In a report submitted to the UN Human Right Council last Monday (4th March), the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders Margaret Sekaggya, called on the Irish Government to “Investigate all allegation and reports of intimidation, harassment and surveillance in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute in a prompt and impartial manner”. 
The report stated that evidence that Mrs Sekaggya received indicated “the existence of a pattern of intimidation, harassment, surveillance and criminalization of those peacefully opposing the Corrib Gas project…. The information received seemed to indicate that the policing of the protests had been, in some instances, disproportionate. Moreover, there have also been serious concerns about the lawfulness of certain actions by the private security firm employed by Shell.”
The Special Rapporteur also noted the use of the Public Order Act in a manner which could, in her opinion, “undermine the right to protest”.
Commenting on the report Shell to Sea spokesperson Maura Harrington stated “All reports to date have consistently found failings in the policing of Corrib. We welcome Mrs Sekaggya’s call for an impartial investigation, which we believe can only be satisfied by competent people outside the State”
Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway commented “None of the complaints that have been submitted to the Garda Ombudsman have been properly addressed. This means that Gardaí are still not being held accountable for their actions. We believe that the Garda Ombudsman should be disbanded, and a proper oversight body be established.”
 Report of the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Margaret Sekaggya – Mission to Ireland
 Shell to Sea meet UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders.
The special rapporteur met with a delegation of ten people on Wednesday which included seven members of Shell to Sea.
She said she was concerned about “the situation and challenges faced by defenders and activists defending the right to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment, particularly those peacefully protesting against the Corrib Gas project”.
“There is tangible frustration amongst local residents who are standing up for their rights and feel powerless, isolated and have lost trust in public institutions”, she said.
In a statement today Shell to Sea said it raised many issues of concern at the meeting;
…including violence by the Gardaí, behaviour of the private security, the democratic deficit in the planning process, surveillance and harassment, selectivity in the application of the law, the undermining and stigmatisation of campaigners by the judiciary, the politicisation of the judicial process and the ineffectiveness of designated oversight bodies in particular the Garda Ombudsman.
Sekaggya said she received “credible reports indicating the existence of a pattern of criminalization of what has mostly been a peaceful protest movement, including acts of non-compliance and passive resistance”.
Today Shell to Sea spokesperson Terence Conway said communities in Ireland have no protection when they find themselves in the path of experimental oil and gas projects.
“We have been abused and ignored by most institutions of the state and left to defend our rights at huge personal risk,” he said.
“We hope that this report by an independent international expert will make it more difficult for the Irish State to hide it’s domestic record on human rights.”
Katherine Allen is the Director of Amnesty International
As 2012 begins to draw to a close I will once again reflect on the people I have been privileged to meet. This year, two courageous individuals stand out, both indomitable figures in Burma‘s struggle for human rights.
Both Daw Aung San Suu Kyi and Zarganar – one of Burma’s most famous comedians who poked fun at the government – dared to stand up and speak out for the people of Burma, and they did so knowing that they faced the prospect of abuse, harassment, arrest and long-term imprisonment. For Amnesty supporters it wasn’t just a privilege to be able to stand with these and other human rights defenders, many of us saw it as a necessity.
So when Zarganar took to the stage of the Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York earlier this year after having had his 59-year prison sentence commuted only a few months before, and Daw Aung San Suu Kyi received Amnesty International‘s Ambassador of Conscience Award in Dublin, making her first visit to the UK and Ireland in nearly 25 years, not only was I honoured to meet two of the bravest human rights activists of our time, I was also reminded of the indelible impact which the support and the solidarity of Amnesty activists can have in helping to achieve enduring positive change for others.
This is why I am so delighted that Amnesty International launches its Write for Rights Campaign today. Here is a wonderful opportunity to be able to voice our support and stand with women and men much like Aung San Suu Kyi and Zarganar; women and men who have bravely dared to defend their human rights even at the risk of persecution and harassment.
Featured in this year’s Campaign are the Pussy Riot duo who have been imprisoned for daring to freely express their opinion in Russia. They are currently facing years of imprisonment in arduous conditions in two separate labour colonies.
A brave young women’s movement in Afghanistan called Young Women for Change also features in this year’s Write for Rights Campaign, as does Azza Suleiman, a 49-year-old woman from Egypt who was seriously beaten by security forces in Tahrir Square during the uprising, after she went to the aide of another woman who was being beaten by soldiers. Azza was beaten so badly she now has a fractured skull and suffers from memory loss. This brave woman is now calling for the perpetrators of this abuse to be brought to justice, and we must stand with her.
We must also stand with Hakamada Iwao – one of the world’s longest serving inmates on death row. Hakamada has languished on death row for 44 years in Japan. Amnesty considers his case to have been unfair and is calling for a commutation to his death sentence.
The joy of meeting brave men and women like Zarganar is made all the sweeter in knowing that we have stood shoulder to shoulder with them in their darker days, even though we were thousands of miles away going about our own lives. On the days when it seemed as though there was no hope for them, Amnesty persisted in its support. Amnesty’s Write for Rights Campaign gives thousands of people throughout the UK the chance to send a message of solidarity, whether it be a letter or a card of support, or taking a photo in solidarity. It will only take five minutes to take action, but the impact could last a lifetime.
The days for the likes of Azza and Hakamada may seem dark now. But I urge you to join me in standing in solidarity with them now. Because when we see the success achieved for them, the joy is all the sweet