The report refers to evidence of “a pattern of intimidation, harassment, surveillance and criminalisation” of those peacefully opposing the gas project.
UNITED NATIONS SPECIAL Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Margaret Sekaggya, has called on the Irish government to investigate all allegations and reports of intimidation, harassment and surveillance in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute.
Sekaggay visited Ireland in November last year and met with a delegation, which included seven members of Shell to Sea, to discuss challenges faced by those protesting the project in Mayo. At the time she said she was “concerned” about the situation faced by activists.
In a report submitted to the UN Human Rights Council yesterday, the UN special rapporteur said that during her visit she received reports and evidence “including video footage, indicating the existence of a pattern of intimidation, harassment, surveillance and criminalisation of those peacefully opposing the Corrib Gas project”.
Protests have ranged from lawful demonstrations to non-violent non-compliance and passive resistance on both public and private grounds. 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 report refers to several incidents of protesters being forcefully removed from roads by gardaí and also allegations of verbal abuse against protesters.
Socialist Party MEP Paul Murphy, who alleges he was assaulted by gardaí during a peaceful protest at the gas project in Mayo told TheJournal.ie that the report “confirms what those of us campaigning against Shell in Rossport have said for a long time – that the right to peaceful protest has been repeatedly and consciously trampled upon by the gardaí”.
Murphy said that the methods used by gardaí were an attempt to “wear down protesters”.
“I have been the victim on numerous occasions of garda brutality in Rossport and have been a witness to many other incidents of brutality,” he added.
The MEP said that, on the back of this report, there should now be a “full and independent public inquiry” into the actions of the gardai over the last number of years in the policing of the Corrib project.
In the report, Sekaggay recommended that the government should:
Investigate all allegations and reports of intimidation, harassment and surveillance in the context of the Corrib Gas dispute in a prompt and impartial manner, conduct investigations regarding the actions of the police and adopt the measures necessary to instruct and equip the police in the area to discharge their functions adequately, particularly with regard to the policing of protests and crowd control.
However the special rapporteur said she “noted with concern” that there have also been reports of violent criminal acts committed in the context of the protests, including damage against Shell property.
“The special rapporteur would like to emphasise that those responsible for committing such acts cannot be considered human rights defenders, and that perpetrators should be held accountable for their actions and brought to justice,” the report said.