Blog: Reparations

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February 7, 2013

Irish Government Acknowledges Role in Magdalene Laundries; Offers No Apology or Reparations

Posted by Cara Solomon

For a while now, this blog has followed Maeve O’Rourke, LLM ’10, a former Global Human Rights Fellow, as she works with other advocates to secure reparations for thousands of women and girls who labored in Ireland’s so-called Magdalene Laundries. Tuesday marked a milestone for the group, Justice for Magdalenes: After years of ignoring the issue, the Irish government released a 1000-page report into the laundries, which were run by various orders of nuns from 1922 to 1996.

The Good Shepherd Convent/Magdalene Asylum, which operated as a residential laundry until the late 1970s. Photo courtesy of Tarquin Blake

A residential laundry at the Good Shepherd Convent/Magdalene Asylum. Photo: Tarquin Blake

For the first time, the government acknowledged its own “significant” role in the forced labor: more than a quarter of the women and girls in the laundries were referred there by the government. Some came from the criminal justice system, prosecuted for nothing more than petty theft; others came from residential institutions; still others from homes for unwed mothers.

After decades of speculation, the government also confirmed a number: more than 10,000 women and girls worked in the laundries. The youngest was 9. The oldest was 89. The average age was 23.

For all the report’s revelations, the government’s formal response to it on Tuesday fell stunningly short. In comments before the Irish Parliament, Prime Minister Enda Kenny expressed mostly sorrow. There was no apology for the government’s role. There was no talk of reparations.

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October 3, 2011

UN Human Rights Council Establishes Special Rapporteur on Promotion of Truth, Justice, Reparation, and Guarantees of Non-Recurrence

Posted by Susan Farbstein

Interesting development this week from the Human Rights Council: it has adopted a resolution to appoint, for a period of three years, a new Special Rapporteur on promotion of truth, justice, reparation, and guarantees of non-recurrence of serious crimes and gross violations of human rights.

The Special Rapporteur’s mandate will include gathering relevant information on national situations, practices, and experiences, as well as normative frameworks, related to transitional justice mechanisms.  The Special Rapporteur will also be tasked with providing technical assistance upon request, exchanging and promoting good practices, and recommending strategies to address grave human rights abuses and serious crimes.  The resolution calls for survivor-centered approaches and the incorporation of gender-sensitive perspectives.

The resolution received wide support, as it was co-sponsored by more than 75 countries.  The Council requested the Special Rapporteur report annually to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly.

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