We reported last week that Ireland was due to appear before the human Rights Committee of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) on July 14th and 15th in Geneva as part of its fourth periodic report to that committee.
The Irish government was harangued by Committee members and pro-abortion NGO’s on the issue of availability of abortion in Ireland which they falsely claimied violates the terms of the Convention.
One member of the Committee for example asked Irish Justice Minister Frances Fitzgerald to explain how Ireland “reconciles its current laws on abortion with its obligations [under the treaty] --- which is, I may remind you --- an absolute right?"
This claim is absolute nonsense, there is no right to abortion in the ICCPR, nor is there such a right in any other UN convention. The right to life of every human being is however, protected in this treaty.
Article 6.1 and 6.5 read as follows:
1. Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
5. Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
The unborn child is a member of the human family and as such deserves the full protection set out in paragraph 6. Ideologically driven reinterpretation of the treaty by the committee however, in the form of general comments, militates against the unborn.
Reinterpretation of treaties commenced in 1996 when the then High Commissioner for Human Rights, together with a representatives from UNFPA, UN treaty monitoring bodies and select NGOs met at Glen Cove in New York to develop a strategy they said would “determine how the right to abortion-on-demand could be found in universally accepted norms such as the right to life.”
They did this by the creation of a network of ‘experts’, to re-interpret UN Treaties and Conventions. Despite the fact that the wording of each of the treaties was negotiated down to the last comma they decided that treaties are “living breathing documents” that can evolve over time and that convention provisions may be reinterpreted to establish a global right to abortion and any other so called right they would like to establish.
Treaty monitoring Committees are charged with ensuring that member states live up to treaty obligations but are not permitted to change the substance of any Treaty or Convention, only an assembly of member states can do so. Nevertheless UN committees have issued general comments expanding the intent of the treaties and conventions and have instructed many sovereign nations either to introduce or liberalize abortion.
The Committee warned that Ireland could still in breach of human rights legislation on the issue of abortion because it criminalises pregnant women who seek an abortion following a rape or due to a fatal foetal abnormality.
The committee also told the Irish delegation that, the fact Ireland’s laws have been debated in public and passed by parliament, does not prevent a dereliction of duty in terms of fulfilling the country’s human rights commitments.
Committee member Cornelis Flinterman asked the minister directly when was the last time that the Irish public has had an opportunity to vote in a referendum on the issue of abortion in light of opinion polls he says indicated supported for termination for medical reasons.
Minister Fitzgerald told the Committee that the Irish Government has “no solution” to the problem of women being unable to afford to travel overseas to undergo a termination for medical reasons and that the most recent referendum was in 2002 on the issue of suicide as a risk to the life of a pregnant woman. She added that another referendum would be required to address the issues raised by the committee but that the recent Protection of Life During Pregnancy Act had provided clarity to both doctors and women on some important issues.
The only pro-life NGO to testify in Geneva in support of the right to life Dr. Thomas Finegan correctly told the committee, "there is no such thing as a right to abortion in international human rights law" and that the "unborn child is recognized as a human rights subject by various international human rights provisions."
He further said the committee had no legal authority to issue binding interpretations of the treaty. The chairman of the Committee, Sir Nigel Rodley, then described Finegan's testimony as, "breathtakingly arrogant."