Healy O'Connor

Shatter Pledges Movement on Ratification of Human Rights Treaties in Ireland

The review of Ireland’s human rights is the country’s first assessment of its human rights record to assess where it stands and how to improve it. The United Nation’s Human Rights Council examines the status of these rights in each member country once every four years.

The Irish Human Rights Committee recommended Ireland ratify four human rights treaties signed between 2000 and 2007, and two treaties that had not been not signed.

Signing a treaty signifies that a country intends to abide by a treaty, but a treaty does not have the force of international law until it is ratified.

Mr Shatter said the Government will “shortly be in a position to verify” the optional protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

He also said the Government was working on mental capacity Bill, which would allow the country to ratify a treaty protecting the rights of the disabled.

Regarding the optional protocol against torture, Mr Shatter said: “Work is continuing on the preparation of a legislative scheme with a view on ratification” as quickly as possible.

“The policy of the Government has been that necessary national legislation must first be in place before the Government will ratify an international agreement, he added.

Countries including Algeria, France, Greece, the United Kingdom and Turkey recommended ratification of each of the four treaties.

The review puts Ireland’s record on treaty ratification under external scrutiny. However, there is no mechanism for any international organisation to monitor Ireland’s legislative progress.

“Our current system, while overly bureaucratic and too time consuming,” meets the necessary requirements of international law, Mr Shatter said.

Separately, Dr Maurice Manning, president of the Irish Human Rights Committee, told The Irish Times that creating national law to support a treaty can be a legitimate reason for a country signing a treaty but not ratifying it.

“You have a choice of a ratifying it but not being in a position to implement it,” Dr Manning said. “Or you can sign the treaty but not ratify it because for you all of the pieces aren’t in place.”

Director of disability law and policy

Gerard Quinn said the status of the disability treaty was still within the bounds of what is permissible because of “sticky legislation”, but that inaction on treaty ratification could have negative side effects.

“Although there is a delay it’s laudable because there are some countries that ratify but leave atrocious laws in place,” Mr Quinn said.

“The other side of the equations is if you do sign, and the period of time between signing and ratification is unduly long, it might in some eyes produce cynicism.”

Deirdre Duffy of the Irish Council for Civil Liberties said the Government’s response was legitimate but that after four or five years, “you then begin to question certain political priorities”.

Former human rights commissioner Michael Farrell said: “A lot of people in the NGO committee feel that the Government is being too precious about this.

“That in a way is the whole problem. If they can say that they are processing legislation as fast as possible, but there’s nobody there to check that.”

From the Irish Times, October 6 2011

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