Direct Provision and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR)

UN imageThe Seanad Éireann Public Consultation Committee is inviting public submissions on Ireland’s Fourth Periodic Report under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The issue of direct provision is one that the UN Human Rights Committee, the independent body responsible for assessing Ireland’s compliance with the ICCPR, has asked the Irish government to provide information on (see ICCPR list of issues and Ireland’s reply to list of issues).

The issue of direct provision was raised by a number of shadow reports from civil society organisations, in particular by the Free Legal Advice Centres (here), the Irish Human Rights Commission (here) ,  the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (here) and the Irish Refugee Council (here).  The enormous work  by these organisations have ensured that the issue of direct provision for asylum seekers remains on the UN human rights agenda.

I have made a submission on The System of Direct Provision and Ireland’s Obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to the Seanad Public Consultation Committee. In this submission, I note that all human rights are interdependent and indivisible, violations of economic, social and cultural rights may lead to violations of civil and political rights.  The three core arguments I make to the Seanad Éireann Public Consultation Committee  are:

  1. Ireland is fully aware of the significant negative impact that direct provision is having on a large number of families and individuals.
  2. The direct provision complaints system lacks any independent oversight. This must be remedied as a matter of urgency.
  3. The operation of the direct provision system is bordering on inhuman and degrading treatment, given the length of time individuals and families will have to remain in the system. Given the level of social control, poverty and enforced idleness imposed on asylum seekers for several years, the State is also violating rights to private and family life and rights to be treated equally before the law.

You can read my full submission here.

Ireland to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

The Department of Foreign Affairs has announced that Ireland is to sign the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). This is a welcome decision by the Government, though no date has been set for ratification. In many ways ratification is the most important step as it enables individuals to rely on the Optional Protocol, however the decision to sign the Protocol should be welcomed. The ICESCR was opened for signature, alongside its companion treaty, the International Covenant for Civil and Poltical Rights (ICCPR) in 1966 and came into operation in 1976. The decision to separate these rights is rooted in both Cold War politics and the belief of some states at the time and currently that Economic, Social and Cultural Rights should not have the same enforcement mechinisms and are of a different character to their Civil and Political Rights counterparts. This stance is also reflected in the status of the section on the Directive Principles on Social Policy in the Irish Constitution.

Ireland signed the ICCPR in 1973 and ratified it in 1989. In the same year, Ireland also ratified the ICCPR’s Optional Protocol, which allows individuals to take claims to the ICCPR’s attached Committee. The Optional Protocol for the ICESCR was not open for signature until 2008. ICESCR’s Optional Protocol also allows individuals to take complaints based on the treaty to its attached Committee (CESCR). Continue reading

Human Rights and Irish (Political) Cultural Change

At last weeks first birthday workshop on human rights in Ireland, Fergus Ryan from DIT, suggested that the crucial problem for human rights activists in Ireland was that decisions at the ECHR or Supreme Court were seen as the end of the story, ignoring what he called the ‘cultural change’ necessary for successful human rights action. He argued that you cannot adduce this or that ECHR decision in a political argument and expect that to be the end of the matter. Rather, it is necessary for people to culturally buy-in to human rights. To this point, Mark Kelly of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties asked; how long do we have to wait for cultural change. I want to suggest that Continue reading