During the month of August 2016, four United Nations treaty bodies will review several States’ compliance with their treaty obligations, two regional judicial bodies in Europe and the Americas will hold public hearings, the UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will discuss research and developments in the area of human rights, and two UN Special Procedures mandate holders will conduct State visits. The UN treaty bodies will hold interactive dialogues with over 20 States regarding their implementation of binding international treaties relating to the prohibition of torture, the prohibition of racial discrimination, the rights of persons with disabilities, and of migrants and their families. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear a case against Bosnia and Herzegovina regarding an alleged violation of the right to freedom of expression, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hear cases against Ecuador and Guatemala and a follow-up hearing on provisional measures against Colombia during its 55th Special Session. The IACtHR will also discuss thematic areas of international human rights, such as the right to freedom of expression, during the session. In addition, UN experts will visit China and Mexico to assess the country situations with regard to extreme poverty and human rights and to business and human rights, respectively.
Committee against Torture 58th Session
The Committee against Torture will continue its 58th Session, which began July 25, 2016, in Geneva, Switzerland until August 12. Over the three weeks, the Committee is set to review State party reports of Burundi, Honduras, Kuwait, and Mongolia concerning their implementation of the Convention Against Torture, and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). According to its programme of work, as of August 1, the Committee will have reviewed the reports from Burundi, Honduras, and Kuwait and will only have Mongolia’s periodic report left to review. In addition to considering State parties’ reports, the Committee will also hold discussions with participating civil society organizations (CSOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) from the countries under review.
In the first two weeks of August, the Committee will also review individual complaints and discuss both a revised general comment on Article 3 of CAT and the adoption of concluding observations, which will include positive developments or practices, areas of concern, and recommendations based on the information the Committee received from States parties, CSOs, and NHRIs.
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 90th Session
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will hold its 90th Session in Geneva, Switzerland from August 2 to August 26 to assess the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) in Greece, Lebanon, Pakistan, Paraguay, South Africa, Sri Lanka, Ukraine, and the United Kingdom. The CERD will consider the States parties’ reports as well as information from civil society organizations and national human rights institutions. Based on the information it receives on the State parties under review, the Committee will subsequently publish concluding observations on positive practices, areas of concern, and recommendations. The Committee will also adopt a list of issues in preparation of review of Afghanistan at a later session. According to the session agenda, the Committee will also hold closed session hearings of individual communications submitted to it under Article 14 of the ICERD.
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities 16th Session
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will meet in Geneva, Switzerland from August 15 to September 2 for its 16th Session. It will review Bolivia, Colombia, Ethiopia, Guatemala, Italy, the United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay’s compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. The CRPD will adopt concluding observations taking into account information from the State party and civil society organizations. The session agenda states that the CRPD will also discuss cooperation with other supranational bodies, consider communications brought under the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, and adopt a list of issues for consideration when reviewing Canada at a later session.
Furthermore, the Committee will follow up on progress made on general comments delegated to working groups by the Committee. Currently, working groups are examining the topics of women with disabilities, the right to live independently and to be included in the community, and the right to education. The work programme includes an August 26th public reading of the Committee’s General Comment on Article 24: the right to inclusive education.
For more information and session materials, such as the session agenda and information submitted by civil society organizations, visit the 16th Session webpage.
Committee on Migrant Workers 25th Session
From August 29 to September 17, the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW) will hold its 25th Session in Geneva, Switzerland. It will assess reports from Honduras, Nicaragua, Niger, and Sri Lanka regarding their compliance with the Convention on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The Committee will also consider reports from relevant CSOs and NHRIs. According to the Information from the Secretariat, in addition to reviewing the reports of the States parties and third party reports, it will also draft lists of issues for upcoming reviews of Mexico and Ecuador at later sessions.
For more information and session materials, including reports from States parties and the Committee’s lists of issues, visit the 25th Session webpage.
European Court of Human Rights: Grand Chamber Hearing
On August 31, the ECtHR will hold a Grand Chamber hearing in Medžlis Islamske Zajednice Brčko and Others v. Bosnia and Herzegovina. See ECHR, Calendar of Hearings. The Grand Chamber panel referred the case to the Grand Chamber of the ECtHR at its March 14, 2016 meeting after the applicants requested the referral. [ECHR Press Release]
The applicants, four non-governmental organizations (NGOs) with a focus on Bosniac culture, were held liable in domestic court for defamation. The NGOs wrote a letter reporting that an entertainment editor allegedly made disparaging remarks about Bosniacs on public radio, and after the letter was published, the editor sued them. [ECHR Press Release] Before the European Court of Human Rights, the applicants alleged that the decision against them violates their right to freedom of expression under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights. Their intent, they argue, was not to publish the letter but only to inform those in authority of the entertainment editor’s actions that, in their view, had an impact on public concerns. [ECHR Press Release]
The Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights held that there was no violation of Article 10. In its judgment published on October 13, 2015, the Chamber found the organizations’ actions to be negligent because they failed to check if the editor did make the comments they reported. Accordingly, the Court held, the domestic court “struck a fair balance” between the “right to reputation . . . and . . . the right to report irregularities about the conduct of a public servant.” [ECHR Press Release]
Inter-American Court of Human Rights 55th Special Session
The 55th Special Session of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will be held August 17 to September 2 in Mexico. According the session webpage, during the session, the IACtHR will host seminars throughout Mexico on various human rights topics. The seminars in Guadalajara, Mérida, Tijuana, Toluca, and Zacatecas will cover the jurisprudence, goals, and challenges of the Court; the impact of the IACtHR’s jurisdiction; jurisdictional challenges to protecting human rights; protecting the human rights of vulnerable groups; and the juridical protection of the right to freedom of expression. In addition, according to the IACtHR’s program (Spanish) the IACtHR will have panels in Mexico City to discuss control of conventionality, the intersection of criminal law and human rights, protection of migrants’ rights, gender and justice, and freedom of expression. The panels will feature members of the IACtHR and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR).
In addition, the IACtHR will hold one public hearing on provisional measures (Spanish) arising out of the Case of the Rochela Massacre v. Colombia (Spanish) and will consider three individual cases during the session: Vásquez Durand and Others v. Ecuador, Gutiérrez Hernández and Others v. Guatemala, and Valencia Hinojosa v. Ecuador.
In Vásquez Durand and Others v. Ecuador, the applicants allege that Ecuador forcibly disappeared Vásquez Durand. Durand, the victim and a Peruvian merchant, was returning to Peru from Ecuador during the war when he was arrested, detained, and disappeared in January 1995. The IACHR held that Ecuador violated the rights to be recognized as a person before the law, to life, to humane treatment, to personal liberty, to a fair trial, and to judicial protection under the American Convention on Human Rights. It also held that the State violated the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons (IACFDP). See IACHR, Admissibility and Merits Report No. 12/15, Case 11.458, Vásquez Durand and Others (Ecuador), 23 March 2015.
The case of Gutiérrez Hernández concerns the alleged forced disappearance of Mayra Angelina Gutiérrez Hernández by Guatmela in April 2000. The applicants, her family, alleged that her disappearance was linked to her work on women’s rights at San Carlos University where she was both a lecturer and attended human rights classes. They also alleged a link between the disappearance and a report the victim was working on regarding illegal adoptions. Other lecturers and students associated with San Carlos University were killed within the same month that the victim disappeared. The IACHR held that Guatemala had violated the rights to fair trial and judicial protection under the American Convention on Human Rights and the obligation to punish those who commit the crime of forced disappearance under the IACFDP. Additionally, the IACHR held that the State violated the rights to life, humane treatment, and equal protection under the American Convention on Human Rights. See IACHR, Admissibility and Merits Report No. 13/15, Case 12.349, Gutiérrez Hernández (Guatemala), 23 March 2015.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hold a hearing on Colombia’s actions to protect the life and personal integrity of the wives and companion of deceased victims in the Rochela Massacre case. The IACtHR previously issued provisional measures in November 2009 after the relatives of the deceased were subject to harassment and threats. The IACtHR decided the Rochela Massacre case on the merits in May 2007 in which the applicants alleged that a paramilitary group massacred 15 Colombian judicial officers who were investigating human rights violations. The IACtHR held that Colombia had violated the right to life, to humane treatment, and to personal liberty. See I/A Court H.R., Case of “the Rochela Massacre”v. Colombia. Merits, Reparations, and Costs. Judgment of 11 May 2007. Series C No. 163.
In Valencia Hinojosa v. Ecuador, the applicants allege that Luis Jorge Valencia Hinojosa, a police officer, was killed by another police agent who declared that the victim took his own life. The applicants alleged that the court unreasonably delayed the subsequent criminal proceedings; that the police courts, which conducted the criminal trial, were not independent and impartial; and that the authorities failed to conduct a serious investigation into the incident. The Inter-American Commission held that Ecuador had violated the rights to life, humane treatment, fair trial, and juridical protection. See IACHR, Merits Report No. XX/14, Case 11.442, Valencia Hinojosa (Ecuador), October 2014.
For more information on the agenda of the session, including details of the cases and panels under discussion, visit the 55th Special Session webpage.
Human Rights Council Advisory Committee 17th Session
The UN Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will hold its 17th Session from August 8 to 12 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the programme of work, the Advisory Committee will consider requests for information directed to it through Human Rights Council resolutions. The requests cover several human rights related topics, including regional arrangements on human rights, activities of vulture funds and their impact on human rights, non-repatriation of illicit funds, unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights, and elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy. Although not on the programme of work for this session, the agenda indicates that the Human Rights Council has also requested the Committee to consider the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order, the integration of the perspective of persons with disabilities, and the integration of a gender perspective.
For more information on the session, visit the 17th Session webpage.
Special Procedures Country Visits
Two UN special procedure mandate holders will be making country visits in August. The Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights will visit China from August 8 to August 12. The Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises will visit Mexico from August 26 to September 7. During their country visits, the experts will assess the general human rights situation and the specific issues that arise under their mandates. They will meet with State authorities and civil society. At the end of their visit, they will meet with the press to discuss their visit and will later issue findings and recommendations. See OHCHR, Country visits and Special Procedures.
For more information on UN Treaty Bodies, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the Human Rights Council and its Special Procedures, or for upcoming sessions and hearings, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.