Concluding observations of the Human Rights Committee
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.
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.
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
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
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.
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
(c) Provision for prompt
review of detention on mental health grounds, i.e. within a few days
(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.