IPRT are attending at the UN Human Rights Committee today, 14 July, and have published the below press release to outline their intentions and goals in attending. Their full submission is available here, but a summary of the issues is below.
IRISH PENAL REFORM TRUST WILL PROVIDE EXPERT EVIDENCE TO THE UN HUMAN RIGHTS COMMITTEE ON IRELAND’S COMPLIANCE WITH THE ICCPR
The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT) will appear before the United Nations Human Rights Committee on Monday 14th July 2014 to provide expert evidence to the Committee on the State’s human rights record in respect of its treatment of prisoners and use of imprisonment. The IPRT will be urging the Committee to hold the State to account on the most pressing current human rights issues, including:
• The on-going practice of slopping out, a practice to which more than 300 prisoners are still subjected;
• Persistent overcrowding in our prisons, particularly within Ireland’s two female prisons;
• Continuing high levels of inter-prisoner violence;
• The on-going detention of children in adult prisons, including 17 year olds remaining on remand in St.Patrick’s Institution;
• The soaring rates of committal to prison for non-payment of a court ordered fines;
• The lack of a fully independent complaints mechanism for prisoners or Prisoner Ombudsman;
• The failure to ratify OPCAT and establish a National Preventative Mechanism.
Speaking today, Deirdre Malone, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:
“Ireland’s appearance before the UN Human Rights Committee provides a vital opportunity for an expert international monitoring body to closely examine what is really happening behind our prison walls and how Ireland measures up to international human rights standards. It is wholly unacceptable that in 2014, more than 300 prisoners continue to slop out, while in Cork prison, there are 59 cells measuring just 7.5m² currently holding two or more prisoners. In May of this year, 43 prisoners were on 23 hour lock up with another 218 prisoners subject to a restricted regime of 19 or more in-cell hours per day. While the State committed over 8,000 people to prison for non-payment of a court-ordered fine last year, many prisons frequently operated at levels well beyond the capacity designated by the Inspector of Prisons and over 600 incidences of inter-prisoner violence were recorded. Behind bars and hidden out of sight, enormous power differentials exist. The exceptional nature of the powers of the State over humans in detention makes effective external scrutiny of their use a matter of fundamental public importance. Monitoring and inspection of places of detention, along with an effective independent complaints mechanism for prisoners, are central to the protection of human rights of prisoners and form part of Ireland’s obligations under international law. The creation of a National Preventative Mechanism (NPM) and the ratification by Ireland of the OPCAT would act as a safeguard against the potential inhumane treatment of people in places of detention in Ireland. The establishment of a Prisoner Ombudsman would spur further improvements in prison conditions and would constitute a major step towards transparency and accountability”.