Ireland’s Constitution is no excuse for its inhumane abortion law, said Amnesty International today in its oral statement to the UN Human Rights Council. It was responding to Ireland’s rejection of recommendations made on abortion during its second Universal Periodic Review (UPR) by the UN Human Rights Council.
In May, 17 states made recommendations calling on Ireland to expand access to abortion, decriminalise abortion, provide women and girls with full information on abortion services, and amend its Constitution to allow for such reforms. Today, at the Council’s adoption of the outcome, Ireland rejected all except the Swiss recommendation that it engage in consultations with stakeholders on possible constitutional and legal reform on abortion.
“It is heartening to see so many of Ireland’s peers call on it to reform its inhumane abortion laws. In its first review in 2011, only six states made recommendations on abortion. The government told the Council that it could not accept the 16 out of 17 recommendations on abortion because only people in Ireland can change the Constitution by referendum. This is disingenuous as only the Government can put a constitutional referendum to the Irish people. It is disappointing that Ireland’s response made no commitment to holding a referendum,” said Fiona Crowley, Research and Legal Manager of Amnesty International Ireland.
“Ireland’s response to the Council today refers to the upcoming Citizens’ Assembly process. This must be a meaningful and prompt step towards a constitutional referendum and legal reform. It cannot be about whether or not to repeal the Eighth Amendment, but what sort of abortion access and services will respect women’s human rights, in particular their right to health. Our February Red C poll showed that 80% of people in Ireland want women’s health to be ‘the priority’ in any reform of Ireland’s abortion law.”
Amnesty International welcomed Ireland’s accepting acceptance, in full or in part, of 223 of the 262 recommendations made during its review, including that it ratify the human rights treaties it has signed.
“These treaties include the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, Optional Protocol to the Convention Against Torture, and the Council of Convention on Violence Against Women. If ratified and implemented, these treaties would help improve the situation of many people in Ireland.”
“It is deeply regrettable that Ireland has not begun enacting legislation necessary to ratify the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, despite having signed the Convention almost a decade ago in 2007. Around the world, enforced disappearances continue to blight lives and communities. The Syrian government has forcibly disappeared tens of thousands of people since 2011, but it effects every region. Failing to ratify this important treaty sends a very regrettable signal that Ireland does not consider this a priority,” said Fiona Crowley.
Amnesty International welcomed Ireland’s full or partial acceptance of recommendations that it speed up the processing of refugee status applications, and provide adequate conditions and services for asylum seekers.
“We urge that Ireland expedites the reforms of ‘direct provision’ promised in the McMahon report. The current direct provision system is unsuitable for long-stay residence, especially for families, children and victims of torture,” said Fiona Crowley.
“It is very concerning that Ireland, in its response to a Russian recommendation, has again asserted that the 2013 report of its McAleese inquiry is a “comprehensive report” of alleged past abuses in the Magdalene Laundries. This completely flies in the face of what Ireland has been told by the UN Committee Against Torture, Human Rights Committee and Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights,” said Fiona Crowley.
Amnesty International also expressed disappointment that Ireland only partially accepted two recommendations that it ensure that sexual and reproductive health education is part of the mandatory school curriculum and targeted at adolescent girls and boys, with special attention to the prevention of early pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections. This was a recommendation made by the UN Committee on Children’s Rights to Ireland this year, based on its concern at “the severe lack of access to sexual and reproductive health education and emergency contraception for adolescents”.
Amnesty International welcomed Ireland’s commitment to again provide the Council with a mid-term voluntary report, as it did in the first review. It encouraged Ireland to set specific timeframes and establish a monitoring mechanism for the implementation of the recommendations accepted in this review.
Notes to the Editor:
The UN Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group conducted its review of Ireland on 11 May 2016 at its 25th session. At that session, 262 recommendations were made by its fellow UN member states; Ireland accepted 152 and rejected (termed “not accepted”) 13, leaving 97 for further consideration those on abortion. Today, the Council adopted the outcome report on Ireland’s UPR, which includes an addendum of Ireland’s responses to the reserved recommendations. In total, of the 262 recommendations made to Ireland, 176 have now been accepted, 46 partially accepted and 40 rejected.
Prior to the review outcome, Amnesty International submitted information on the situation of human rights in Ireland: https://www.amnesty.org/download/Documents/EUR2935042015ENGLISH.pdf
The Amnesty International/Red C Research & Marketing poll on attitudes to abortion in Ireland was conducted in February 2016. Its complete findings are available here: http://bit.ly/AmnestyPoll