“The Irish Human Rights and Equality Commission Act 2014 (the Act) provides two definitions of ‘human rights’ in Section 2 and Section 29 where the latter is used for purposes of construing Part 3 on the enforcement and compliance provisions. The SCA notes that the Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights expressed concern about the limitation of the definition in Section 29.
The SCA acknowledges that “although the IHREC has argued that a wider definition of human rights should apply to all of its powers, the Government has argued that a wider definition in Part 3 would attract constitutional difficulties and legal challenge”.
The SCA is of the view that an NHRI should be legislatively mandated with specific functions to both promote and protect all human rights. An NHRI’s mandate should be interpreted in a broad, liberal, and purposive manner to promote a progressive definition of human rights which includes all rights set out in international, regional, and domestic instruments, including economic, social, and cultural rights.
The SCA encourages the IHREC to continue to advocate for appropriate amendments to its enabling law to ensure that the full range of civil, political, economic, social, and cultural rights shall apply to all its powers.
The SCA also notes that the Act does not provide the IHREC with an explicit mandate to encourage ratification or accession to international human rights instruments.
Encouraging ratification of, or accession to international human rights instruments, and the effective implementation of international human rights instruments to which the state is a party, is a key function of an NHRI. The SCA considers it important that these duties form part of the legislative mandate of an NHRI.
The SCA acknowledges that the IHREC interprets its mandate broadly to include activities in this regard. However, the SCA reiterates its recommendation in November 2015 to advocate for changes to IHREC’s enabling law to mandate it with explicit responsibility to encourage ratification or accession to international instruments.
Further, the SCA notes that the IHREC does not have an explicit mandate to monitor places of deprivation of liberty. The SCA acknowledges that the IHREC engaged with policy-makers, civil society, and government departments on the ratification of the UN Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture and has provided views as to the establishment of a National Preventative Mechanism in the country. The SCA encourages the IHREC to advocate for an explicit mandate to conduct unannounced visits to all places of deprivation of liberty.”