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EU urged to be ‘assertive’ on rule of law
Liam Herrick

19 Mar 2024 / human rights Print

EU urged to be ‘assertive’ on rule of law

A report by 37 human-rights organisations has called on the European Commission to be more assertive in tackling rule-of-law breaches by EU governments.

The Liberties Rule of Law Report 2024 includes a section on Ireland that was co-ordinated by the Irish Council for Civil Liberties (ICCL).

While the ICCL described the overall situation in Ireland as “generally good”, the report raised concerns about the difficulties people face accessing Irish courts, and the lack of a timeline and plan for implementation of the recommendations of an independent review group on the Offences Against the State Act.

‘Mixed’ picture on Ireland

The report also highlighted concerns about the structure of the yet-to-be-established Office of the Independent Examiner of Security Legislation, the Policing and Community Safety Authority, and the Office of the Police Ombudsman.

“While it may seem [that] the Irish Government has made strides recently to improve the rule-of-law situation, the reality is mixed,” said Liam Herrick (executive director, ICCL).

“Legislation reforming the justice system is often chronically delayed and sometimes fails to meet the highest standard possible,” he added.

‘Bad example’

The wider report expressed concern about what it described as “some blatant violations” of the rule of law, even in the most resilient established democracies.

It added that such violations, while not carried out in a systemic manner, could set a bad example and “may be used by would-be autocrats to justify their illiberal measures”.

The analysis found that what it called “the undue influence of the political branches” remained “a non-negligible concern” in several EU states, while it also expressed concerns about “serious under-funding” of justice systems in some countries.

Balazs Denes (executive director, Civil Liberties Union for Europe) said that the report showed that intentional harm or neglect to fix breaches to the rule of law by governments, if left unaddressed, could evolve into systemic issues over time.

“The growing far-right, building on these abuses, will very quickly dismantle European democracy if the European Commission does not use the tools at its disposal – including infringement proceedings or conditional freezing of EU funds – in a much more assertive way,” he concluded.

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