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Ó Snodaigh - Minister needs human rights guidance on Joint Investigations Bill

22 January, 2004

Sinn Féin Spokesperson on Justice, Equality and Human Rights Aengus Ó Snodaigh TD has called on the Minister for Justice to activate the Section 8 (b) provision of the Human Rights Commission Act to obtain an opinion from the Commission on the Joint Investigation Teams Bill that reached second stage in the Dáil today. Deputy Ó Snodaigh said:

"Sinn Féin are not opposed in principle to inter-jurisdictional police cooperation on investigation of serious crimes with a cross-border dimension, where such cooperation is authorised on a case-by-case basis, limited to the necessary, and where there are appropriate safeguards and accountability mechanisms in place. Contrary to the unfounded and unproven allegations of this Minister, I confirm that Sinn Féin strongly support effective action against cross-border organised crime including trafficking in human beings and drugs, especially where such action strikes the correct balance between the need and right of individuals and communities to be safe from predation with the civil rights of individuals.

"However, this proposed legislation goes well beyond the existing INTERPOL and EUROPOL mechanisms for police cooperation and information-sharing by allowing for members of foreign police forces and possibly intelligence agencies to operate in this state. In addition, this Bill must be considered in its proper context, as another in the series of draconian so-called EU Anti-Terrorism Roadmap measures that this Government has signed up to and Sinn Féin, together with the human rights sector, has criticised. As such it has far-reaching consequences for both the sovereignty and human rights of the Irish people and so deserves careful consideration.

"Our concerns about the PSNI are well-established, but there is also evidence of human rights abuses by police forces from other EU states as documented by Amnesty International. Given this fact - but also in principle - the operation of other forces in this jurisdiction must not proceed in the absence of a properly established, best-practice complaints investigation mechanism in the form of a fully independent Ombudsman's Office on the Patten model, and a properly-established best practice civilian oversight mechanism in the form of an independent civilian Policing Board, as proposed by Sinn Féin.

"Fundamentally, this legislation must not proceed in the absence of adequate safeguards, and in particular until such time as the Irish Human Rights Commission is convinced of the adequacy of both the Bill's provisions and the state's mechanisms for police accountability. It is not acceptable that the Minister did not approach the Human Rights Commission to furnish its opinion on this Bill in accordance with Section 8 (b) of the Human Rights Act. His duty to the public interest obliges him to seek the Commission's opinion, and to guarantee that Committee Stage of this Bill will not proceed until such time as this opinion is available to the Dáil."

Deputy Ó Snodaigh also urged the Minister to raise the issue of human rights violations by police forces across the EU and to highlight the recommendations of the Amnesty International Human Rights Begin at Home Campaign at the Justice and Home Affairs informal meeting in Dublin Castle today and tomorrow. ENDS

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