Press Release: UN Committee raises worries about Irish protection for victims of sexual and domestic violence
Friday, August 11th, 2017
Today, the Geneva based Committee Against Torture has issued its conclusions on how Ireland is complying with the UN Convention Against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Punishment.
Amongst a range of issues covered, the report looked at the situation in Ireland of gender-based violence against women. The Committee states that it “remains concerned that a significant percentage of Irish women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence and at reports that there are many cases in which the authorities have not sought appropriate punishments for perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence”.
According to Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, which made a submission to the Committee, the Report is a welcome objective overview of the risks that victims of sexual violence still face. CEO Noeline Blackwell said: “Having examined what is expected of Ireland, the Committee was concerned that some of our laws and systems are such that victims of sexual violence could be at risk of cruel, inhuman and degrading treatment and even of torture.”
In its report, the UN Committee highlighted the need to:
- Guarantee that allegations of sexual and domestic violence are “promptly, impartially and effectively investigated”.
- Ensure that those responsible are “prosecuted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the crime”.
- Sufficient State funding to ensure that victims, including migrants and the indigent, have access to medical and legal services, counselling safe emergency accommodation and shelters.
- Fully implement the State’s own plans to collect comprehensive data.
- Exempt those victims of domestic violence who cannot pay from legal aid contributions
- Enact a specific criminal offence of domestic violence.
- Have mandatory training for police and other law enforcement officials, social workers, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and other public officials dealing with victims of sexual and domestic violence.
Ms. Blackwell called on the Irish Government to publicly confirm that it will comply quickly with the recommendations of the UN Committee.
She said “The recommendations that have come out from the Committee would definitely help to reduce the risk of harm from sexual violence for victims. The proposals are made by an expert, objective Committee which listened carefully to what the Government said, as well as what our organisations and others contributed. The recommendations are sensible, balanced and modest. They can be implemented if there is political will to do so. “
Spokesperson: Noeline Blackwell CEO
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre is a non-governmental, voluntary organisation which has as its mission to prevent the harm and heal the trauma of rape and sexual violence.
- The UN Committee against Torture report can be found at: http://tbinternet.ohchr.org/Treaties/CAT/Shared%20Documents/IRL/INT_CAT_COC_IRL_28491_E.pdf
- Extracts relevant to violence against women are set out at the end of these notes. (Paras 13-14 and 31-32 of the report. The quote of the Committee given in the press release is at para.31
- Dublin Rape Crisis Centre made a submission to the Committee in advance of the hearing of Ireland’s report on 27 and 28 July. It is available at the following link: http://bit.ly/2jhW92h
- Ireland ratified the UN Convention against Torture, Cruel Inhuman and Degrading Treatment in 2002 and is obliged to report periodically to the UN on its compliance with the Convention.
- We ask that when reporting on this topic, journalists remember that discussions on sexual violence can trigger personal trauma in those receiving the information. Where possible, please make reference to the National 24-Hour Helpline number 1800 77 88 88, which is run by the Dublin Rape Crisis Centre, for anyone who may be affected by the discussion.
Relevant extracts – violence against women
- The Committee is concerned at the absence of specific training of public officials on the absolute prohibition of torture, on dealing with victims of gender-based, including domestic and sexual violence, as well as the lack of training programmes for documenting injuries and other health consequences resulting from torture and ill-treatment, based on the Manual on the Effective Investigation and Documentation of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Istanbul Protocol). (art. 10) 5 14.
- The State party should: (a) Make training on the provisions of the Convention and the absolute prohibition of torture as well as on non-coercive interrogation methods mandatory for public officials, in particular police and prison staff, including members of the Defence Forces, as well as for all other officials coming into contact with persons deprived of their liberty; (b) Provide mandatory training on gender-based and domestic violence for police and other law enforcement officials, social workers, lawyers, prosecutors, judges and other public officials dealing with victims of gender-based, including domestic and sexual violence; (c) Include information about the Convention and the absolute prohibition of torture in relevant training materials for law enforcement and other public officials; (d) Ensure that the Istanbul Protocol is made an essential part of the training for all medical professionals and other public officials involved in work with persons deprived of their liberty; (e) Systematically collect information on the training of public officials and law enforcement personnel and develop and implement specific methodologies to assess its effectiveness and impact on the reduction of the incidence of torture.
Violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence
- While noting the steps taken by the State party to address violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence and the updated data provided by the State party after the constructive dialogue on complaints received and prosecutions undertaken regarding sexual offences and breaches of domestic violence orders, the Committee remains concerned that a significant percentage of Irish women reported having experienced physical and/or sexual violence and at reports that there are many cases in which the authorities have not sought appropriate punishments for perpetrators of sexual and domestic violence. While the Committee welcomes the introduction of the Domestic Violence Bill, it reiterates its concern that the bill does not presently contain a specific offense of domestic violence and welcomes the statement made by the delegation during the constructive dialogue that the Government is considering the possibility of amending it.
The Committee also reiterates its concern that the Domestic Violence Bill does not provide an exception for those unable to afford the minimum contribution required for legal aid.
While recalling the Committee’s previous concluding observations and taking note of the report of the Citizens’ Assembly convened by the government of the State party which is expected to be addressed in a referendum in the State party, and the present debate taking place in Ireland on an eventual legislative reform regarding abortion, the Committee expresses concern at the severe physical and mental anguish and distress experienced by women and girls regarding termination of pregnancy due to the State policies. (arts. 2, 4, 10, 12, 13, 14 and 16)
- The Committee recommends that the State party:
(a) Amend the Domestic Violence Bill to include a specific criminal offence of domestic violence that encompasses physical and psychological abuse committed within a relationship and to exempt women seeking protection from domestic violence from the minimum required contribution for legal aid if they cannot afford it;
(b) Ensure the full implementation of the National Strategy on Domestic, Sexual and Gender-based Violence 2016-2021, including by gathering data on the extent of such violence;
(c) Ensure that all allegations of violence against women, including domestic and sexual violence, are registered by the police and promptly, impartially and effectively investigated and the perpetrators prosecuted and punished in accordance with the gravity of the crime;
(d) Ensure that State funding for domestic and gender-based violence services is sufficient to ensure that all victims of these offenses, including migrants and the indigent, have access to medical and legal services, counselling, safe emergency accommodation and shelters;