Report on Act to be sent to UN rights committee

 

The Government will send an interim report on the Offences Against the State Act to the UN Human Rights Committee later this week.

It will also publish the report, which is understood to recommend reviewing the practice of referring certain non-subversive crime to the Special Criminal Court.

The report was drawn up by a committee, chaired by Mr Justice Hederman, set up in May 1999 under the Belfast Agreement to review the Act.

The Government is forwarding the report in response to a finding of the UN Human Rights Committee that one aspect of the Act, where the DPP can refer a case to the Special Criminal Court on the basis of a certificate, violated the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.

The finding arose from a case taken by Joseph Kavanagh, who was convicted in 1997 of a number of offences relating to the kidnapping of the chief executive of National Irish Bank, Mr Jim Lacey.

Although only one of the seven charges was a scheduled offence under the Act, he was tried in the Special Criminal Court and sentenced to 12 years.

In April this year the UN committee found that sending cases to this court on the basis of a certificate from the DPP without any explanation violated the rights of the accused to a trial by jury.

It ruled that the State had failed to demonstrate that the decision to try Kavanagh before the Special Criminal Court was based on reasonable and objective grounds.

"Accordingly, the committee concludes that the author's right to equality before the law, and to equal protection of the law, has been violated," it stated.

As a contracting party to the UN Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, the State had 90 days to outline what relief it would grant Kavanagh.

The State received official notification on April 4th, and the 90 days expire this Thursday.

It is understood the committee sent its views on this aspect of the Act to the Government after the UN Human Rights Committee ruling, to assist it in formulating its response.

The response of the Government has been to send this interim report to the UN committee.

However, the solicitor for Kavanagh, Mr Michael Farrell, said this did nothing for his client.

"Their obligation was to provide an effective remedy," he told The Irish Times. "They were to report on what they had done, not what they were going to do."