Government criticised for failures on female genital mutilation
Amnesty says country did not use presidency of EU to support efforts to end the practice
Amnesty International criticised the Government for failing to use its presidency of the EU to help end female genital mutilation. Photograph: Matt Kavanagh/The Irish Times
Amnesty International has praised Ireland’s human rights record during it presidency of the Council of the European Union, but criticised its failure to prioritise the issue of female genital mutilation.
In its review of the Irish EU presidency published today, the organisation said Ireland had taken “significant steps” to protect human rights during its tenure at the helm of the Council of the European Union.
Among the achievements highlighted by Amnesty were Ireland’s lead role in the UN Arms Trade Treaty negotiations, the publication of new guidelines on human rights for LGBTI persons, and the presidency’s success in keeping discussion of the Anti-Discrimination Directive on the political agenda.
However, the organisation strongly criticised Ireland’s failure to progress EU efforts to end female genital mutilation. “There was no sign of support from the presidency for efforts by the EU Commission to prioritise the issue,” said executive director of Amnesty International Ireland, Colm O’Gorman. “During the first few months of the presidency it wasn’t clear whether anyone in the Government knew which department was responsible for working in the area as anti-FGM activists were passed from minister to minister.”
A spokeswoman for the Irish presidency said that, regarding the issue of female genital mutilation: “Ireland is and will continue to play an active international role- through our support to United Nations agencies and working with our international and EU partners-to address and ensure there is a concerted effort to end this appalling practice”.
She noted that the Government had criminalised the practice in Ireland and welcomed Amnesty’s recognition of Ireland’s “wide and ambitious programme” in relation to human rights issues during its presidency.
Despite its criticism of Ireland’s role in progressing the EU agenda on female genital mutilation, Amnesty welcomed the presidency’s achievements in other areas related to women’s rights.
In particular it welcomed the agreement reached in March among EU Justice and Home Affairs ministers on the European Protection Order. The new regulation will ensure that protection orders, such as a barring or safety orders, obtained by a victim of domestic violence will be enforceable in all other EU member states. However, Amnesty reiterated its call for a comprehensive EU strategy on Violence against Women.
The report also highlights the presidency’s success in successfully concluding negotiations on the Common European Asylum System (CEAS). The system, which is expected to come into force in 2015, aims to establish a common EU system for asylum, including setting time limits on how long countries can process asylum applications, and establishing minimum reception standards for asylum seekers, including an early evaluation of physical and mental health. However, Amnesty reiterated its concerns about the implementation of the new EU rules, questioning the level of legal clarity offered by the new legislation.
Amnesty also welcomed Minister for Justice Alan Shatter’s statement on the issue of Roma rights to mark International Roma Day in April. The statement was “a welcome demonstration of political support for Roma rights,” Amnesty said, adding that the Department of Justice had committed to meeting with Amnesty this autumn on the issue of Roma rights.