UN calls for independent probe of abuse in Ireland

24th July 2014, Comments 0 comments

Ireland must launch a wide-ranging, independent probe into the past abuse of women and children in state and Catholic Church-run institutions, a UN rights watchdog said Thursday.

"Very important steps have been taken by the Irish government," said Cees Flinterman, deputy chairman of the UN Human Rights Committee.

"But what is lacking is an independent, thorough investigation which would lead to bringing those who perpetrated those acts to justice," he told reporters.

Ireland has been rocked by scandals over abuse in children's homes and institutions for unmarried mothers that were mainly run by the Roman Catholic Church for the state.

Several inquiries have been undertaken or are in the pipeline, but the UN committee said it was time for an overarching effort to deal with past ills.

Last month, the Irish government said it would launch a probe following revelations by historians that up to 800 infants died in a "mother and baby" home between 1925 and 1961.

Death records from the home in Tuam in County Galway showed that the children died from malnutrition and infectious diseases, such as tuberculosis and measles.

There are no burial records for the children, leading many to believe a mass grave in a disused septic tank discovered in 1975 near the home was their final resting place.

Thousands of pregnant women were sent to many such homes in 20th century Ireland as the conservative Catholic society at the time ostracised women who became pregnant outside marriage.

- Government probe -

The investigation will examine the high mortality rates at the homes, which was far greater than the general population.

It will also look at burial practices, as well as the issue of adoptions and vaccine trials on children.

In 2013, Irish authorities released a 1,000-page report on the "Magdalene Laundries" run by the Church between 1922 and 1996.

More than quarter of the 10,000 women in them were sent by the state.

Residents worked for no pay while the religious orders ran them as commercial bodies.

Some were "fallen women" -- pregnant outside marriage or simply branded promiscuous or flirtatious -- while others were orphaned or disabled.

Irish Prime Minister Enda Kenny last year issue a full apology to the women involved.

The UN committee oversees respect for an international rights treaty, holding periodic meetings with countries.

It reviewed Ireland's record on July 14-15.

Among the concerns it flagged up was the past use of "symphysiotomy", a surgical procedure to sever cartilage and widen the pelvis during childbirth, which can cause bladder injury and walking difficulties.

Symphysiotomies were long used an alternative to caesarean births, but with medical advances making those far less risky, they now tend to be practised only in developing countries.

They were performed on some 1,500 Irish women without their consent between 1944 and 1987. The victims have faced a long battle for accountability.

"We call on Ireland to initiate a thorough, independent investigations and to bring those who are responsible to justice," said Flinterman.

© 2014 AFP

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