Govt response to ABC case to be examined

Wednesday 14 November 2012 23.37
The Govt's implementation of the European Court of Human Rights ruling is to be reviewed
The Govt's implementation of the European Court of Human Rights ruling is to be reviewed

The body that oversees implementation of rulings by the European Court of Human Rights is expected to examine the Government's response to the ABC v Ireland case on 4-6 December.

The Committee of Ministers in the Council of Europe is expected to give its opinion then on how far the Government has complied with the ruling.

In January, the Government submitted an Action Plan to the committee, which included the creation of an expert group to look into the implications of the Strasbourg court's ruling that the State was in breach of an applicant's human rights over the abortion issue.

The Council of Europe is the 47-member organisation set up after World War II to promote democracy and the protection of human rights.

It was responsible for the setting up of the European Court of Human Rights and monitors how the court's rulings are implemented by signatory countries.

During its last hearing in March, the Committee of Ministers expressed "concern" regarding the situation of women in Ireland who believed their lives may be at risk due to their pregnancy.

Despite the Committee saying it "strongly encouraged" the Irish authorities to ensure that the government-appointed expert group "completes its work as quickly as possible," the Government has missed targets in furnishing the Council of Europe with information on how it was implementing the court's ruling.

The Government said it would provide the Committee of Ministers with an updated Action Plan by the end of October.

It is understood that deadline was missed.

In September, the Irish Council of Civil Liberties (ICCL) issued a communication to the Committee pointing out that the expert group had also sought a three-month extension to the deadline by which it deliver its report to the Government on the legal and ethical issues surrounding the ABC v Ireland case.

Instead of the report being presented in June, as outlined in January, the ICCL informed Strasbourg it would now be delayed until the end of September.

In fact, the Department of Health only received the report last night.

In its communication to the Committee of Ministers, the ICCL claimed that there would be a lobbying campaign by the Catholic Church and some politicians, including government ministers, to either delay the process of introducing lawful abortion or preventing it altogether.

The Committee also received in September a submission from the European Centre for Law and Justice, an NGO which describes itself as "a Christian-inspired" organisation.

In its submission it argued that the Government was required to adopt measures so that applicant C (from the ABC v Ireland case), or any other woman in the same situation, would be able to know "whether her situation qualify (ie require) for a lawful abortion on grounds of the risk to her life caused by the pregnancy".

The submission continued: "The decision taken by the national authorities whether applicant C would or not eventually qualify for a legal abortion has no incidence, assuming that no woman is let die because of her pregnancy.

"Ireland is not required to make sure that abortion would be available to applicant C, but only to clarify its regulation in one sense or the other."