The Irish Penal Reform Trust (IPRT), Ireland’s leading independent penal reform organization, has today called on Government to commit to specified timeframes in its commitment to bring prison conditions in line with international standards, and to put in place an effective independent complaints mechanism for adult prisoners and children held in St Patrick’s Institution, which is required before Ireland can ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT). IPRT was responding to the Outcomes Report of Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Universal Periodic review, published today (Monday, 10th October 2011.)
Speaking today, Liam Herrick, Executive Director of the Irish Penal Reform Trust said:
“While we very much welcome the unequivocal acceptance by Government of all the recommendations on prison conditions, this is not the first time that an Irish government has committed on the international stage to addressing these issues. What we need now are specific plans, which are adequately resourced and linked to concrete timelines.
“IPRT strongly believes that for as long as prisoners have to slop out in overcrowded conditions, the State is leaving itself open to legal action by prisoners. Currently, around 1,000 men are slopping out every day, often in cells which are shared with others. While recent moves to install in-cell sanitation in Mountjoy’s C-wing are positive, there has been no action at all to address the chronic situation in Cork Prison, where around 300 men in shared cells have to slop out. The urgency to address the situation in Cork Prison was firmly stated by the Thornton Hall Review Committee in its recent report.
“IPRT is disappointed at the government’s failure to address directly the recommendation to extend the remit of the Ombudsman for Children to accept individual complaints from the children held in St Patrick’s Institution. Around 40 children are held in St Patrick’s at any given time and, along with asylum seeking children, these are the only children in the State excluded from the Ombudsman’s remit. All it would take to end this appalling discrimination is a decision by Government – it would require no resource investment at all.
“We also need the new Government to act on its commitment in the Programme for Government to build the long-promised National children Detention Centre at Oberstown in Lusk, and to bring an end to the imprisonment of children in St Patrick’s Institution.”
The Government also accepted the recommendations of the Member States on the need to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT). This commitment was previously made in the Programme for Government, and will require Ireland to put in place a National Preventative Mechanism of anti-torture safeguards.
“From an IPRT perspective, the glaring gap in Irish law that would allow us to ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention Against Torture (OP-CAT), is the continuing lack of an independent complaints system for prisoners. While we welcome the commitment to move ahead on this issue, we have not yet seen any proposals from Government on prisoner complaints that would meet the standards of independence required by international law.”
Measures to address overcrowding, slopping out, violence, and the lack of effective complaints and monitoring mechanisms were recommended by 17 of the 48 Member States present at Ireland’s first hearing under the UN Universal Periodic Review, which took place in the Palais des Nations in Geneva on Thurs 6th October 2011.
14 Member States recommended that the government ratify the Optional Protocol to the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (OP CAT).