The case of Brendan Lillis
“Brendan Lillis is a former republican political prisoner who served a life sentence as a result of his involvement in the North’s violent political conflict. He served around 16 years for possession of explosives and firearms. In 1992 he was released on license. In 2009 he appeared in court on a robbery related charge, a charge which is no longer to be proceeded with. Shortly after his arrest the British Secretary of State withdrew his licence which reactivated his life sentence….There have been concerns raised about the state of his health. It seems that he is being detained within a regime which can easily be described as one of medical neglect. It was reported that he is suffering ‘from the debilitating arthritic illness ankylosing spondylitis, which leads to a curvature in the spine and causes the body to produce excess bone mass.’” - Anthony McIntyre 13th March 2011
There are two immediate legal issues in this case. Firstly, the reactivation of Brendan Lillis’ licence engages a number of rights under the European Convention on Human Rights; Article 5 Right to Liberty and Security, specifically the duty the state owes to inform the detainee of the reason for their detention, and Artcle 6 the Right to a Fair Trial in that the detainee has the right to a fair and public hearing for the determination of the detainee’s civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him. The second legal issue surrounds the positive obligations that the state owes Brendan Lillis in regard to the Provision of Medicial Services that arise under Article 2 the Right to Life.
The most serious of these legal issues relate to the health issues that engage Brendan Lillis’ Right to life, and the authorities obligations owed to him uder this convention rights. The Right to Life retains it pre-eminent status in International law as the foremost of all human rights and from which all other rights sequentially follow. It is also the cornerstone of the European Convention as it is the foremost of all the provisions in the European Convention. The developing jurisprudence that the European Court on Human Rights considers obligatory on states, under the premise of Article 2, surrounds the provision of medical facilities and services. Such provisions were engaged in the unsuccessful case of LCB V UK, whereby the Court stated that the state had ‘to take appropriate steps to safeguard the lives of those within the jurisdiction.’ This is however, viewed on a case by case basis, in that the more verifiable the risk to the life of a specific individual, the more pressing the corresponding duty on the state to provide the appropriate provision for medical services. In a somewhat similar case to Brendan Lillis, the ECtHR ruled unanimously found that there is an obligation on the state to provide medical treatment to a detainee, in Velikova v Bulgaria. States therefore ought to be under a clear obligation under Article 2, to provide medical provision for those vulnerable persons detained under their supervision and custody. Similarily in Anguelova v Bulgaria the Court found a breach of Article 2, again a seriously ill detainee was denied timely medical assistance in this instance.
The state clearly owes Brendan Lillis an obligation under this right, which would then trigger further analysis into the reasoning and legality of his detention under the obligations owed in regard to Article 5 the Right to Liberty and Security, specifically the duty the state owes to inform the detainee of the reason for his detention, and Artcle 6 the Right to a Fair Trial in that Brendan Lillis has the right to a fair and public hearing for the determination of his civil rights and obligations or of any criminal charge against him.
Serious legal questions have arisen and need to be answered in relation to the provision of medical services for Brendan Lillis and his continued detention.
I have read with great interest many of the pleas from a wide range of persons asking for the release of Brendan Lillis on humanitarian grounds. I must say that I am in absolute agreement that this man is in grave physical condition, poses no threat to anyone, and certainly should be released “on humanitarian grounds”. However, it has also become abundantly clear that the pleas for his release on “humanitarian grounds” from dozens, if not hundreds, of sympathetic, well meaning petitioners, have fallen on deaf ears. Perhaps it is time to abandon that approach and consider a more pragmatic one such as that which is outlined in the article above. This article appeared in a blog a couple of months ago and it very clearly outlines the rights to which Brendan Lillis is entitled. It is time to assert his rights as outlined in this article instead of moving on with a continuous stream of ineffective pleas to an obviously uncaring British government official.
Jack Meehan, Past National President
Ancient Order of Hibernians in America