There were concerns about the treatment of people with mental disabilities. Police ill-treatment and abuses of power were reported. New counter-terrorism legislation raised concerns about potential violations of fundamental human rights. There were continuing concerns about the effectiveness of attempts to address discrimination and about the prevalence of violence in the family.
The bill published in 2003 to incorporate the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court into Irish law had still not been enacted by the end of the year.
In October the Irish Human Rights Commission published its annual report. The report raised serious concern about the Commission's lack of resources and the "democratic deficit" in parliamentary procedures for scrutinizing legislation with human rights implications.
Treatment of people with mental disabilities
The first annual report of the Inspector of Mental Health Services, published in July, found unacceptable levels of care in some services, and inadequate facilities and services for children.
Procedures for the compulsory detention of people in mental health facilities, and independent tribunals to review decisions, provided for under the Mental Health Act (2001) had not come into force. Procedures under 1945 legislation continued to operate, in breach of international standards in relation to the deprivation of liberty.
The Garda Síochána (Police) Act (2005) set out for the first time in statutory form the functions of the police (Garda) and provided for the establishment of a Code of Ethics for the service. The Act also established an independent Garda Ombudsman Commission to investigate complaints against members of the police service. However, it adopted a narrow definition of serious cases which would automatically come under the jurisdiction of the Ombudsman Commission.
In April the police service published an audit of its compliance with international human rights standards. The audit documented abuse of powers, ill-treatment, institutional racism and unaccountability within the service.
- The Tribunal of Inquiry into complaints against Garda officers in the Donegal Division issued its second report in June, revealing systematic violations of the rights of the McBrearty family at the centre of the inquiry. The tribunal found gross negligence at senior levels of the service amounting to criminal negligence, and corruption and a lack of objectivity at lower levels.
There were mounting concerns that the government had not satisfactorily investigated allegations that Shannon airport may have been used as a transit point in the transfer of terrorism suspects, with the involvement of the USA or its agents, in circumstances that put them at risk of torture or cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment (extraordinary rendition).
The Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Act (2005), adopted to give effect to the European Union Framework Decision on Combating Terrorism, significantly expanded law enforcement powers. Its provisions contained such broad and vague definitions that there were concerns that it could lead to violations of the rights of association, peaceful assembly and freedom of expression.
Places of detention
The annual report of the Inspector of Prisons and Places of Detention published in July noted that prison conditions fell below international standards, with overcrowding and a lack of adequate sanitation facilities. Mentally ill prisoners continued to be held in prisons rather than in specialized mental health facilities. A report published by the Probation and Welfare Service highlighted the unnecessary incarceration of homeless people or people with mental illness.
Asylum-seekers and migrants
A process of public consultation began on government proposals for consolidating and reforming immigration legislation. These included commitments to address trafficking and to provide protection for migrant women experiencing domestic violence. Proposals did not address the inappropriate use of prisons for holding immigration detainees.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination expressed concern about the treatment of asylum-seekers and the failure to prevent the exploitation of migrant workers, and called on the government to review its policy of dispersal of asylum-seekers.
It urged the Irish government to incorporate the UN Convention against Racism into Ireland's domestic legislation.
The first National Action Plan Against Racism was launched in January. However, there was concern that it lacked effective accountability mechanisms and failed to address institutional racism within government bodies.
The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination questioned the effectiveness of government measures to improve access by the Traveller community to economic and social rights, and rejected the government's contention that Travellers were not a distinct ethnic minority group.
The Committee urged the government to introduce in criminal law a provision that committing an offence with a racist motivation or aim constitutes an aggravating circumstance, allowing for a more severe punishment; establish an effective monitoring mechanism to carry out investigations into allegations of racially motivated police misconduct; consider expanding the scope of equality legislation so as to cover the whole range of government functions and activities; review its security procedures and practices at entry points with a view to ensuring that they are carried out in a non-discriminatory manner; and take measures with regard to the special needs of women belonging to minority and other groups at risk.
There were concerns that the government had taken insufficient measures to identify, combat and redress violence against women.
In July, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women expressed its concern at the prevalence of violence against women and girls in Ireland; the low prosecution and conviction rates of perpetrators; high withdrawal rates of complaints; and inadequate funding for organizations that provide support services to victims. It also criticized the state's failure to address trafficking of women and children.
The Committee was also critical of the persistence of traditional stereotypical views of the social roles and responsibilities of women, reflected in the Constitution, in women's educational choices and employment patterns, and in women's low participation in political and public life.
Children continued to be detained in adult prisons. The Ombudsman for Children, in her first annual report, was concerned that the statutory exclusion of certain groups of children, in particular those detained in prisons and Garda stations, from her Office's investigatory remit, conflicted with the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, and could preclude her Office from executing effectively its role and functions.
The report on clerical sex abuse in the diocese of Ferns (the Ferns Inquiry) published in October was critical of Catholic Church authorities, the Garda and the health authority in their handling of more than 100 allegations of child sexual abuse made between 1962 and 2002. It highlighted ongoing gaps in child protection, and the need to place government guidelines on mandatory reporting of child abuse on a legislative basis.
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