Watchdog concerned over lack of action

Thu, Nov 15, 2012, 00:00

Brussels:Savita Halappanavar died seven months after the international body charged with supervising rulings by the European Court of Human Rights expressed concern about the situation of women who believe their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy.

The Government remains under “enhanced supervision” by the human rights committee of ministers attached to the Council of Europe, a 47-country body separate from the EU which aims to promote human rights and democracy.

This committee includes delegates from all court members, Ireland among them, and it emphasised the need for swift action from the Government to execute the ruling in a public commentary last March. The committee’s system of enhanced supervision is reserved for cases “requiring urgent individual measures or revealing important structural problems”.

Ireland has been on the radar ever since the court ruled in December 2010 that the State failed to uphold the constitutional right to lawful abortion where a mother’s life is at risk.

The judgment of the court, based in Strasbourg, is binding on the Government. Its judges ruled unanimously that the State violated the rights of a woman with cancer who was unable to establish whether she qualified for a lawful abortion in the Republic.

Dublin told the committee of ministers in June 2011 that it would establish an expert group to make recommendations on the execution of the judgment.

The Government provided an updated action plan last January, in which it confirmed the establishment of the group and acknowledged “the over-riding need for speedy action”.

The committee discussed the case at a meeting held between March 6th and 8th.

While welcoming the Coalition’s commitment to the expeditious implementation of the judgment, it strongly encouraged the Irish authorities “to ensure that the expert group completes its work as quickly as possible”.

Furthermore, the committee “expressed concern regarding the situation of women who believe their life may be at risk due to their pregnancy in circumstances similar to those experienced by the” woman in the case.

The committee next meets in early December.