October 2016: UN Treaty Bodies, UPR, Regional Bodies in Session
During the month of October 2016, numerous universal and regional human rights bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations, visit countries, and hold hearings on individual complaints. Five UN treaty bodies meeting this month will engage in dialogues with States regarding their implementation of treaty obligations related to civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; the rights of children; the rights of women; and enforced disappearances. The UN Human Rights Council will host a Universal Periodic Review Working Group session along with its annual Social Forum, a space reserved for progressive communication among various actors in the international sphere. Five UN special procedures will carry out country visits and a sixth will hold a session in Geneva, where two Human Rights Council working groups, on racism and transnational corporations, will also meet this month.
At the regional level, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child will each hold sessions and examine State compliance with regional human rights standards. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to a fair trial, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold both a special session and a regular session and will hear three cases, and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will hold a regular session. The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court hearings may be watched on their website, Inter-American Court proceedings may be viewed via Vimeo, and the recordings of AfCHPR’s hearings will be available on youtube. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Human Rights Committee 118th Session
The Human Rights Committee, a body of independent experts charged with monitoring States parties’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), will hold its 118th Session from October 17 to November 4 in Geneva, Switzerland. The session will include the adoption of a report by the working group on individual communications, the consideration of States’ reports, and follow up on its concluding observations. The session will also include meetings among the representatives of various United Nations bodies, specialized agencies, national human rights institutions, and non-governmental organizations. In its programme of work, the Committee has set aside time to discuss its pending General Comment on the right to life under Article 6 of the ICCPR, which was the subject of a general discussion in July 2015.
According to the agenda, the Committee will hold interactive dialogues with Slovakia, Poland, Republic of Moldova, Jamaica, Colombia, Azerbaijan, and Morocco to review their implementation of the ICCPR. Non-governmental organizations and national human rights institutions will brief the Committee on the States under consideration in a closed session. The sessions involving the examination of the States’ reports, however, are public. In a closed meeting, the Committee will also adopt concluding observations that state the positive developments and areas of work for each State party under consideration. The concluding observations will be published to the Committee’s website later.
Additionally, according to the programme of work and the NGO Information Note, task forces on the Committee will consider and adopt lists of issues on Honduras, Liechtenstein, Madagascar, Mongolia, and Pakistan. Each State should respond to the lists of issues in reporting to the Committee ahead of its interactive dialogue. The Committee will adopt lists of issues prior to reporting for Paraguay and Togo. Both States will submit their replies, which will be considered by the Committee as their State reports under the simplified reporting procedure.
Finally, the Human Rights Committee will also consider two individual complaints, against Kyrgyzstan and Russia.
According to the NGO Information Note, representatives of NGOs who want to attend the session may do so after registering for accreditation at CSO-Net by October 3, 2016. For more information and to view session materials, including States’ reports and replies to the lists of issues, as well as information submitted by civil society, visit the 118th Session webpage.
Committee on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights: 59th Pre-Sessional Working Group and 59th Session Continues
59th Pre-Sessional Working Group
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) will hold its 59th Pre-Sessional Working group in Geneva, Switzerland from October 10 to 14 to adopt lists of issues for the upcoming review of States’ implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR).
Pre-sessional working groups meet six months before a State’s report is considered in an interactive dialogue with the full Committee. After hearing from a State, the pre-sessional working group issues a list of questions that the State is required to answer before it appears before the Committee. At this pre-sessional meeting, the working group will hear briefings and statements from Australia, Sri Lanka, the Netherlands, Pakistan, Uruguay, and Liechtenstein.
Non-governmental organizations may attend the session, but they must first submit a form for accreditation. For more information and to view session materials, including the programme of work, States’ reports and replies to the lists of issues, and information submitted by civil society, visit the 59th Pre-Sessional Working Group webpage.
59th Session Continues
The CESCR’s 59th Session began on September 19 and runs until October 7. The Committee is reviewing the implementation of the ICESCR in Costa Rica, Cyprus, the Dominican Republic, Lebanon, the Philippines, Poland, and Tunisia. The CESCR will hold an interactive dialogue with representatives of each State under review, on the basis of the State’s report and information submitted by civil society, with a view to preparing concluding observations on the progress and challenges in each country. Additionally, according to the agenda, the Committee will discuss matters under review by other treaty bodies that are related to the CESCR’s mandate and issues raised earlier at the meeting of the Chairs of all the UN treaty bodies.
Committee on the Rights of the Child 75th Pre-Sessional Working Group
From October 3 to 7, the Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will conduct its 75th Pre-Sessional Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland as part of its process to oversee States’ implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols.
After reviewing each report, the working group will draft a list of issues for the authoring State to reference as it updates its submission. Revised reports will be considered by the full Committee at its 74th Session in January 2017.
At this pre-session, the working group will consider State reports from Bhutan, Cameroon, Lebanon, Mongolia, and Romania. With respect to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, the working group will consider reports from Bhutan, the Russian Federation, and the United States. With respect to the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict, the working group will consider reports from Bhutan, Estonia, and the United States. After considering State reports, the Committee will issue concluding observations.
To view session documents, including each State’s submitted report(s) and information from civil society, visit the 75th Pre-Sessional Working Group webpage.
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 65th Session
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, a group of independent experts charged with monitoring the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), will hold its 65th Session in Geneva, Switzerland from October 24 to November 18.
At this session, the Committee will conduct interactive dialogues with Canada, Burundi, Bhutan, Belarus, Argentina, Switzerland, Honduras, Armenia, Bangladesh, Estonia, and the Netherlands on their implementation of CEDAW. The Committee will issue concluding observations after reviewing the State reports.
The Committee will also hold meetings with national human rights institutions and non-governmental organizations. According to the Committee’s instructions to NGOs, written submissions are due October 3, 2016, and registration must be completed by October 10, 2016 for NGOs to attend the session. NGOs may present information on a particular State to the Committee in a private session.
Committee on Enforced Disappearances 11th Session
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED), a body of independent experts that oversees the implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances, will hold its 11th Session from October 3 to 14 in Geneva, Switzerland.
At this session, the Committee will adopt lists of issues related to reports submitted by Cuba, Ecuador, and Senegal; discuss the rate of the Convention’s ratification; hold interactive dialogues concerning the State reports of Bosnia and Herzegovina and Colombia; consider requests for urgent action; and discuss the provisional agenda for its 12th Session, among other items. After considering the State reports and alternative reports from NGOs the Committee will then issue concluding observations on each State.
According to the Committee’s information to NGOs, civil society may attend the sessions as observers during the public sessions or as active participants in private sessions. To view the session’s complete agenda and programme of work, State reports, and information from civil society, visit the CED’s 11th Session webpage.
Human Rights Council: Universal Periodic Review 26th Session and Social Forum
Universal Periodic Review 26th Session
Universal Periodic Review (UPR), a peer review mechanism designed to assess and advance human rights in all UN Member States, will hold its 26th Session from October 31 to November 11.
The UPR Working Group of the Human Rights Council holds three sessions per year in Geneva, Switzerland. During the sessions, a group of three Human Rights Council Member States (or troika) facilitates the review of a country, with up to 14 countries subject to review at each session. Representatives from the country being reviewed give an oral presentation, which is followed by an interactive dialogue. The troika then provides its comments and recommendations, which the reviewed country can accept or reject. A final outcome report is then adopted and the country reports on its implementation of the recommendations during the following UPR cycle.
The States under review at the 26th Session are Togo, Syrian Arab Republic, Venezuela, Iceland, Zimbabwe, Lithuania, Uganda, Timor Leste, Republic of Moldova, Haiti, and South Sudan.
For more information about past, present, and future UPR sessions, including timetables and lists of troikas, visit the UPR Sessions webpage.
The Social Forum is an annual gathering held by the Human Rights Council. It is described as “a unique space for open and interactive dialogue between civil society actors, representatives of Member States, and intergovernmental organizations.” See OHCHR, The Social Forum of the Human Rights Council. Discussions are centered on an articulated theme, as selected by the Human Rights Council each year.
This year’s Social Forum will take place from October 3 to 5 in Geneva, Switzerland. The theme will be “the promotion and full and equal enjoyment of all human rights and fundamental freedoms by all persons with disabilities.” The theme was chosen in consideration of the tenth anniversary of the adoption of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD). See OHCHR, The Social Forum of the Human Rights Council.
UN Special Rapporteurs’ Country Visits
Five United Nations special rapporteurs will be making country visits in October. These special procedure mandate holders are authorized by the Human Rights Council to promote and monitor human rights progress across the globe on specific thematic issues.
The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights will visit Serbia from October 3 to 14. The Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders will visit Australia from October 4 to 18. The Special Rapporteur on minority issues will visit Sri Lanka from October 10 to 20. The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment will visit Madagascar from October 24 to 28. The Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes will visit the United Kingdom from October 31 to November 11.
During these country visits, experts assess the overall human rights situation in the country in addition to the specific institutional framework that addresses the corresponding thematic area. Oftentimes, they also meet with civil society, government, and national human rights institutions in that country. Findings are then published in reports to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and visits of Special Procedures.
To view the full list of forthcoming country visits, visit the OHCHR website.
Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice 17th Session
The Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination against Women in Law and Practice will hold its 17th Session from October 10 to 14 in Geneva. The Human Rights Council established this special procedure, consisting of five members, in 2010 to work toward the elimination of laws that discriminate against women. Another goal of the group is to create and maintain a dialogue with States and other actors, including civil society groups, about the discriminatory impact certain laws have on women. The group meets periodically and drafts annual reports for submission to the Human Rights Council in furtherance of these objectives. The working group also receives information on individual situations, although it does not issue opinions on those complaints; the group raises the issues with the State involved.
For more information about this working group, visit IJRC’s website.
Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action 14th Session
The Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action will hold its 14th Session from October 5 to 14 in Geneva. This working group was established to aid the implementation of the Declaration and Programme of Action of the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia, and Related Intolerance that was held in Durban, South Africa in 2001. The group will hear presentations and engage in discussions regarding the implementation of recommendations made at prior sessions. Non-governmental organizations with ECOSOC consultative status and NGOs that were accredited for the World Conference against Racism may observe public meetings during the session.
Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights 2nd Session
The Open-Ended Intergovernmental Working Group on Transnational Corporations and Other Business Enterprises with Respect to Human Rights will hold its 2nd Session from October 24 to 28 in Geneva. This working group was established by the Human Rights Council at its 26th Session in 2014 to regulate the activities of transnational corporations and other enterprises as such activities implicate international human rights law. Because this is a new group, its first two sessions have been reserved for discussions related its content, scope, and nature.
European Committee of Social Rights 288th Session
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold its 288th Session from October 17 to 21. The ECSR is tasked with reviewing States’ compliance with the European Social Charter, which was created to protect economic and social rights. During its sessions, the ECSR reviews collective complaints, examines national reports, and follows up on the Turin process, which aims to improve implementation of the Charter at the continental level. During this cycle, the ECSR is reviewing Member States’ implementation of the Charter provisions related to employment, training, and equal opportunities.
More information will be available on the ECSR’s sessions webpage, including the session agenda and synopsis.
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights 59th Ordinary Session
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) will meet in Banjul, Gambia for its 59th Ordinary Session from October 21 to November 4. See ACHPR, 59th Ordinary Session: 21 October – 4 November 2016.
The ACHPR will host a human rights dialogue focused on the theme of the year, the rights of women. Each of the ACHPR’s thematic special rapporteurs, working groups, and committees will have time during the session to present progress and challenges in their area of work with a focus on women. The Commission will review the periodic reports of Mauritius and Côte d’Ivoire on their implementation of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, providing time for both the State and the rapporteur for the State to present. The ACHPR will also discuss cooperation with national human rights institutions (NHRIs) and civil society.
Civil society organizations with observer status may attend the ACHPR’s sessions, although according to the invitation issued by the ACHPR, civil society looking to attend this session should have submitted a registration form by the 21st of September 2016. More details can be found in the session’s agenda.
Sessions of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child will overlap with the ACHPR’s session so that the three bodies may conduct a joint opening ceremony to celebrate the African Year of Human Rights with Particular Focus on the Rights of Women. See ACHPR, Information for Participants.
African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child 28th Ordinary Session
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child will hold its 28th Ordinary Session in Banjul, Gambia overlapping with the African Commission session.
The ACERWC considers State reports on compliance with the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child and issues concluding observations. The Committee also receives individual complaints on alleged violations of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child, and issues opinions.
Past sessions’ activity reports and other information on the Committee can be found on its website.
European Court of Human Rights: Grand Chamber to Hear Two Cases on Right to a Fair Trial
In October, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold Grand Chamber hearings in two cases concerning the right to a fair trial as guaranteed under Article 1(6) of the European Convention on Human Rights. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings. Both cases were accepted for referral to the Grand Chamber after having been previously decided by a chamber.
Károly Nagy v. Hungary
Károly Nagy v. Hungary concerns a Hungarian pastor who contends that he has been denied his right to a fair hearing solely because of his position as a pastor. In 2005, the Hungarian Reformed Church initiated disciplinary proceedings against Nagy due to a statement he made that appeared in a local newspaper. His service was subsequently terminated, and Nagy brought proceedings in both labor and civil courts. Both sets of proceedings were dismissed on jurisdictional grounds because, the courts held, Nagy’s service as a pastor rendered the respective courts’ relevant laws inapplicable to his case. [ECtHR Press Release]
The ECtHR held by a vote of four to three in its chamber judgment on December 1, 2015 that there had been no right to a fair trial violation under the European Convention because, although the Hungarian Supreme Court dismissed Nagy’s case, upholding the lower courts’ finding that they lacked jurisdiction, its analysis required a full examination of and decision on Nagy’s legal claims, constituting, the Chamber found, a merits hearing. As such, according to the Chamber, he was not denied a fair hearing. [ECtHR Press Release]
The Grand Chamber will hear this case on October 12.
Regner v. Czech Republic
Regner v. Czech Republic concerns the case of Václav Regner, a Czech nation and former deputy to the Vice-Minister of Defense. The National Security Authority revoked his security clearance on the grounds that he posed a risk to national security, but Regner did not have access to the classified documents that contained the reasons for the decision when he sought judicial review. The court dismissed Regner’s case and refused to provide him with the documents. In a series of appeals, Regner complained that his right to a fair trial was violated because the courts repeatedly denied him access to “restricted” material that was nevertheless provided directly to the courts by the National Security Authority. Before the chamber of the ECtHR, Regner alleged that the Czech Republic violated his right to fair trial by denying him access to important evidence. [ECHR Press Release]
The ECtHR unanimously held in its chamber judgment on November 26, 2015 that there had been no violation of the European Convention because the hearings had, to the extent possible, followed the necessary procedure for a fair trial and adequately protected Regner’s interests. [ECtHR Press Release]
The Grand Chamber will hear this case on October 19.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights: 56th Special Session and 115th Regular Session
56th Special Session
The 56th Special Session of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will take place in Ecuador from October 10 to 14. The Court is scheduled to hold public hearings on three individual cases and conduct two seminars.
The cases to be heard address the due diligence required when investigating the death of a human rights defender, the right to a fair trial, and extrajudicial killings. In Acosta et al. v. Nicaragua the IACHR held Nicaragua violated the rights to humane treatment, fair trial, and judicial protection because the State failed to diligently investigate the murder of the husband of a human rights defender and to provide an effective method of appealing the acquittal of the alleged perpetrators. The Commission took the case to the Court in July 2015. [IACHR Press Release: Nicaragua] In Dismissed Employees (Petroperú, MEF, and Enapu) v. Peru the IACHR held Peru violated the rights to fair trial and to judicial protection because the complainants were collectively laid off from their jobs without an effective mechanism to challenge their dismissal. The IACHR took the case to the IACtHR in August 2015. [IACHR Press Release: Peru] In Cosme Rosa Genoveva, Evandro de Oliveira et al. (Favela Nova Brasília) v. Brazil (in Portuguese) the IACHR held that Brazil violated the rights to life and humane treatment when the police executed 26 people and also subjected three of them to sexual violence and inhumane treatment during police raids in Nova Brasilia in 1994 and 1995. The IACHR took the case to the IACtHR in May 2015. [IACHR Press Release: Brazil]
The Court’s seminars will cover the jurisprudence of the Court and its impact on Latin America. The seminars are scheduled to take place on October 14, 2016. See IACtHR, Seminarios Internacionales (in Spanish).
For more information about the session’s agenda, visit the Court’s 56th Special Session webpage.
115th Regular Session
According to the Court’s list of session dates, its 115th Regular Session will run from October 17 to 21.
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 43rd Ordinary Session
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights will hold its 43rd Ordinary Session from October 31, 2016 to November 18, 2016. During its sessions, the African Court holds hearings on the admissibility and merits of pending complaints. The African Court considers individual complaints alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and any other international human rights treaty. Only individuals alleging violations committed by eight States may submit a complaint directly to the Court. The Court, though, has jurisdiction to hear complaints against 30 States, but for the other 22 States, it may only hear complaints against those States when the African Commission, another State party, or an African intergovernmental organization has brought the case to the Court. For more information on the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
For more information on UN treaty bodies, the European Court of Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the European Committee on Social Rights, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women, Universal Periodic Review, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the UN special procedures, or for upcoming sessions and hearings, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.