Dublin, 23 October 2018
The Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL) has welcomed the announcement by the government to implement a multi-disciplinary framework, known as “humanitarian forensic action”, in order to identify the remains of those buried in an unmarked grave at the former Mother and Baby Home in Tuam.
ICCL director Liam Herrick said:
“This is the only appropriate response possible by the State, given that the human rights violations against former residents of these mother and baby homes are ongoing. There are still people who are searching for information on what happened to their loved ones and those people have a right to that information, as well as to the broader truth of how the system operated”.
In August, ICCL said that the system of forcibly separating unmarried mothers from their children and of burying infants in unmarked graves could constitute a system of enforced disappearances, widely considered one of the gravest possible human rights violations. We called on the State to ensure that family members of children who were forcibly disappeared, either through forced adoption or unidentified burials while in institutional care, were given information about the children’s fate and whereabouts.
We today reiterate this call to provide rights to information to all those who survived this cruel and inhumane system. This means that the bodies of children in the Tuam grave must be exhumed and identified to the extent possible, and that all possible information about their circumstances of death given to their family members. It means that the Government must introduce legislation to provide explicit rights to personal files for adopted people, natural parents, all individuals who experienced institutional abuse, and the family members of those who died in institutions. The Government should also move to create an independent national archive of administrative records, personal records and witness testimony relating to the system of forced family separation in Ireland.
We reiterate our call on the Government to ratify the UN Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, which it has already signed but not yet ratified.
Enforced disappearance is recognised as a crime against humanity when widespread or systematic. Under international law, an enforced disappearance occurs when a person is detained or abducted with the involvement of the State, following which the State refuses to disclose their fate or whereabouts. It is unique in international law in that it is considered an ongoing crime until family members have been informed by the State as to the fate and whereabouts of their relative. Last year a European Parliament Committee recognised that a similar system in Spain – that of the ‘stolen babies’ – constituted a crime against humanity.
Liam Herrick: firstname.lastname@example.org 087 2351374
For media queries:
Sinéad Nolan: email@example.com 087 4157162
Notes for editors:
The United Nations Declaration on the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, UNGA Res 47/133 (1 December 1992) UN Doc A/RES/47/133 (http://www.un.org/documents/ga/res/47/a47r133.htm) explains that ‘enforced disappearances’ occur when
‘persons are arrested, detained or abducted against their will or otherwise deprived of their liberty by officials of different branches or levels of Government, or by organized groups or private individuals acting on behalf of, or with the support, direct or indirect, consent or acquiescence of the Government, followed by a refusal to disclose the fate or whereabouts of the persons concerned or a refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of their liberty, which places such persons outside the protection of the law’.
According to the UN Committee Against Torture, redress for crimes against humanity requires restitution, compensation, rehabilitation, satisfaction and the right to the truth, and guarantees of non-repetition. The UN Committee Against Torture General Comment No 3 on redress:
‘Implementation of article 14 by States parties’ (13 December 2012) UN Doc CAT/C/GC/3 para 2. Available at: http://www.refworld.org/docid/5437cc274.html