommended that Ireland conducted an independent and thorough investigation and prosecuted and punished the perpetrators of abuse and ill-treatment at the Magdalene Laundries. Did the Government not recognize that there was a great deal of information about past abuses at those institutions that had yet to be uncovered?
The Country Co-Rapporteur added that the Committee against Torture had received information from an individual who had had access to the archives of the Diocese of Galway and who claimed to have discovered significant material demonstrating the extensive involvement of the Bishop of Galway in the operations and financial dealings of the Sisters of Mercy Galway Magdalen, one of the two laundries for which no records survived. That individual claimed that those materials had not been accurately reflected in the McAleese report. It was troubling to hear that the Inter-Departmental Committee to establish the facts of State involvement with the Magdalen Laundries had destroyed its copies of evidence received from the religious congregations that had run the Magdalene Laundries and would not provide the public with access to the archive of State files or to the archives of the religious congregations, said Ms. Gaer.
What was preventing the Government from providing public access to the archive of State records gathered by the Inter-Departmental Committee (McAleese Committee)? Would the Government consider amending the statute of limitations so that civil claims could be brought in the interest of justice? Would it consider creating a publicly accessible archive of material about institutions, including the Magdalene Laundries, to which religious congregations and the Catholic hierarchy and the State would be compelled to contribute? Would the Government consider launching a broader truth-telling process in respect to those and other historical abuses?
Turning to the issue of redress, Ms. Gaer asked why Ireland was not allowing a group of women who had worked in the Magdalene Laundries as girls but had actually been held in children’s residential schools, to participate in the redress scheme on the same grounds as others who worked in the Magdalene Laundries. It was of concern that the existence of the redress scheme had not been widely advertised outside Ireland, other than in the United Kingdom: only eleven applications for redress had been received from victims in the United States, when the size of the Irish diaspora there suggested that the number of the Magdalene survivors should be much higher.
The Committee also shared concern that Ireland had not thoroughly investigated allegations of serious abuse in mother and baby homes, or prosecuted and punished perpetrators. The Commission of Investigation had focused on only 18 such institutions, while as many as 70 had been omitted. How did the Government intend to ensure that appropriate investigations and prosecutions took place? Did it consider expanding the scope of the terms of reference of the Commission of Investigation to task it with identifying the remains of deceased infants who had been found in mass graves at the mother and baby homes’ sites?
The condition for receiving awards from the Government’s Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme was for each woman to sign a deed of waiver and indemnity that required her to indemnify and hold harmless the individuals and bodies responsible for harming her. Did the State party consider revising the deed of waiver and indemnity requirement? How would it ensure that such regulations did not impede efforts to ensure criminal investigations into allegations that an unnecessary and harmful medical procedure had been carried out on a significant number of women without their consent between 1944 and 1987?
It was troubling that the State Claims Agency had recently stated that it would only offer out-of-court settlements to survivors of child sexual abuse who could demonstrate that they had been abused by a primary or post-primary school employee against whom a complaint of sexual abuse had previously been made to school authorities. Was the Government prepared to review that policy? There were also troubling reports of severe abuse of children in foster care. How did the State party intend to ensure that victims of systematic abuses in foster care settings obtained redress?
Prosecution of perpetrators of violence against women in Ireland seemed to be rare. What were the Government’s efforts to improve the collection of data on violence against women and what measures were being taken to more effectively investigate complaints and prosecute perpetrators? Was the Government enhancing training of police and prosecutors to recognize the gravity of the crime of violence against women, and to ensure that perpetrators faced appropriately serious criminal charges?
What were the intentions concerning an increase in the level of funding provided for protection and support services to victims of domestic violence? Was the Government taking further steps to address the particular needs of migrant women fleeing domestic violence? The 2017 domestic violence bill did not define domestic violence as a criminal offence and did not articulate the reasons for which protection orders should be granted. Were any steps being taken to correct those shortcomings?
There was a serious concern about the criminal prohibition of abortion in all cases, except where the life of the mother was in peril. Was the Government encouraging a referendum on the Eighth Amendment and encouraging the Irish population to vote to repeal it? Was the civil society being consulted in the preparation of draft legislation in the event that the Eighth Amendment was repealed to ensure that the new proposed legislation was consistent with Ireland’s international obligations? Did the Government intend to propose the repeal of the Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act?
How many women and girls were estimated to have been subjected to female genital mutilation and how many investigations and prosecutions had been carried out on the basis of the Criminal Justice (Female Genital Mutilation) Act 2012 since its adoption? Was the Government still seeking to amend the Criminal Justice Act to remove the double criminality requirement for prosecution of perpetrators of female genital mutilation?
What measures had been taken to address the recommendations by the Committee on the Rights of the Child and the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women to prevent and discourage unnecessary medical or surgical treatments on intersex children?
Ms. Gaer raised the concern about the abuse of older persons in care homes and asked about the timetable for the repeal of the Lunacy Regulations Act 1871 and the commencement of the provisions of the Assisted Decision-Making Act 2015.
The delegation was asked about the responsibility to prevent the use of its territory to facilitate rendition and whether the Garda investigation inquired into whether Irish airports had been used to refuel aircraft linked to extraordinary rendition. Were diplomatic assurances alone considered sufficient for the discharge of international obligations and ensuring that Irish airports were not used by other Governments to violate the prohibition against refoulement?
The Committee had previously expressed concern about the falling number of positive refugee determination by Ireland, and the concern that its domestic procedures were insufficient to fulfil its non-refoulement obligations under article 3 of the Convention. Were measures in place to ensure that immigrant detainees were strictly separated from regular remand prisoners in the Cloverhill and other prisons and in police stations?
ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Ireland, raised the issue of professional training on prevention of torture and ill-treatment for prison and police officers, judges and prosecutors, and investigators, and asked how many had received such training? She also asked how many police officers had received training on new investigative techniques; whether medical personnel received systematic training on the Istanbul Protocol; if law enforcement agencies received training on the use of force and crowd control; and whether military officers and security guards received training on the prevention of torture and ill-treatment. Such training should be a mandatory part of professional training of all law enforcement officials, Ms. Racu remarked.
The ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture should be sped up, said the Co-Rapporteur and asked the delegation to provide up-to-date information on the matter. Were non-governmental organizations allowed to carry out visits to places of detention? The investigation mechanism for the oversight of places of detention should have adequate resources to conduct necessary investigations. To what extent were the recommendations of the Office of the Inspector of Prisons taken into consideration by the prison management?
The number of female inmates continued to rise, remarked Ms. Racu and said that one of the main concerns was that the overt reliance on prison punishments had led to prison overcrowding. The issue of “slopping out” persisted. Did prisoners placed in observations cells benefit from outside exercise and what was the average time spent in observation cells? The separation of remand and sentenced prisoners was not always achieved in practice. What was the number of remand prisoners, including juveniles, and what was the average time that remand prisoners had to spend in confinement?
Another concern was inter-prisoner violence. The frequency of violence among prisoners was high and a lot of reports had been received testifying to that fact. The existence of gangs, high prevalence of drug use, and lack of meaningful activities were some of the main causes of such violence. What efforts were being undertaken to prevent inter-prisoner violence? How many complaints of excessive use of force by prison security forces had been filed by the inmates?
Internal review mechanism and record keeping on death in custody were lacking or inefficient. Prisoners in protection were reported to have a very poor regime and almost no contact with the outside world, and Ms. Racu urged Ireland to minimize the damaging effects of such segregation and take additional measures to allow them access to various activities.
There were deficiencies in the standard of healthcare services in prisons in Ireland, due to the lack of medical staff and the absence of weekend and overnight medical services. Persons with psychiatric disorders did not receive adequate therapy, and there were no adequate programmes to address the needs of prisoners who abused substances.
The medical screening of juvenile detainees did not keep a record of allegations of violence and abuse. All injuries found on children should be photographed and put into their files. Ms. Racu welcomed the decrease in the number of children in detention but noted the reports that children in detention in Oberstown were not always safe, due to deficiencies in care, health and staffing, and management. The practice of solitary confinement of children was another source of concern. What were the concrete measures to prevent such practice, which measures were being applied to foster good behaviour of juveniles in detention, and what educational and vocational activities they had access to?
Turning to the police complaint mechanism, Ms. Racu noted that the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) had been established as a statutory independent body, under the Garda Síochána Act 2005, to provide independent oversight of complaints made against members of the Garda Síochána. Since the introduction of the complaints procedure in November 2012 (to end March 2015) there have been 240 complaints investigated under the category A procedures within the Irish Prison Service. While such investigations do not result in prosecutions or convictions, incidents could be reported to the Gardaí who could initiate a criminal investigation. How many complaints were related to torture and ill-treatment, including in relation to non-fatal offenses? What were the final outcomes of those complaints, how many had been prosecuted?
Solitary confinement was regularly used as a means of protection and punishment in Irish prisons and in 2016, its use had been increased. What was the outcome of the review of the use of solitary confinement? Female prisons suffered from chronic overcrowding - what measures had been taken by the State party to address that problem?
There were deficiencies in the procedures for identifying victims of trafficking. What were the plans to enhance cooperation with civil society in that respect?
As for the involuntary intersex genital mutilation, Ireland had already received relevant recommendations. Was there any relevant data collection?
Questions by Committee Experts
Experts raised the issue of sexual violence in school settings and national measures to address such violence. Was there an evaluation mechanism to determine to what extent protection measures for children in detention were effective?
Could the process of the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture be accelerated and was there a specific agenda to enable Ireland to ratify the Optional Protocol? Did the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill intend to fully honour the spirit and letter of the Optional Protocol?
On the potential reform of the law on abortion, what was being done to disseminate Ireland’s international obligations and the relevant treaty body recommendations in the society?
There was a great number of Syrian refugees who wished to arrive to Ireland by sea but were not allowed to do so. Criteria used to determine a refugee status did not refer to the relevant recommendations of the Committee against Torture. The police ethics code also had to refer to the Committee against Torture as a reference point.
What measures did the Government plan to undertake to eliminate the use of chemical restraints in prisons? Handcuffing of transferred prisoners was another concern, due to the lack of safety belts in transfer vehicles.
What rehabilitation services were provided to victims of torture? Was Ireland willing to increase its contributions to the United Nations Voluntary Fund for Victims of Torture?
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, asked how the screening by the Government ensured that victims of torture among asylum seekers were properly identified and what rehabilitation services were they provided with.
Replies by the delegation
Responding to questions raised about deaths in custody, the delegation said that 76 persons had died in custody since 2009 and that all such deaths were referred for criminal investigation. The internal review of death in custody was indeed deficient, so a multi-stakeholder group had been established in 2015 to review all deaths in custody in order to bring about the necessary improvements. At the same time, the Government had ordered an independent academic research into how prison services could be improved.
The Psychology Service in Prison had undertaken a major review in the past two years, and as a result, a new head of psychology and psychology assistants had been appointed and the mental health of prisoners became an important issue addressed by prison management.
Human rights training of prison personnel was taken very seriously and it was an integral part of the training and education of prison staff.
DAVID STANTON, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration of Ireland, underlined that the issue of the past crimes was something that Ireland was not proud of, and said that the Government recognized that and apologized for the past wrongdoings. Ireland was nowadays an open, modern and progressive society, Mr. Stanton said and stressed that its international reputation was important to the Government. Ireland welcomed the opportunity to engage with the Committee, which it saw as a critical friend whose advice and direction was greatly valued. It was crucial for the Government not to be complacent, said the Minister and affirmed the delegation’s readiness to learn from the Committee and civil society in order to make improvements and progress. Human rights were at the forefront of Ireland’s foreign policy.
Responding to questions raised about the prison population, the delegation explained that in the past five years, it had been decreased by 1,000 prisoners, which had placed Ireland in the top 15 countries in the world with least imprisonment. A brand new prison had been built in Cork, and the Mountjoy prison had been completely renovated. The cell size standard exceeded that of the United Nations and the recruitment of new prison personnel had commenced to fill critical vacancies in the prison system. “Slopping out” had been reduced to 60 out of 1,000 from five years ago. New prison facilities had been opened to meet the needs of female inmates while the review of the penal policy had placed special emphasis on women in prison.
Remand prisoners comprised 15 per cent of the total prison population, said a delegate and informed the Committee of the national strategy to keep remand prisoners in their local and regional prisons. The data on average time spent in remand imprisonment was not available at the moment. Healthcare in prisons had improved dramatically and there was a better medical coverage of the prison population. Mental health remained a challenge, but a consultant service was available in the Midlands and Dublin. The use of handcuffs during medical procedures was a pragmatic approach, but handcuffs could be removed upon medical practitioner’s request and in consultation with the chief officer.
An incentivised regimes policy had been introduced in prisons to help reduce the level of violence. A 2016 report on violent incidents in prisons benchmarked Ireland against other countries in Europe. Drug use was one of the main drivers of violence in detention. Sexual violence took place in prisons, but it was hidden; a confidential helpline had been introduced to allow inmates to safely report such incidents.
The delegation confirmed that there were no asylum seekers in Irish prisons and it also noted a dramatic reduction in the use of solitary confinement, which was now in compliance with the Mandela Rules, and all prisoners were entitled to two hours out-of-cell time.
The Ministry of Health had launched a harms reduction strategy to reduce the use of drugs in prisons, but the use of drugs in prisons remained problematic also because it was a larger social problem.
A study into the effects of imprisonment on families had been undertaken and outside groups working with children and parents were part of the project. In the past three years, much investment had been made to allow prisoners to spend quality time with their children.
There had been no prosecutions with respect to deaths in custody, but there had been internal reviews.
Mental health was a priority and a greater emphasis had been given to community-based care. A new central mental hospital would open in 2020. Measures had been taken to address the mental health needs of asylum seekers and refugees, particularly of those who had been subjected to torture, and a quality interpretation service was provided where needed.
Turning to questions raised about abortion, the delegation said that the Citizen’s Assembly report had been delivered in June 2017, which contained the recommendations on what new legislation on abortion should contain. The final report was due in December 2017 while the referendum on the Eight Amendment was likely to take place in 2018. The repeal of the 1995 act on termination of pregnancy was on standby until the adoption of the recommendations regarding the Eight Amendment, as the new legislation would depend on the outcomes of the referendum.
The Surgical Symphysiotomy Payment Scheme had been established in 2014 and reviewed in 2016. The scheme was voluntary and women were not required to waive legal prosecution of those responsible for the procedure, said a delegate and clarified that only those who had accepted the reward were asked to waive legal prosecution. Payments under the scheme represented a fair and comprehensive response to the issue.
Intersex children were committed to a specialized hospital and only medically necessary surgery was performed, upon approval by parents and medical professionals. The State Claims Agency had a mandate to manage relevant complaints.
Nursing homes were subject to monitoring by an independent agency, and the practice of chemical restraints could only be carried out in accordance with the law; in general, the use of chemical restraints was a measure of last resort.
As for female genital mutilation, awareness raising was carried out among medical professionals. The Irish Family Planning Association operated a specialized clinic in Dublin for women and girls who had experienced female genital mutilation.
Responding to the question on the ratification of the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and the establishment of a national preventive mechanism, a delegate noted that progress had not been as quick as wished and reiterated the commitment of Ireland to ratifying the Optional Protocol at the earliest opportunity. Work was ongoing and civil society was involved in discussing the establishment of a national preventive mechanism.
Suspects had the right to a lawyer before and during questioning. Any action taken by the Garda had to comply with the principles of proportionality and necessity. As for the issue of dual criminality, Ireland would exercise its reservation to the Istanbul Protocol in that respect.
Turning to the issue of the historical abuse of children in residential institutions, the delegation explained that some 15,000 people had been awarded reparations and redress. Following on the recommendations of the Ryan Report, robust child protection measures had been introduced in schools to prevent abuse and vetting and training of teachers had been strengthened. There were absolutely no restrictions imposed on survivors of abuse to report those crimes, and late applications for redress had been accommodated. It was not the Government’s intention to re-traumatize victims through the Caranua system, an independent State body set to help people who as children had experienced abuse in residential institutions and which provided assistance to those eligible for redress. The Caranua would probably stop accepting redress applications sometime in 2019. Proposals to construct a memorial for the victims of abuse were currently under review.
There was an ongoing investigation into the abuses in the mother and baby homes and the delegation stressed that such institutions no longer existed in Ireland. The Ministry of Children and Youth Affairs would review the scope of investigations. Clear criteria had been used to identify mother and baby homes; available information demonstrated that many similar institutions did not qualify as mother and baby homes, which did not mean that those additional institution would not be subject of investigation. The collection and analysis of all relevant data had to be completed before any changes in the terms of reference of the relevant commission could be made.
Allegations of forced adoption of children from those institutions and deaths of children were also part of the investigation commission’s terms of reference, whose reports would be published, while prosecution would be initiates if there were any indications of criminal nature. The Children First Act of 2015 enhanced the protection and rights of the child, and prohibited corporal punishment.
There were no criminal investigations with respect to abuses in the Magdalen Laundries and the Government had no reason to believe that a body of evidence was out there that had not been considered by the McAleese Committee. The Government would be happy to hear if there was such evidence from any source. The relevant archives could be accessed by individuals who were in the Magdalen institutions, said a delegate and also explained that a person could not benefit from two schemes, except for girls transferred from industrial schools to Magdalen institutions.
Several studies had been carried out on domestic violence and sexual assault in Ireland. The domestic violence bill was currently being considered by the Parliament. As for the issue of extraordinary renditions, the Government stated that it was difficult to identify suspicious aircrafts passing through the Irish territory which carried persons subject to rendition. Diplomatic assurances could not be used as a pretext for refoulement and a breach of article 3 of the Convention against Torture, however, when properly used, diplomatic assurances could ensure compliance with the article 3.
The Government was committed to carrying out a full formal review of suspected victims of trafficking. Accommodating victims of trafficking together with asylum seekers had been criticized and the Government was, therefore, committed to reviewing that practice. Social protection officials dealt with victims of trafficking in a very sympathetic manner and non-European Union victims of trafficking were offered a full range of services in Ireland. Inspectors of prisons had always been provided with the necessary resources and their recommendations were taken seriously by the Irish Prison Service.
Ireland strongly supported the work of the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and provided some two million euros in contributions annually, including to the Voluntary Fund for the victims of torture.
A policy was put in place to ensure that immigrants could report domestic violence, without fearing that their immigration status would change. Currently, there were no plans to disaggregate data on asylum seekers who had suffered torture, but Ireland would keep this option under review as it developed its system. Medical screening was available upon arrival to all international protection applicants and a medical card provided to them allowed for a referral to specialized health care.
Responding to the concern expressed about an increase in the number of persons refused the permission to enter the State, a delegate said that in 2016, entry had been denied to 4,127 persons which represented only 0.025 per cent of the incoming air passengers to Ireland. The top five nationalities refused permission to land were Brazil, Albania, South Africa, United States and Pakistan. Legal aid was available to asylum seekers and refugees who were in the process and the delegation confirmed that people arriving by sea could apply for international protection in Ireland.
As for the governance of the national police force, the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC) dealt with relevant complaints. The Government was not aware of any allegations of torture made to the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission, which was required to investigate all allegations of criminal nature. Ireland was committed to providing professional law enforcement service, based on human rights, and training on prohibition of torture, as well as on gender perspective, was an integral part of the relevant modules. The Garda Code of Ethics was based on policing principles based on human rights; explicit reference to international treaties on human rights was not included in the Code because it was decided that it should be easily accessible to the general public.
Follow-up Questions by Committee Experts
FELICE GAER, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Ireland, appreciated the apology for historical abuses made by the delegation and asked how the Garda Síochána ensured the compliance with the right of suspects to a lawyer.
As for the Magdalen Laundries, Ms. Gaer revisited the issue of the redress schemes for victims and noted that the Ministry of Justice and the Ombudsman seemed to had been in disagreement whether the victims could benefit from both redress schemes. What steps had been made to ensure that other archives would be open in order to identify other victims of the Magdalen Laundries? What efforts had been made to alert survivors outside Ireland about the existence of the redress schemes? The Act on the Commission of Investigation criminalized persons who disclosed relevant information to the Commission in private and then revealed it publicly, while the freedom of information act did not apply to the Commission of Investigation – would the Government consider amending the act? How did the State party ensure that perpetrators of abuse no longer worked in religious institutions? Was the State party considering to replace the Caranua with another body?
Ms. Gaer expressed concern about the information provided on the Eight Amendment, which was not in line with the Convention against Torture and said that it seemed that Ireland did not respect the right of women not to be subjected to medically unnecessary interventions during child labour - consent was the key in medical procedures, stressed the Co-Rapporteur. Did the Government consider amending the International Protection Act 2015 to ensure that asylum seekers were placed in detention only as the measure of last resort?
ANA RACU, Committee Expert and Co-Rapporteur for Ireland, asked about the training for the officers of the Garda Síochána on the use of force and crowd control, the treatment of evidence of torture, and the provisions of the Convention against Torture and stressed that such training should be regularly assessed.
On the situation in prisons, Ms. Racu noted that overcrowding in female prisons remained a concern and that there was a shortage of psychologists in Irish prisons. The incentivised regimes system was not being offered to protection prisoners and solitary confinement was still used in juvenile detention centres.
What was the number of disciplinary punishments received by prison officers as the result of investigations of prisoners’ complaints? What were the outcomes of investigations of the Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission?
One Expert raised the issue of denial of access to Ireland for certain nationalities, noting that a broad range of nationalities were denied access, including Syrian refugees. Under the Convention against Torture, persecution differed greatly from torture as the grounds for being granted access to a country.
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, asked about the review of medical services in prisons, a timetable for that review and when the start of the structural start, and also raised the issue of the use of isolation for more than 100 days, and the extension of rehabilitation services for victims of torture. He encouraged the Government to change its approach towards identifying victims of torture among refugees and asylum seekers.
Replies of the delegation
The delegation clarified that the Government was not aware of any cases where suspects had been denied access to a lawyer. Practices and procedures of interviewing suspects were monitored and there were no complaints. No additional funding for the Caranua had been planned from the State or other organizations, and no other body would replace the Caranua.
The Government’s understanding with respect to the redress schemes was that findings of the Ombudsman were not legally binding, but were normally taken very seriously. The McAleese Committee had approached all dioceses that had Magdalen institutions. Restriction on disclosing evidence was related to the actual evidence in order to stop interference in the investigation, but it did not prevent persons from declaring that they had been abused, explained the delegation.
Detention could arise for persons illegally entering the country, said a delegate and added that Ireland would consider including specific references to international obligations on torture in training programmes. The ratification process of the Optional Protocol would be accelerated. The Inspection of Places of Detention Bill was intended to cover hospitals as well.
The Government was looking into how to transfer the responsibility for health services in prisons from the Irish Prison Service to the Ministry of Health and it planned to increase a number of psychologists in prisons from six to eight senior psychologists in the next eight months.
The use of handcuffs on prisoners was decided by the escorting services and they were generally used. Often they were not used on female prisoners, and certainly not on pregnant prisoners. Additional beds were expected to reduce overcrowding in female prisons said a delegate and added that Ireland was reluctant to build more facilities for women as it sought to respond to their needs through community-based services instead. Rehabilitation services for victims of torture were not available nation-wide.
DAVID STANTON, Minister of State for Equality, Immigration and Integration of Ireland, said that the Government viewed the Committee as an essential friend and thanked it for its crucial work. He recognized the work of civil society organizations, which continued to focus on important issues and thanked the Committee for having recognized the progress made by Ireland so far.
JENS MODVIG, Committee Chairperson, thanked the delegation for their diligence and very good organization. The concluding observations would include a follow-up component for an update in one year he said and encouraged the delegation to present an implementation plan for some of the recommendations.
For use of the information media; not an official record