Good morning, ladies and gentlemen,
My objective during this visit has been to evaluate the situation of human rights defenders in the country. Defenders are those who promote and defend human rights in a peaceful manner. The following statement contains my preliminary findings and recommendations. I will present my final report at the 22nd Session of the Human Rights Council in Geneva, in March 2013.
Defenders and activists working on sexual and reproductive health
The situation and challenges faced by those defenders working on sexual and reproductive rights, particularly those providing information to women about abortion has come to my attention during the visit. Ireland has one of the most restrictive laws in Europe regarding the termination of pregnancies whereby abortion is considered a crime in constitutional and criminal law, and where women could be punished with life-term prison sentences. To date, no convictions have been made under the Offences Against the Person Act, 1861.
The 1992 Supreme Court judgment in the case known as “X” case provided guidance on how to interpret the existing constitutional right to abortion under article 40.3.3 of the Constitution. The European Court of Human Rights in 2010 (“ABC” case) has stated that Ireland violated the right to privacy of a woman when not allowing a lawful abortion and requested a more effective procedure regarding requirements to be met to qualify for legal termination of pregnancy. Both decisions are still to be implemented which means that currently no legislation or regulatory framework exists which defines whether or not a woman is entitled to have access to legal abortion. I was assured by high ranking Government officials that the outcome of the Expert Group set up to advice the Government on how to tackle this issue would be made public very shortly. This is particularly pressing given the tragic death of Ms. Savita Halappanavar after doctors allegedly refused a termination of her pregnancy last month.
Moreover, I am concerned at reports and evidence received indicating the existence of a smear campaign and stigmatisation of those advocating for the reproductive rights of women by the part of vested interest groups using printed media.