In April 2001, the United Nations Human Rights Committee held that there had been a violation of the rights of the person in question under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to equality before the law and to the equal protection of the law.
The basis for that conclusion was that, in the view of the committee, the State had failed to demonstrate that the decision to refer the person in question to the Special Criminal Court, as provided for in the Offences against the State Acts, was based upon reasonable and objective grounds. In acknowledgement of the view of the committee and having regard to its obligations under Article 2, paragraph 3(a) of the covenant, the State made a payment to the person in question of IR£1,000.
The person in question submitted a communication to the Human Rights Committee in July 2001 complaining about the remedy provided by the State. In its decision adopted in October 2002, the committee decided that the communication was inadmissible under Articles 1 and 2 of the optional protocol to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights.
The provisions of the Offences against the State Acts were the subject of a detailed review by a committee established under the chairmanship of former Supreme Court judge Mr. Justice Anthony Hederman. The Committee's report was published in August 2002. It is an extensive report, dealing with complex issues of law and policy — including matters relating to the Special Criminal Court — and involves important considerations concerning the balance to be struck between national and international security on the one hand and civil liberties and individual rights on the other.
Those recommendations in the report of immediate relevance to the purpose and scope of the Criminal Justice (Terrorist Offences) Bill 2002 were considered in the context of the preparation of that legislation. The Bill, accordingly, will give effect to a limited number of recommendations to that end. A fuller consideration of the other recommendations of the committee will be finalised once that Bill has been enacted, and I will then bring further proposals to the Government.