December 2019: UN Treaty Bodies & Regional Bodies in Session

European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: ECSR

In December, universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports and country visits. Two United Nations treaty bodies will be in session to assess States’ progress regarding the prevention of torture and the elimination of racial discrimination. Seven UN special procedures will conduct country visits in December. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland. Of the regional bodies, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be in session.

The UN treaty body sessions, the AfCHPR public hearings, and the ECtHR’s Grand Chamber hearings, may be watched via UN Web TV, the African Court’s YouTube channel, and the ECtHR’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

Two of the 10 UN human rights treaty bodies will meet this month to review certain States parties’ implementation of their treaty obligations. They are the Committee against Torture and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination. Through the State reporting procedure, treaty bodies review States’ reports and responses to a specific list of issues, receive additional information from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs), engage in an interactive dialogue with each State’s representatives, and then adopt concluding observations detailing the progress and remaining challenges in the State’s implementation of the treaty. Through a simplified reporting procedure, treaty bodies may invite States to respond only to questions (list of issues) prepared by the treaty body, rather than submitting a comprehensive report and also responses to a subsequent list of issues.

Committee Against Torture

The Committee Against Torture (CAT) will continue its 68th Session, which began on November 11 and will end on December 6, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its programme of work, the CAT held interactive dialogues with Burkina Faso, Cyprus, Latvia, Niger, Portugal, and Uzbekistan in November to assess their implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The CAT will consider and adopt list of issues for Cuba, and consider list of issues prior to reporting for Armenia, Ecuador, Finland, Monaco, and Namibia to address in its simplified reporting procedure.

Civil society members who would like to attend the CAT’s session must register through the Indico system before December 6, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CAT’s 68th Session webpage. For more information on the CAT, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will continue to hold its 100th Session, which began on November 25 and will end on December 13, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its provisional agenda and proposed programme of work, the CERD held interactive dialogues with Cambodia and Colombia in November to assess their implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In December, the CERD will hold interactive dialogues with Ireland, Israel, and Uzbekistan to assess their implementation of the Convention.

To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CERD’s 100th Session webpage. For more information on the CERD, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Special Procedures

Various independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures,” have country visits or sessions scheduled in November. Seven special procedures will carry out country visits and two working groups will hold sessions this month.

The UN Independent Expert on the enjoyment of all human rights by older persons agreed to visit China from November 25 to December 3, 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health agreed to visit Fiji from November 28 to December 6, 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences agreed to visit Ecuador from November 29 to December 9, 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression agreed to visit Ethiopia from December 2 to December 9, 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the implications for human rights of the environmentally sound management and disposal of hazardous substances and wastes agreed to visit Brazil from December 2 to December 13, 2019.

The UN Working Group on arbitrary detention agreed to visit Greece from December 2 to December 13, 2019.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education agreed to visit Qatar from December 8 to December 16, 2019.

The UN Intergovernmental Working Group on the Effective Implementation of the Durban Declaration and Programme of Action will hold its 17th Session from December 16 to 20, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent will hold its 25th Session from December 9 to 13, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.

During their country visits, these special procedures mandate holders will assess both the overall human rights situation in the country and the 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 UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and other visits of Special Procedures. To view the full list of forthcoming country visits, review the Special Procedures’ Visits document and visit the OHCHR website. For more information on each special procedure, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Regional Bodies

African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will hold its 10th Extraordinary Session from December 2 to December 6, 2019, in Zanzibar, Tanzania. For more information on the AfCHPR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Committee of Social Rights

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) of the Council of Europe will hold its 310th Session from December 2 to 5, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. The agenda and the synopsis for this session will be published on the ECSR’s calendar at a later date. During its sessions, the ECSR reviews States’ reports on their implementation of the European Social Charter, considers collective complaints alleging violations of the Charter, and follows up on the Turin process to improve implementation of the Charter at the continental level. According to the ECSR’s calendar for national reporting, the ECSR will consider State reports concerning the rights of children, the family, and migrants from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Finland throughout the 2019 calendar year. The ECSR will consider simplified reports on the same topics from the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic throughout the 2019 calendar year. Simplified reports focus on areas of non-conformity identified in the Committee’s previous conclusions. For more information on the European Committee of Social Rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold two Grand Chamber hearings this month. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings.

The ECtHR will hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case Mugemangango v. Belgium (no. 310/15) on December 4, 2019, in Strasbourg, France. This case concerns the rights to free elections (Article 3 of Protocol No. 1) and to an effective remedy (Article 13) under the European Convention on Human Rights. [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium] The applicant, Germain Mugemangango, alleges that his complaint before the Walloon region parliament regarding irregularities in the Belgian electoral process was not “accompanied by the minimum procedural safeguards against arbitrariness.” [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium] Mugemangango, the Chairman of the Belgian Labour Party for the Hainaut province, was not elected to the Walloon parliament following a parliamentary election that he alleges consisted of several irregularities that should have rendered the results unreliable. [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium] Mugemangango requested that the Walloon parliament review ballots that were declared blank, invalid, or contested, and the parliament’s Credentials Committee agreed that parliament should hold a recount of those ballots. [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium] In June 2014, the Walloon parliament found the complaint admissible, but it considered that the complaint was unfounded, finding no evidence of irregularities in the vote count. [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium] Mugemangango submitted an application to the European Court on December 22, 2014. [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium] A ECtHR chamber relinquished its jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber on June 11, 2019, and the Grand Chamber accepted the request. [ECtHR Press Release: Belgium]

The ECtHR will also hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case Albert and Others v. Hungary (no. 5294/14) on December 18, 2019, in Strasbourg, France. This case concerns 241 shareholders in three Hungarian financial institutions (two banks and one saving cooperative) who allege that a piece of national legislation that entered into force in 2013 impacted their right to exercise influence as shareholders over the financial institutions’ conduct and policies. [ECtHR Press Release: Hungary] Specifically, the 241 applicants allege that the legislation, which made mandatory the integration of the financial institutions, violated their right to protection of property under Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 of the European Convention because the legislation granted the Integration Organization and/or Savings Bank, rather than the shareholders, the authority to amend memoranda of association, adopt annual reports, appoint board members, and determine share capital or dividend payments. [ECtHR Press Release: Hungary] A ECtHR chamber did not find a violation of Article 1, Protocol No. 1 (protection of property), concluding that the shareholders, who were not the sole owners because they did not hold 100 percent of the shares, could not claim to be victims. [ECtHR Press Release: Hungary] The ECtHR chamber did not find “exceptional circumstances to justify disregarding legal personality or the lifting of the corporate veil,” and stated that the banks should be the ones to pursue an application before the European Court on this matter. [ECtHR Press Release: Hungary] The applicants requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber, and the Grand Chamber panel accepted the request on June 24, 2019. [ECtHR Press Release: Hungary]

For more information on the ECtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

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