During Ireland’s second periodic hearing under the UN Convention against Torture, John Garry, Principal Officer, Criminal Law Reform Division, Department of Justice and Equality, stated that Ireland remains committed to ratifying the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture at the “earliest opportunity”.
He noted that while the general scheme of an Inspection of Places of Detention Bill, which is set to include provisions to enable the ratification of OPCAT is well underway, the government is conscious of the need to engage with civil society and consult on the mechanisms necessary for the ratification of the OPCAT.
As it stands, the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill aims to provide for inspection of all places of detention in the Justice area – prisons, Garda stations, and courts. The State also noted that during the consultation process for the Bill, civil society wanted more focus on OPCAT and NPMs across government rather than on purely on Criminal Justice Inspectorate.
It was also stated during Ireland’s hearing under UNCAT that the State believes that there is likely to be a small number of relevant National Preventative Mechanisms, one responsible for each sector that detains people. The State believes that where an independent inspection body exists, that body should be assigned the NPM function for that sector. One NPM (likely to be the Criminal Justice NPM), would then co-ordinate all NPMS.
The organisations in support of the campaign to ratify the OPCAT do not accept the rationale offered by the Irish Government for its failure to ratify the treaty until a comprehensive inspection system is in place. There has been little progress in advancing the legislation which it says is necessary for ratification (the Inspection of Places of Detention Bill), and in any case that Bill would still leave several areas of detention excluded from inspection.
There is enough flexibility in the OPCAT to allow for the designation and/or establishment of an NPM before or after ratification. After ratification, States parties to have up to a year to establish an NPM. Further to this, Article 24 of the OPCAT explicitly provides for the possibility of State parties making a declaration to postpone its implementation, including establishing an NPM, for up to three years.
It is imperative that all places of detention are covered by an NPM. Anywhere a person can be deprived of their liberty, such as a psychiatric hospital where someone may be deprived of their liberty by administrative decision or someone in medical authority, should be subject to comprehensive inspection mechanisms.
The State’s discussion of the Ireland’s second report under UNCAT is available here.