FLAC welcomes Conclusions and Recommendations of UN Human Rights Committee

25 July 2014

2014- Noeline Blackwell addressing PILA Conference
Noeline Blackwell addressing PILA Conference 2014. Photo by Derek Speirs

FLAC today welcomed the Conclusions and Recommendations issued by the UN’s Human Rights Committee in Geneva following their examination on 14-15 July of the state of civil and political rights in Ireland under the UN’s International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

FLAC was part of a consortium of organisations, led by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties, that had together published an alternative report to that of the State, indicating the view of civil society on the protection of human rights. FLAC had assisted in the drafting of that alternative report in particular in relation to rights of transgendered people, people who were overindebted and vulnerable migrants who were excluded from protection systems.

However, according to Noeline Blackwell, FLAC Director General "FLAC had raised these concerns with national authorities already and will continue to do so. However it is helpful when an objective international group of experts recognises that such matters are legitimate concerns and urges Ireland to comply with its voluntarily agreed commitments."

According to FLAC, the recommendation made that the State should not require transgendered people to divorce to have their gender recognised legally is very important. At present, the Tánaiste and Minister for Social Protection Joan Burton has introduced legislation which does require married transgendered people to divorce before recognition. Ms. Blackwell said the draft legislation could and should be adjusted to incorporate that recommendation together with the recommendation that transgendered people and organisations working with them should be involved in the finalisation of the legislation.

Ms. Blackwell said: "Overall, the final report reflects strongly the need for vulnerable people to have access to justice. They need good systems to allow them to assert their rights and to have those rights recognised fairly and fully. In particular the report reflects the need for access to justice for migrants and trafficked people at risk of violence, for various groups who have been identified as badly wronged such as the women in Magdalene Laundries and the survivors of symphysiotomy. We would again repeat our concern – also expressed by the Human Rights Committee – that asylum seekers should spend the shortest time possible in Direct Provision.

’‘We welcome the recommendation that the Fines (Payment & Recovery) Act 2014 be fully implemented. While it is on the statute books, it is still not in force and therefore to this day, there is no alternative to imprisonment for non-payment of fines by poor people who cannot afford to pay the money’ she said.

The International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights is not part of domestic Irish law and therefore people cannot use it directly in legal proceedings. FLAC welcomed the request of the Committee that it be given full effect in domestic law. It also welcomed the continued call by the UN that the newly formed Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission meet the international standards laid down for such commissions (Paris Principles) and for adequate funding for the new commission as well as for institutions which serve to promote gender equality.