December 2016: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session
In the month of December, various universal and regional bodies will be in session. Three United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to torture, racial discrimination, and enforced disappearances. Seven UN special rapporteurs and one working group will conduct country visits, and three working groups will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to people of African descent, the use of mercenaries, and activities of private military and security companies. The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly continues in New York this month, as well.
Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR), will hold sessions or case hearings this month. The Inter-American Commission will conduct thematic hearings on a variety of topics including indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of extractive industries, among others, and the Inter-American Court will consider cases covering a variety of issues, including forced sterilization and fair trial guarantees.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the Inter-American Commission, Inter-American Court, and African Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the Inter-American Commission’s website, Vimeo, and YouTube, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Committee Against Torture: 59th Session Continues
The Committee against Torture and other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) will continue its 59th session in Geneva, Switzerland, which began November 7, and ends December 7 2016. According to the programme of work, the CAT by December 1 will have already held interactive dialogues with Armenia, Cabo Verde, Ecuador, Finland, Monaco, Namibia, Sri Lanka, and Turkmenistan regarding reports submitted by States parties on their implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, as well as information provided by civil society. Similarly, the CAT will have concluded private meetings with the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims, and the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT). The Committee will have adopted lists of issues for Australia, Côte d’Ivoire, Croatia, Montenegro, Sweden, Ukraine, and the United States of America for the purposes of those States’ next reporting cycles.
Additionally, according to the programme of work, in December the CAT will adopt concluding observations on the States’ reports; discuss a revised draft of the General Comment on Article 3 of the Convention; conduct private meetings with Interpol and with the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR); and consider individual complaints, reprisal allegations, and the Committee’s inquiries to States concerning allegations of systematic use of torture.
For more information on the session, including State reports, lists of issues, and information from civil society organizations, visit the 59th Session webpage.
Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination: 91st Session Continues
The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will continue its 91st session in Geneva, Switzerland, which began November 21, and ends December 9, 2016. According to the programme of work, CERD will have already conducted interactive dialogues with Argentina, Portugal, Togo, and Uruguay on their implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination; and consulted with civil society, national human rights institutions, and non-governmental organizations that provided information on States parties.
According to the programme of work, in December, CERD will conduct interactive dialogues with Turkmenistan, and Italy, regarding their implementation of the Convention. After considering their reports and information from civil society, the Committee will later issue concluding observations on each State, noting challenges and positive developments. According to the agenda, CERD will also consider individual communications and follow-up information from States on the Committee’s recommendations and observations; discuss follow-up activities to the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action adopted at the World Conference against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, and to the Durban Review Conference; and consider matters related to the universal periodic review procedure of the Human Rights Council.
Committee on Enforced Disappearances: First Conference of States Parties
The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) will host its first Conference of the States parties to the International Convention for the Protection of all from Enforced Disappearance in Geneva, Switzerland on December 19, 2016 at 10 AM. According to the provisional agenda, the CED is set to elect a Chair and other officers; adopt the rules of procedure for the conference; and discuss the implementation of Article 27 of the Convention, among other matters.
Additionally, according to the conference webpage, States parties must accredit their representatives, and the names of the representatives should be submitted to the Secretary General by one week prior to the conference.
To view conference documents, including on the functioning of the CED, visit the conference webpage.
UN Special Procedures
Various UN special procedures have activities scheduled for December. Seven special rapporteurs and one working group will carry out country visits this month, while two other working groups will hold private sessions in Geneva. During their country visits, these independent experts will assess both the overall human rights situation in the country and issues specific to their thematic focus. Experts also meet with civil society, government, and national human rights institutions when they visit a country. Their findings are published later in reports addressed to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and visits of Special Procedures.
The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health will visit Croatia between November 28 and December 8.
The Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and related intolerance will visit Australia between November 28 and December 5, and will also visit Fiji from December 7 to 12.
The Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment will visit Turkey between November 28 and December 2.
The Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children will visit the United States of America from December 5 to 16.
The Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations relating to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment will visit Uruguay from December 5-9.
The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context will conduct a joint visit with the Special Rapporteur on the human right to safe drinking water and sanitation in Portugal from December 5 to 13.
The Working Group on the Issue of Discrimination Against Women in Law and in Practice is scheduled to visit Kuwait from December 6 to 15, 2016.
The Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will continue to hold its 19th session in Geneva, Switzerland, which began November 28 and ends December 2, 2016. According to the Working Group’s sessions webpage, the 19th session is private.
The Working Group on the use of mercenaries as a means of violating human rights and impeding the exercise of the right of peoples to self-determination will continue to hold its 29th session in Geneva, Switzerland, which began November 28 and ends December 2, 2016.
Working Group on Regulatory Framework of Activities of Private Military and Security Companies: 5th Session
According to the OHCHR’s calendar of meetings and events for 2016, the open-ended intergovernmental Working Group on regulatory framework of activities of private military and security companies, will hold its 5th session, in Geneva, Switzerland, from December 12-16, 2016. According to the provisional agenda, the Working Group will elect the Chairperson-Rapporteur; conduct a plenary discussion in accordance with the agreed programme of work; and discuss the report of the session.
This Working Group is composed of States, rather than independent experts, and is not a “special procedure.” It is specifically tasked with elaborating a legally binding instrument on the regulation, monitoring, and oversight of the activities of private military and security companies. As an open-ended working group, all UN Member and Observer States, intergovernmental organizations, and NGOs with ECOSOC consultative status may attend the public meetings of the group. According to the session’s webpage, states, organizations, and NGOs wishing to accredit representatives for the 5th session, should submit a registration form and a signed request for accreditation prior to the session.
United Nations General Assembly: 71st Regular Session Continues
The UN General Assembly will continue to hold its 71st regular session, in New York, which began September 13 and ends December 12, 2016. The General Assembly has already conducted the election of 14 Member States to the Human Rights Council; elected individual members to the International Law Commission; and heard reports from various UN entities, including the Human Rights Council, special procedures mandate holders, and international criminal tribunals.
According to the programme of work, in December the General Assembly will continue to hear reports from the UN Secretary General on topics such as sport for development and peace and the law of the sea, among others; elect members to the Committee for Programme and Coordination, and the Organizational Committee of the Peacebuilding Commission; appoint the judges of the United Nations Dispute Tribunal; and appoint the Secretary General of the United Nations with the oath of office.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
159th Ordinary Period of Sessions
According to the schedule of public hearings, the IACHR will conduct public hearings during the mornings of December 1, 2, 5, 6, and 7. On December 1, the IACHR will conduct hearings on the situation of indigenous peoples and human rights defenders in Honduras; the situation of human rights defenders in Cuba; merits cases in Peru and Argentina; and the juvenile justice system in Argentina.
On December 2, the IAHCR will hold hearings on women’s rights and human rights policy in Peru; the freedom of expression in Paraguay, Ecuador, and Venezuela; the right to housing and the rights of those deprived with liberty in Venezuela; and human rights in the context of the mining project in Venezuela.
On December 5, the IACHR will conduct hearings on the peace process and gender perspectives in Colombia; penal and prison reform in Bolivia; justice operations in El Salvador; and trade union rights, indigenous peoples rights, and rights in the context of internal displacement and enforced disappearance in Mexico.
On December 6, the IACHR will conduct hearings on education and legislative reforms in Brazil; follow-up recommendations on the Carandiru Massacre case; the right to health and lack of medicine in the Americas; the right to health and the right to full reparation for victims of armed conflict in Guatemala; and the rights of human rights defenders and human rights related to statelessness in the Dominican Republic.
Finally, on December 7, the IACHR will conduct hearings on women’s mortality in the Americas; torture, institutional violence, and impunity in the Americas; the human rights situation in the context of the Trans-Pacific Partnership in the Americas; the human rights situation of migrants, women, children, and adolescents in Nicaragua; and the situation of political rights in Nicaragua.
The IACHR’s agenda includes these public hearings; meetings with civil society and representatives of Member States; and internal meetings on topics related to its quinquennial strategic plan, its annual report, and measures adopted to reduce the procedural backlog, among others. The deadline to request hearings and working meetings through the IACHR’s online system was October 10, 2016. [IACHR Press Release: Panama]
For more information on the 159th sessions, view the IACHR’s calendar.
160th Extraordinary Period of Sessions
The 160th Extraordinary Period of Sessions of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be held from December 9 to 10 at its headquarters in Washington, D.C. [IACHR Press Release: Extraordinary Period]
The 160th sessions will include a day of hearings on December 9 and a day of sessions on December 10. [IACHR Press Release: Extraordinary Period] According to the schedule of public hearings, on December 9 the IACHR will hold a hearing concerning the merits of a case involving the United States, and will hold thematic hearings focused on the rights of indigenous persons in the context of projects and extractive industries in the United States, the rights of asylum seekers in the United States, the rights of indigenous children in Canada, the right to the freedom of expression and antiterrorist legislation in Canada, and the situation of disappearances and murders of indigenous women and girls in Canada.
The IACHR requested all stakeholders to present requests for hearings on the United States or Canada that were either thematic in nature or related to cases at the merits stage because no working meetings on precautionary measures, petitions, or cases would be held during the 160th sessions. [IACHR Press Release: Extraordinary Period] The deadline to request hearings through the IACHR’s online system ended on October 31, 2016. [IACHR Press Release: Extraordinary Period]
For more information on the 160th sessions, view the IACHR’s calendar.
The IACHR is a regional body in the Americas that promotes and protects human rights violations in the Member States of the Organization of American States. The IACHR will generally hold thematic and contentious hearings twice a year. Individuals and NGOs may submit requests for thematic hearings and complaints on specific alleged human rights violations to the IACHR.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights: 116th Ordinary Period Sessions Continue
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will continue to hold its 116th Ordinary Period of Sessions, which began on November 21 and ends December 2, 2016, in San Jose, Costa Rica. According to the IACtHR, a public hearing will take place on December 2, focused on Ecuador’s compliance with its judgment in the case of Pueblo Indigena Kichwa de Sarayaku vs. Ecuador, specifically relating to the neutralization, deactivation, or withdrawal of explosives in Sarayaku; the consultation with the Sarayaku people on extracting resources in its territory; and the adoption of legislative, administrative, or other reforms to give effect to the right to consultation for indigenous and tribal communities. See IACtHR, Corte Interamericana Celebrará 116 Período Ordinario de Sesiones.
Additionally, the IACtHR will deliberate on the following cases: Case of Yarce and others v. Colombia; Gomez Murillo v. Costa Rica, Valencia Hinojosa and others v. Ecuador, Members of the Chichupac Village and Municipality of Rabinal v. Guatemala, I.V. v. Bolivia, and Andrade Salmón v. Bolivia, which cover the topics of forced displacement, prohibition of in vitro fertilization, use of force and the duty to investigate, massacres and forced disappearances in the context of armed conflict, forced sterilization, and denial of personal liberty due to a failure to respect fair trial guarantees, respectively. The IACtHR will also consider requests for interpretation of the sentences in the cases of Duque v. Colombia, Canales Huapaya v. Peru, Peasant Community of Santa Barbara v. Peru, Galindo Cardenas v. Peru, and Quispialaya Vilcapoma v. Peru, which address benefits for same-sex surviving partners, fair trial and judicial protections, forced disappearances, arbitrary detention and torture, and torture and judicial protection in the military, respectively.
The IACtHR is the judicial organ of the Inter-American human rights system that decides cases brought by Sates parties or the IACHR against Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS) that have specifically accepted the Court’s contentious jurisdiction. There are 20 OAS members that have opted into the IACtHR’s contentious jurisdiction, which are Argentina, Barbados, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Suriname, and Uruguay.
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights: 7th Extraordinary Session Continues
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will continue to hold its 7th Extraordinary Session, which began November 28 and ends December 2. During its sessions, the African Court holds hearings on the admissibility and merits of pending complaints alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and any other international human rights treaty
The AfCHPR is a regional human rights tribunal with advisory and contentious jurisdiction over the interpretation and application of the African Charter on Human and People’s Rights, also known as the Banjul Charter. The AfCHPR may hear cases on the merits referred by the ACHPR or another State party against any of the 30 States that have accepted the jurisdiction of the Court. The Court also has jurisdiction to hear cases instituted by individuals and non-governmental organizations with observer status before the African Commission, provided the relevant State has accepted such complaints; eight States have so accepted, which are Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d’Ivoire, Ghana, Malawi, Mali, Rwanda (although Rwanda has communicated its withdrawal from this jurisdiction), and Tanzania.
European Committee of Social Rights: 289th Session
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) is set to hold its 289th session in Strasbourg, France from December 5 to 9, 2016. The Committee will continue to examine the draft Conclusions for 2016 and XXI-1 (2016), concerning the European Social Charter rights related to employment, training, and equal opportunities. The Committee expects to adopt these conclusions, with the goal of publishing them early in 2017. See Council of Europe, 289th session of the European Committee of Social Rights.
Additionally, the Committee will examine several collective complaints, and the latest developments regarding the Turin Process. See Council of Europe, 289th session of the European Committee of Social Rights. According to the agenda, the Committee will review complaints relating to Belgium, Bulgaria Croatia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Finland, France, Greece, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Slovenia, and Sweden.
The European Committee of Social Rights is a regional human rights body that oversees the protection of certain economic and social rights in most of Europe. It is designed to complement the European Court of Human Rights, and it reviews States’ compliance with the European Social Charter.
For more information on UN treaty bodies, the Committee Against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Human Rights Council, UN special procedures, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, and the European Committee of Social Rights, or for upcoming sessions and hearings, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.