Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission calls UK government to account at the UN


PRESS RELEASE, 16 November 2004 [full-text of NIHRC as a pdf]

Human Rights Watchdog calls Government to account at the United Nations

The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission will raise a number of concerns with the United Nations this week, including the treatment of women prisoners in Northern Ireland. The United Nations Committee Against Torture is meeting on 18-19 of November in Geneva to consider how the UK Government has complied with its international human rights obligations. In evidence submitted to the UN, the Commission highlighted a number of areas of concern.

The Chief Commissioner, Professor Brice Dickson, said:

“The Commission is drawing the attention of the United Nations to a number of important issues including the regime for women prisoners in Northern Ireland. The last official assessment by the Prisons Inspectorate, in 2002, was highly critical of these conditions and we will be asking the UN Committee to recommend that the Human Rights Commission be given the right to enter places of detention. We believe the Government should also be asked to provide a timescale for the provision of in-cell sanitation for women prisoners and improvements in staffing and healthcare.”

The Commission will also urge the UN Committee to recommend to the UK Government that:

- all allegations of collusion should be thoroughly investigated;

- the state of emergency in Northern Ireland should be discontinued, the use of the Army in routine policing should end, and the remaining elements of counter-terrorist legislation peculiar to Northern Ireland should be discontinued or repealed;

- everything possible should be done to prevent paramilitary punishment attacks including support for community-based restorative justice projects, and efforts to secure wider confidence in the police and criminal justice system;

- the recent legislation providing for ‘anti-social behaviour orders’ (ASBOs) should not be applied in ways that increase the risk of punishment attacks;

- the use of prisons for holding immigration detainees, including asylum applicants should be ended.

Ends

Further information

1. For further information, please contact Brice Dickson on 028 9024 3987 (office) or 07901 853005 (mobile).

2. The Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission (NIHRC) has prepared a submission on the Fourth Periodic Report of the United Kingdom to the United Nations Committee Against Torture. The text of the Commission’s report is available on request or from the website, www.nihrc.org. The Commission’s Head of Legal Services, Policy and Research, Ciarán Ó Maoláin, will be attending the Committee session in Geneva. He is available for comment on 00 44 7803 583752 on November 16 (after 2pm), 17 (after 1pm), 18 (except 4-6pm) and 19 (before 5pm).

3. The Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment was adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on 10 December 1984 and came into force on 26 June 1987.

4. Countries signing up to the Convention must report to the Committee Against Torture every four years. The Committee examines the reports, and submissions from interested parties such as the NIHRC and pressure groups. The Committee meets in Geneva and normally holds two sessions per year. The fourth UK report is to be presented on Wednesday morning, with further discussion on Thursday afternoon and a final report (the Committee’s “Concluding Observations”) following some days later.


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