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15th June 2016, 15:37:30 UTC

Amnesty International Ireland notes the reported comments of An Taoiseach, Enda Kenny with regard to the decision of the UN Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) in the case taken against Ireland by Amanda Mellet.

An Taoiseach is correct when he points out that the decision of the committee is not binding in the same manner as a decision of the European Court of Human Rights. The system of international human rights law as developed by states, including Ireland, does not have courts that can enforce compliance with the treaties. Instead states designed a system of expert independent committees, whose members are elected by states,  and which are charged with both monitoring compliance and the ongoing interpretation of these treaties. Such committees do not have enforcement arms, as states are expected to act in good faith and honour their obligations voluntarily.

When Ireland ratified the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Optional Protocol to the ICCPR (the mechanism which allowed Amanda Mellet to take her case to the UNHRC for investigation), Ireland agreed to be legally bound by that treaty and to comply in good faith with its obligations. In this case, the Committee found that Amanda Mellet had been subjected to a number of human rights violations. It found that she had suffered discrimination, a violation of her right to privacy, and that she had been subjected to cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.

“Under international human rights law, there is an absolute ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment. There are no exceptions to this prohibition. It, like the prohibition on torture, is not enforceable by the Committee. Instead states, including Ireland, agree to be bound by this ban. We are confident that in his comments, Enda Kenny is not suggesting that Ireland will ignore the ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or that what Ms Mellet experienced was not ill-treatment” said Colm O’Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland.

We are confident that in his comments, Enda Kenny is not suggesting that Ireland will ignore the ban on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, or that what Ms Mellet experienced was not ill-treatment

Colm O'Gorman, Executive Director of Amnesty International Ireland

“Following the decision by the Committee, Ireland will remain in violation of its international legal obligations until it provides the remedies it set out and ensures reparations to Amanda Mellet. The remedies include amending Irish law, including the Constitution, to ensure effective, timely and accessible abortion procedures.”

“Finally, we are acutely aware of the courage and determination shown by Amanda Mellet in taking this case. We call on all who might comment upon this decision to properly recognise the scale of the suffering she was forced to endure as a result of Ireland’s abortion laws. The Irish Government has 175 days left to respond to the decision stating what steps it will take. We hope that when it does, it recognises and accepts its responsibility to Amanda Mellet and other women, and that it commits to full compliance with the decision of the committee,” said Colm O’Gorman.

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