A general election in May led to the formation of a new government, led by existing Prime Minister Bertie Ahern, in June. Ireland signed the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance in March; the Council of Europe Convention on Action Against Trafficking in Human Beings in April; and the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture in October.
Conditions in places of detention
In October, the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture (CPT) published its report on its fourth periodic visit to Ireland. During its visit, in October 2006, the CPT heard allegations of ill-treatment in police custody, and observed in some cases injuries consistent with the allegations. The CPT urged that audio-video recording be used for all police interviews, and that lawyers be permitted to be present during police interrogation.
The CPT considered at least three prisons it visited unsafe for both prisoners and prison staff.
- In April, an independent statutory Commission of Investigation was announced to review the 2006 killing of a prisoner, Gary Douch, by a fellow prisoner in Mountjoy Prison, Dublin.
In May, provisions placing the role of the Inspector of Prisons on a statutory basis came into force. The Inspector continued to lack the power to investigate or adjudicate on individual prisoner complaints.
Police and security forces
The Garda Síochána Ombudsman Commission (GSOC), established to investigate complaints of ill-treatment by members of the National Police Service (An Garda Síochána), became operational in May. It replaced the Garda Síochána Complaints Board, which had been criticized, including by Amnesty International, as ineffective and lacking independence.
Investigators employed by the GSOC are required to investigate all cases in which it appears that “the conduct of a member of the Garda Síochána may have resulted in the death of, or serious harm to, a person”. Other complaints may continue to be investigated by the police themselves.
- Amongst the cases being investigated by the GSOC is that of Terence Wheelock, who died in 2005 after being found unconscious in a police cell.
In its annual report for 2006, published in March, the Inspectorate of Mental Health Services found “serious deficiencies in community mental health teams”, and that “basic staffing” was unavailable in children’s mental health services. The report expressed concern at the number of vulnerable patients remaining in long-stay wards, who were living in unacceptable conditions in bleak institutional environments.
Residential facilities for vulnerable groups
In April, the Social Services Inspectorate was placed on a statutory basis, as the Office of the Chief Inspector of Social Services. Its role was expanded beyond residential centres for children in care, to include the inspection and registration of residential services for older people and people with a disability.
By the end of the year not all these functions had come into force, and the system of registration and inspection for these services remained inadequate.
In February, a European Parliament resolution urged the Irish government to establish a parliamentary inquiry into the use of Irish territory by the US Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) operated aircraft linked with the practice of extraordinary rendition (illegal transfer of people between states outside of any judicial process).
In December, the Irish Human Rights Commission published a review of Ireland’s international obligations regarding extraordinary renditions. It concluded that Ireland was “not complying with its human rights obligations to prevent torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment”.
It recommended that the authorities should “put in place a reliable and independently verifiable system of inspection [of relevant aircraft]”.
Violence against women
In April a new executive agency, the Irish Office for the Prevention of Domestic Violence, was established. Non-governmental organizations working in the area of violence against women were critical of the agency, including because it emphasized awareness-raising over law enforcement.
In October, the Criminal Law (Human Trafficking) Bill was published. If enacted it would create a specific offence of human trafficking.
A National Women’s Strategy was published in April, outlining the government’s commitments towards achieving women’s equality in the period 2007-2016. It lacked measurable targets and timescales for progress towards equality.
In May, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance published its third report on Ireland, urging the Irish authorities to amend criminal legislation to include sufficiently strong provisions for combating racist acts. It recommended that housing legislation be reviewed and amended where necessary to prevent Travellers being disadvantaged in seeking to access adequate housing.
It also recommended that legislation permitting schools to refuse admission in order to preserve their religious “ethos” should be implemented in a non-discriminatory manner, and that the authorities should promote the establishment of multi-denominational or non-denominational schools.
The Control of Exports Bill 2007 was published in February. It contained proposals welcomed by Amnesty International for controls on the export of goods, technology and technical assistance for military use. Gaps remained, including in the control of overseas licensed production agreements, and in the transit and transhipment of military and security goods. The Bill did not provide for post-export monitoring of delivery and end-use.
There was widespread opposition to the Criminal Justice Act 2007, which significantly amended criminal law and procedure, including bail conditions, laws of evidence, and sentencing. It extended the categories of offences in relation to which people may be held in police custody without charge for up to seven days, and the circum