Friday, 10 July 2009

IHRC launches its 2008 Annual Report

Having been much in the press over the last few days criticising the governments organised crime legislation, the Irish Human Rights Commission yesterday launched its 2008 Annual Report.
Key work carried out in 2008 by the Commission included promoting the human rights of vulnerable people and groups in legislation, in policy and in the justice system.

The IHRC reported that it had reviewed eight Bills dealing with charities, immigration residence and protection, employment law compliance, health information, mental capacity, the mentally ill in the criminal justice system, and public order offences linked to begging, for their compliance with human rights standards. It welcomed what it reported as an increase in referrals of legislation at the scheme stage allowing the IHRC to comment on draft law "in a timely and more effective way."

The IHRC also appeared as amicus curiae in five cases in the High Court and Supreme Court. The cases included
  • Traveller accommodation and the criminal trespass legislation;
  • Legal representation for both the accused and the prosecution in criminal cases;
  • The ability of Local Authorities to summarily evict tenants;
  • The retention of telecommunications data by service providers for access and use by State authorities;
  • Whether the State’s refugee determination bodies are required to consider available evidence in their possession rather than relying solely on an asylum seeker’s Notice of Appeal;
The Commission also appeared before the European Court of Human Rights in a case involving the rights of persons with Intellectual Disabilities. This case involved the IHRC representing the European Group of National Human Rights Institutions (NHRIs), first intervention of its kind by a regional grouping of NHRIs.
In the midst of all of this positive news and work it is important to note that the IHRC is suffering from budget cuts as the recession affects the government's commitment to human rights. Launching the report Dr Maurice Manning said

“the fallout from this economic recession is having the greatest impact on people in vulnerable situations who often need the most protection. It is more important than ever to have a strong, effective and independent Human Rights Commission. However the IHRC has found it difficult to cope with what amounted to a 32% cut in its budget this year. As a consequence, there is a serious risk that the IHRC will be unable to perform its statutory functions.”

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