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UN experts urge swift repatriation of Irish woman and child from Turkey to Ireland

GENEVA (20 November 2019) - UN human rights experts have called on Turkey to ensure the safety and security of Ms. Lisa Smith and her infant child - both Irish nationals - who were transferred to Turkish custody following the bombing of Ain Issa displacement camp in northeast Syria in recent weeks.

The exact whereabouts of the mother and child are unknown. The experts express concern that Ms. Smith may face ill-treatment in custody and strongly recommend she is given consular assistance and that she and her infant daughter are protected against any abuse while detained.

There are grave concerns about the physical and mental health of Ms. Smith and her daughter. “The vulnerability of this infant is particularly worrying and there is a compelling obligation to protect her well-being in accordance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child to which Turkey and Ireland are both parties,” the experts said.

They urge that the basis for any detention be clarified, that access to adequate legal counsel be provided, and that interrogations are carried out in conformity with Turkey’s treaty obligations. In addition to the obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights under Articles 3, 5 and 13, Ms. Smith’s protection should follow at minimum the United Nations Rules for the Treatment of Women Prisoners and Non-custodial Measures for Women Offenders (the Bangkok Rules).

The experts underscore the need for a thorough individual evaluation of each woman and child in compliance with international human rights law, including attention to any gender-based violence and persecution against women who return from Syria and Iraq, both in third countries and upon return to countries of nationality.

They stress the need to recognise that women and children associated with ISIS may have been subjected to serious human rights violations and gender-based violence during and prior to their detention in camps such as Ain Issa. The experts affirm that an effective return process includes holding individuals accountable for violations of national and international law as appropriate and commensurate with the available evidence.  They encourage human rights-compliant return and reintegration and offer assistance and support to that end.

The experts acknowledge the prompt preliminary response of Ireland and Turkey to this communication indicating their willingness to abide by their international obligations.  They stress the urgency of human rights compliant repatriation in all cases and the effective implementation of protection in the interim.


*UN experts: Ms. Fionnuala Ní Aoláin, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorismMs Agnes Callamard, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; Ms Meskerem Geset Techane, Chair of the UN Working Group on discrimination against women and girls; Mr. Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or PunishmentMr. José Guevara Bermudez, Chair Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Arbitrary DetentionMr. Luciano Hazan (Chair), Mr. Tae-Ung Baik (Vice Chair), Mr. Bernard Duhaime, Ms. Houria Es-Slami, and Mr. Henrikas Mickevičius (members) of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, and Ms. Dubravka Šimonović, Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences.

The Special Rapporteurs, Independent Experts and Working Groups are part of what is known as the Special Procedures of the Human Rights Council. Special Procedures, the largest body of independent experts in the UN Human Rights system, is the general name of the Council’s independent fact-finding and monitoring mechanisms that address either specific country situations or thematic issues in all parts of the world. Special Procedures experts work on a voluntary basis; they are not UN staff and do not receive a salary for their work. They are independent of any government or organisation and serve in their individual capacity.

For more information and media requests, please contact:
+41 22 9179449 / srct@ohchr.org

For media inquiries related to other UN independent experts please contact:
Mr. Jeremy Laurence, UN Human Rights – Media Unit (+41 22 917 9383 / jlaurence@ohchr.org)
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