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Mental health services inadequate, prisons below standards - Amnesty

In its annual report on the state of human rights in the world, the organisation also said that the UN Security Council had not shown the same courage as those who had participated in the Arab Spring.

Colm O'Gorman, Amnesty International (File photo)
Colm O'Gorman, Amnesty International (File photo)
Image: Laura Hutton/Photocall Ireland

AMNESTY INTERNATIONAL HAS said that the provision of mental health services in Ireland continued to be inadequate in 2011 and has said that conditions in the country’s prisons continue to fall below standards.

In its annual report on human rights in 155 countries and territories, the organisation also criticised the United Nations Security Council, saying it has failed to show the kind of courage that ordinary people have showed during the Arab Spring last year.

For Ireland, Amnesty raised concerns about the lack of prosecutions in the reported cases of violence against children in the State’s religious-run institutions.

It noted the publication of the Cloyne report which said that two-thirds of allegations about clerical sex abuse in the diocese  between 1996 and 2009 were not forwarded to Gardaí.

It also noted that the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture’s said there had been slow progress on mental health reform in Ireland.

The committee also raised concerns with the Mental Health Act 2001 its lack of protection for so-called ‘voluntary patients’ as well as the provision regarding the use of electro-convulsive therapy.

The Amnesty report  said there continued to be “significant delays” for asylum applicants in Ireland to have their needs or application assessed.

“Long-promised legislation to establish a single procedure for considering claims was still not enacted,” the report said.

For 2012, the organisation cited the commitment of the government to holding a Constitutional Convention as an opportunity to ensure that human rights in Ireland are not ignored in areas such as health, housing and income.

Speaking as the report is launched today, the organisation’s executive director in Ireland, Colm O’Gorman said of the global situation: “The courage shown by ordinary people demanding change in 2011 was matched by a failure of leadership by the UN Security Council.”

“Last year made it all too clear that many countries adopt the language of human rights only when it suits their purposes.

“Men, women and children have been imprisoned, tortured and killed while powerful nations on the UN Security Council put their political interests ahead of human rights and, more particularly, the victims.”

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On a global level, Amnesty cited a failure by the UN to intervene in Sri Lanka, where government forces are accused of committing war crimes during a bloody battle against the Tamil Tiger rebels almost three years ago, as one example of the security council being made to look “redundant”.

The organisation also said that inaction over alleged crimes against humanity in Syria, where government forces have waged a brutal crackdown on those fighting against the rule of Bashar Assad in towns and cites across the country, was cause for concern.

Amnesty said that Russia was a major arms supplier to Syria while the likes of India, South Africa and Brazil had been complicit through their silence on the matter.

“The determination of key UN Security Council members to shield their allies is tantamount to giving a blank cheque to human rights abusers,” O’Gorman said.

“Too many atrocities, like those in Syria and Darfur, are fuelled by a reckless arms trade. There are tighter global controls on trading bananas than bullets.”

He added that the UN meeting in July where a new treaty for global arms trade will be on the agenda, will be a key “acid test” of the will of political leaders to take action against alleged war criminals and protect human rights.

For Ireland, O’Gorman also said that the upcoming Constitutional Convention provided an opportunity for human rights reform in Ireland that needed to be more than just promises from the government.

He added: “The Constitutional Convention should be an opportunity to examine how we can build an equal society where human rights are really protected. But many of the issues currently on the convention’s agenda are extremely limited.

“The Government must take this opportunity to ensure that our Constitution protects human rights that have too long gone ignored in Ireland, like health, housing and income.

“Our leaders must not simply promise to protect human rights. They must act, and follow through on our international commitments by putting those rights into practice.”

Read: Amnesty asks: Should cute people have quicker access to hospitals?

Read: China is the world’s ‘number one executioner’ – Amnesty report

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Hugh O'Connell

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