Public Consultation on Universal Periodic Review

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I got this via email, and for those interested in the UN Human Right Council or Human Rights in Ireland should definitely attend these  meetings. I am going to try and attend the Cork meeting and will try and tweet from it.

The Minister for Justice and Equality, Alan Shatter T.D. and the Minister of State for Disability, Equality and Mental Health, Kathleen Lynch T.D. are inviting members of the public and organisations to take part in public consultation meetings to discuss Ireland’s human rights record as part of the United Nations Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review (UPR) process.

A series of public meetings will be held around the country as follows:

DUBLIN, Monday 16/05/2011, 7-10 pm.
St. Andrew’s Resource Centre, 114 Pearse St., Dublin 2

ATHLONE, Wednesday 18/05/2011, 7-10 pm.
Douglas Hyde theatre, Athlone Institute of Technology, Dublin Road, Athlone

KILKENNY, Friday 20/05/2011, 7-10 pm
The Parade Tower, Kilkenny Castle

LIMERICK, Monday 23/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Room 310, Mary Immaculate College, South Circular Road, Limerick

SLIGO, Wednesday 25/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Room A0006, Institute of Technology Sligo, Ash Lane, Sligo

CORK, Friday 27/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Boole 1, University College Cork, College Road, Cork

DUBLIN, Monday 30/05/2011, 7-10 pm
Axis Ballymun Theatre, Main Street, Ballymun, Dublin 9

An interdepartmental working group chaired by the Department of Justice and Equality is preparing Ireland’s National Report on our domestic human rights situation for the United Nations Human Rights Council UPR process. The National Report, which must be submitted to the UN by Monday, 4 July 2011, will be informed by consultation with and submissions from individuals and organisations, and the Department is keen to give the widest possible range of organisations and members of the public the opportunity to make submissions on issues of importance in the area of human rights in Ireland.

The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) is one of the major innovations of the United Nations (UN) Human Rights Council (established in 2006), whereby the domestic human rights records of all 192 UN Member States are reviewed every four years. 48 countries are reviewed each year, starting in 2008, with 16 reviews taking place in each of the thrice yearly UPR Working Group sessions. Ireland’s first review under the UPR process will take place on 6 October 2011.

For more information about the UPR process, guidance on how to prepare a submission and to make a submission, please visit our website, www.upr.ie

Voting Rights for the Irish Diaspora?

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The Irish Left Review picked up on an EU survey by GlobalIrish.ie on emigrant voting rights. Ireland is the only country in the 20 surveyed to have to voting rights for Diaspora or plans to bring it in. Greece is being forced to bring it in after a ruling by the ECHR. Will an Irish emigrant bring a case to try and force Ireland to change? Shouldn’t we change anyway?

European Country – Vote at national elections?
AUSTRIA – YES
BELGIUM – YES
DENMARK – (YES) but with many restrictions
ESTONIA – YES
FINLAND – YES
FRANCE – YES
GERMANY – YES – but only within countries of Council of Europe
GREECE – NO (subject to change following recent European Court of Human Rights decision)
IRELAND – NO
ITALY – YES
LUXEMBOURG – YES
SPAIN – YES
NETHERLANDS – YES
POLAND – YES
PORTUGAL – YES
ROMANIA – YES
SLOVAKIA – YES
SWEDEN – YES
SWISS – YES
UNITED KINGDOM – YES (Voting right is lost after 15 years abroad – this time limit is being challenged by a Spanish-based UK citizen.)

Being one of the only countries in the EU not to offer this right to its citizens, means we are not treating our emigrants with the respect they deserve.

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France and its Non-“French” Residents

France is a bit of bother in the last week. Firstly there is the expulsion in mass of its Roma Residents, which has gotten France into trouble with the European Commission. Then the French Senate voted  to ban the Niqab and Burka.

France could be brought to the European Court of Human Rights, if the French Constitutional Court upholds the ban.

This is not setting a good example in my opinion. The French are showing their intolerance of the “the other”. While I disagree with Commissioner readings “holocaust” comment, I think she has a point, she just used the wrong word.

France is heading down the wrong path. Its mass expulsions of Roma reminds me of the excess’s of former Dictators like Idi Amin, whoo expelled over 800’000 asians from Uganda in September 1972.

The fact that France is expelling nationals of another Member State is also a worrying thought.

One the issue of the Niqab and the Burka. While I am not a fan of those items of clothing, I think if a woman thinks she needs to wear them to follow her religion or be part of her culture and heritage, then she should be free to wear them. She should not be forced to wear them.

This episode again highlights the intolerance that ignorance breeds. If people were more open to learning about others. To understanding why they wear these veil’s then there would be more tolerance and understanding.

The laws to ban these and the expulsion of the Roma are all knee-jerk reactions that will ultimately backfire. I hope the see French see sense and do the right thing.

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FF Senators not happy with Civil Partnership Bill

There was some debate yesterday in the Seanad on the Civil Partnership Bill during the order of business. Fianna Fail Senators Labhrás Ó Murchú, Jim Walsh and John Gerard Hanafin raised objections to parts of the Bill and one called for a referendum. Also Fine Gael’s John Paul Phelan also spoke against part of the Bill.

Senator Ó Murchú claimed that the Civil Partnership Bill 2009 would breach some people’s human rights, he even compared it to the Penal laws! He said

I may have to speak in this House on behalf of Irish prisoners of conscience. The Civil Partnership Bill 2009 provides that a person can lose his or her job or be imprisoned, and that churches and other bodies can have their property commandeered. I do not think that is right in a country that has upheld traditional values down through the centuries, often in the face of oppression and misrepresentation. I do not think it is right that people who in good conscience believe they are upholding the same values should be subject to such a penal code. Many people in Ireland will see this as an echo of the dreaded penal laws. It cannot be correct.

Senator Walsh made a contribution making the case for a free vote, this was backed by Fine Gael’s Senator Joe O’Reilly. Senator Walsh said:

It is difficult, however, to ask any Member to abrogate his conscience with regard to matters which he – or she for that matter- feels are issues of conscience that are not for compromise in their view. Several issues will emerge, not just civil partnership but also embryonic stem cell research, pro-life and abortion issues. There is a ream of social issues which will have huge impact on the development of our society. We need to be careful. Those who have a view contrary to a liberal agenda being pushed by others have a right to a free vote on such issues as have people outside the right to exercise freedom of conscience.

Senator Hanafin called for a referendum and a free vote on the Civil Partnership Bill,

I call for a debate on the matter raised by Senators Ó Murchú and Walsh on the rights of people who will find themselves in extreme and difficult circumstances should the Civil Partnership Bill pass. The reality is there are people like myself who have difficulty with the Bill. As chairman of the Green Party and someone very much involved in the programme for Government, I ask the Deputy Leader again for a referendum such that the question can go to the people. Does the public seek a situation whereby a same-sex, sexual relationship has a higher standing in law than that of brothers, sisters, brothers and sisters or friends who live together in an ordinary way? Should such a relationship be put on a higher plain? I do not believe it should be nor do I believe that anyone who feels the same as I do should be discriminated against for that belief. With this in mind, I ask again for a referendum and, in particular, for a free vote when the situation comes to this House.

Senator Phelan also called for a free vote, not to criminalise registrars for non-performanace, and for brothers and sisters to be included

I have a reservation about the Civil Partnership Bill, which can impose a criminal sanction on a registrar who does not perform his or her role. I agreed with the decriminalisation of homosexuality ten or 20 years ago. Criminalising registrars for non-performance of their function is not a correct step in any legislation. I often disagree with Senator Hanafin but I strongly agree with him on this matter. I know so many brothers and sisters in my area who live together and never married. I am sure you also know of such people, a Chathaoirligh. I do not object to granting rights to couples, whether of the same or the opposite sex. However, people who are living together in a loving but non-sexual relationship, perhaps brothers or sisters, should not be discriminated against.

Also in the debate some interesting remarks were made by Senators Liam Twomey and Paul Bradford of Fine Gael.

Senator Twomey made this contribution,

With regard to the Civil Partnership Bill, how would people feel if members of my profession or the nursing profession decided not to treat patients on the basis of race, gender, sexual orientation or religious persuasion? It would be completely unworkable. Members who are making speeches in this House must be a little more practical in their comments. Not agreeing with carrying out abortions or conducting embryonic stem cell research should not be put in the same category as treating patients who have a different religious persuasion, sexual orientation or gender. The same applies to nurses. We must clearly separate these issues and not muddy the waters with such talk either inside or outside the House.

Senator Bradford commented on the reaction to some statements and called for a fair and balanced debate,

I note the preamble on the Order of Business to the debate on the Civil Partnership Bill and the level of discomfort caused by certain comments made by some of my colleagues. I am not so intellectually superior to state anybody’s comments were misguided or erroneous and I am disappointed Members’ views were described as such. I do not live on a plane of such moral or intellectual superiority that I would describe anybody’s views as misguided. I hope we will have a tolerant debate when the Bill is before the House. It will be an interesting test of the House, our agenda and society. We claim to live in a liberal republic, but I have never encountered people as illiberal as those who refuse to accept other persons’ points of view as being equally balanced and fair.

There was a presentation of views by Senators Walsh and Ó Murchú. Perhaps there were others but, unfortunately, I did not hear all the other Members’ contributions. I was interested in the level of discomfort they appeared to cause on all sides of the House. The forthcoming debate on the Civil Partnership Bill must be fair and balanced. People not only have a conscience but a right to their conscience and we must try to ensure the debate is calm and fair. I look forward to presenting my views and some proposals as to how we can accommodate people’s conscientious difficulties. I hope that when a Member stands to express a different point of view, it will not be in a land of mutter, tutter, Twitter and discomfort. Our so-called liberal republic should also be a tolerant republic in which people can express their views without being derided and accused of being misguided and erroneous.

Senator Jerry Buttimer (Fine Gael) asked when the Bill was going to make it to the Seanad. Also Senator David Norris (Independent) called on Senators Ó Murchú, Hanafin, Walsh and Mullen to vote against the Bill like he is doing, he on the issue of Children.

Senator Dan Boyle (Green Party) had this to say in his response to the debate

With regard to the pre-debate on the Civil Partnership Bill and the issues raised by Senators Ó Murchú, Walsh, Hanafin, O’Reilly and Phelan—–

…..

In that regard, I point Members to the comments of President John F. Kennedy on defined political practice. He distinguished between the holding of personal religious beliefs and issues of conscience and the responsibilities of a public representative of all the people. When we debate this Bill, those principles should help to inform it. There is already legislation with which many of us would have conscientious issues. As people who form the law and have a responsibility for law already enacted, we have a responsibility to act on that conscience in a legal and responsible way for all the citizens of the country. I look forward to that debate. It is a necessary debate and must happen. I will share my views with those who are expressing concern on conscientious grounds.

The Civil Partnership Bill could be in for a bumpy ride when it gets to the Seanad.

The full debate can be read on Kildare Street here and here

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The Elephant in the Room

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There is a very large elephant in the room in Irish politics. It is a very important issue and it cause fierce tensions and divides, but not only in Ireland.

I blogged a few years back that Ireland needs an Abortion Act and recent events are making that point more necessary!

The recent poll in the Irish Examiner showing that “60% of young people want abortion legalised here” shows that young people do care about this issue.

Todays report by Human Right’s Watch, A State of Isolation, which calls on the Government to decriminalise “all abortion for women living in Ireland” (Full list of recommendations)

Abortion is a polarising issue in Ireland. At the moment it is unresolved. Ireland has two choices. We can amend the Offences against the Person Act, 1861 to take account of the constitutional rights. Or we have a new referendum on Abortion and try and introduce the freedom to have an Abortion.

(The right to an abortion is something I am not sure of, so I refrain from using that terminology)

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Euroblog Round up #1

So as an editor over on bloggingportal.eu I have great access to a huge number of blogs and can help choose what goes on the front page. Unfortunately not everything I would like can go on the front page (there are others there also) I will do a regularish posting like this one to publicise some of the other things going on in the euroblogosophere, whether on the front page or not! Dont expect this daily or weekly mind you! Its only when I have time!

New Commission

The Common Agriculture Blog thinks the new Agricultural Commissioner could get a hard ride through the Parliament

Public Affairs 2.0 have a great PDF of all the biographical details of the new Commission

Climate Change

Eberhard Rhein calls on the EU to cut emmissions by 30%

The CTA blog also tells us that the EU and ACP countries are working together at the Copenhagen Summit

3e Intelligence look at the pros and cons of a  EU Border Carbon Tax

European Council

Ralf Grahn highlights the not so transparent European Council, even though it is now an institution of the EU.

EU-Africa

The CTA blog informs us that imports from the EAC countries will now be taxed due to a delay in signing an Economic Partnership Agreement

Human Rights

Jaanika Erne on Ideas on Europe tells us a bit about Human Rights day which was yesterday.

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20 Reasons to Vote Yes to Lisbon

I got sent this list the other day, but due to events I am only posting it now. They are under a few caetgories and are linked!

Democracy:
I’m voting YES because Lisbon will give more power to the MEPs that I elect. (Articles 14 and 294)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because I like the idea that when all of our governments meet and discuss things that affect me, they should do it in the open (Article 16.8)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because the citizens’ Initiative means that the things that I care about are put on the agenda- and I don’t have to wait for the politicians to act (Article 11.4) – More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because the chair of the council having 2 ½ year rather than a 6 month term is just common sense as far as I can see (Article 15.5)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I’m voting YES because I believe that the European Union should be a community built on values, as well as an economic trading block. And the promotion of democracy and human rights are pretty good values. (Article 3)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

The Charter of Fundamental Rights gives me rights on a European level, as well as having them in the Irish constitution. And I like rights. Vote YES (Article 6)- More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2 – More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

I don’t always like the TD’s- but I definitely like them having more say about European legislation (Article 12 and Protocol 1 Article 4). Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/24iwh2

Crime:

I’m voting YES because I can’t believe that human trafficking still happens, and I want to use my vote to stop it (Articles 79, 83 & 87) – More info: http://short.ie/9v298u

I’m voting YES because I’ve seen the effects of drug smuggling on this country, and I know that stopping the smugglers is the best way to deal with it. (Article 83) – More info: http://short.ie/9v298u

Energy and Climate Change:

I’m voting YES because anyone with half a brain can see that countries HAVE TO work together if we are serious about fighting climate change (Article 191) – More info: http://short.ie/wxbofu

I’m voting YES because I think that if we negotiate our gas deals together, we get a better price- and heating my house doesn’t cost so much (article 194) – More info: http://short.ie/wxbofu

I’m voting YES because I want to support Irish Universities and Innovation- and the new European Research area will do just that (Articles 179 and 180) – More info: http://short.ie/wxbofu

EU In the World:

I’m voting YES because I was proud to see the EU saving lives on our peacekeeping mission in Chad- and if another crisis occurs, I’ll be proud to see them do it again (Articles 42, 43 and 214) – More info: http://short.ie/p4ibj2

I’m voting YES because the Palestinian ambassador to the EU said that a more “politically effective” EU would support peace in her country. And I am for peace in the Middle East (Article 18) – More info: http://short.ie/p4ibj2

I’m voting YES because the new High Representative for Foreign and Security Policy will be a voice for peace and justice in the world (Article 18). Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/p4ibj2

General:

I know that for a small state like ours, having our own Commissioner is really important. Vote YES. (December Council Decision) – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

I’m voting YES because giving sport a legal basis in the EU matters, as it means more funding for local sports teams and facilities. (Article 165) Vote Yes. – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

Cóir want me to vote NO. As do Sinn Féin, UKIP, and a whole load of other crazy people. I know they don’t care about the same things I do. Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

I’m not conveniently ignoring the fact that the legally binding guarantees are legally binding. Vote YES – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

I suffer from a terrible bullshit allergy. Vote YES (article 5 what the EU can/cannot do) – More info: http://short.ie/voteyes

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Lisbon and Your Rights

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This was posted earlier today as a guest blog on the GenerationYes website

The Lisbon Treaty will increase your rights. The Lisbon Treaty brings in two things which the EU has to take into account when making new directives and regulations. What are these things? The Charter of Fundamental Rights and the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms.

The Charter of Fundamental Rights will bring together all the rights that have come about through EU Laws and judgements. This document will then have the same status as a treaty meaning every thing the EU does must reflect it.

Some say that the Charter is worthless, but if it is worthless why is it too much for the Governments of the UK and Poland?

John Monks, the General Secretary of the European Trade Union Confederation said in a speech to the Irish Congress of Trade Unions in July of this year “it was a step forward compared to existing provisions, for example in relation to the legal enforcements pf the Charter of Fundamental Rights, commitments to full employment, the social market economy and public services”

The Charter sets out your rights in six sections, Dignity, Freedoms, Equality, Solidarity, Citizens’ rights, and Justice. Article 2 specifically protects the right to life, so the charter will not lead to abortion.

The second aspect is that the Lisbon Treaty will allow the EU to sign up to the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms. Ireland is already signed up to this and it has brought about a number of human rights for people in Ireland. Having the EU sign up, means that if we think the EU has infringed on our rights we can take them to court. This is an important development for citizens and it means the EU has to be aware of our rights in everything it does.

The EU of course has led to many improvements in Human Rights in this country, in the area of discrimination especially. Equal pay, discrimination in the workplace and other rights protections have been brought in in Ireland thanks to the EU.

So let us keep human rights at the core of Europe and Vote Yes on October 2nd.

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Human Rights Day – Dignity and justice for all of us

Today is the 60th anniversary of the signing of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR). The theme for the past year in the lead up to the 60th anniversary has been “Dignity and justice for all of us”. The UNDR has been translated into 360 languages allowing various UN and NGO organisations to spread the word about this important document which informs us of our rights. The Declaration has been translated into Gaeilge: Dearbhú Uile-Choiteann Cearta an Duine.

The commemoration was established in 1950, when the General Assembly invited all states and interested organizations to celebrate the day as they saw fit. It is also the day that the five-yearly United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights and Nobel Peace Prize are awarded. The United Nations Prize in the Field of Human Rights are due to be presented today to Ms. Louise Arbour (former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights), Mr. Ramsey Clark (former United States Attorney General and lawyer), Dr. Carolyn Gomes (Jamacan Human Rights Defender), Dr. Denis Mukwege (founder, director and chief surgeon of Panzi Hospital in Bukavu, Democratic Republic of the Congo) and Human Rights Watch. Mrs. Benazir Bhutto (Pakistani politician) and Sr. Dorothy Stang (US/Brazilian Human Rights Defender) are to be awarded the prize posthumously.

In his remarks on Human Rights Day the UN General Secretary Ban Ki-moon hopes “that we will all act on our collective responsibility to uphold the rights enshrined in the Universal Declaration.” He went on say that we could only “honour” that “inspiring document when its principles are fully applied everywhere, for everyone.”

Full Video

The High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navanethem Pillay wants the “full implementation of human rights on the ground” in a way that is “regardless of their race, sex, religion, nationality, property or birth, to realization of each and every right set forth in the Universal Declaration.”

Full Video

There are a number of events being organised around the worldmy favourite being this campaign in Austrailia being organised by the UNYA called write4rights asking young people to text what they think about Human Rights. An excellent idea.

If you have any links or stories on Human Rights Day, please post them in the comment thread!

Universal Periodic Review – UN Human Rights Council

Via UN News Centre.

Under General Assembly Resolution 60/251 (Which also established the Human Rights Counicl), the General Assembly mandated the Council to

undertake a universal periodic review, based on objective and reliable information, of the fulfillment by each State of its human rights obligations and commitments in a manner which ensures universality of coverage and equal treatment with respect to all States; the review shall be a cooperative mechanism, based on an interactive dialogue, with the full involvement of the country concerned and with consideration given to its capacity-building needs; such a mechanism shall complement and not duplicate the work of treaty bodies.

This Universal Periodic Review got underway yesterday in Geneva with Bahrain and Ecuador. The other states in this 1st Session Review are

* Tunisia
* Morocco
* Indonesia
* Finland
* United Kingdom
* India
* Brazil
* Philippines
* Algeria
* Poland
* Netherlands
* South Africa
* Czech Republic
* Argentina

These will all be examined during the First Session which lasts till the 18th of April.

The Second Session will consider

1. Gabon
2. Ghana
3. Peru
4. Guatemala
5. Benin
6. Republic of Korea
7. Switzerland
8. Pakistan
9. Zambia
10. Japan
11. Ukraine
12. Sri Lanka
13. France
14. Tonga
15. Romania
16. Mali

This session will take place between 5-16 May.

The third and Final Session this year will see the following states examined,

1. Botswana
2. Bahamas
3. Burundi
4. Luxembourg
5. Barbados
6. Montenegro
7. United Arab Emirates
8. Israel
9. Liechtenstein
10. Serbia
11. Turkmenistan
12. Burkina Faso
13. Cape verde
14. Colombia
15. Uzbekistan
16. Tuvalu

That session will take place between the 1-12 December.

What do these reviews entail?

The reviews entail each country giving its own information, limited to a 20 page report, but also shadow reports can be submitted by Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), limited to 10 pages. NGOs, NHRIs (National Human Rights Institution’s), Human rights defenders, Academic institutions and Research institutes, Regional organizations, as well as civil society representatives may also submit observations as stakedholders but there submissions summarized by the OHCHR in a 10 page report.

Example: Bahrain

Bahrain’s Report(PDF) contains information on reforms it pledged to make on election to the Human Rights Council. It details constitutional protections, legal protections, treaties signed and/or ratified, as well as the State’s view of whats happening on the ground. State’s may also give additional Documentation, Bahrain has taken the opportunity and submitted 6. They havent been translated from Arabic so I cant read them.

The OHCHR Report (PDF) is a summary of the Treaties signed and ratified by Bahrain. It gives a summary of the views of the bodies set up by the treaties on work done and any issues.

12 stakeholders (PDF) made submissions to the OHCHR giving there view on whats happening on the ground.

Hopefully these UPR’s will make a difference around the world and put more pressure on states to respect Human Rights and their treaty obligations.

Ireland will be reviewed in 2011 in the 12th (and last) Session of the UPR.


Sources:
UN human rights body begins first-ever examination of all countries’ recordsUN News Centre
Universal Periodic ReviewOHCHR
General Assembly Resolution 60/251 (PDF) – UN
Universal Periodic Review: BahrainOHCHR
Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Calender (PDF)OHCHR