January 2020: UPR Working Group and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Human Rights Council UPR Working Group
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

In January, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through country visits and the review of individual complaints. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Five UN special procedures will conduct country visits in January. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be holding public sessions.

The UPR session may be watched via UN Web TV, and the public hearings of the IACtHR and the ECtHR may be watched via the IACtHR’s website or Vimeo page and the ECtHR’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group

The Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group will hold its 35th Session from January 20 to January 31, 2020, in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its tentative timetable, the Working Group will hold interactive dialogues with Kyrgyzstan, Guinea, Spain, Kenya, Guinea-Bissau, Kiribati, Lao, Lesotho, Armenia, Sweden, Turkey, Guyana, Grenada, and Kuwait regarding their obligations under UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights instruments to which the State is party, the State’s voluntary pledges and commitments, and applicable international humanitarian law.

During the session, a group of three Human Rights Council Member States (or troika) will facilitate the review of each country. Representatives from the country being reviewed will give an oral presentation, which is followed by an interactive dialogue with UN Member States. The States make recommendations and comments, which the troika summarizes in a report, and the reviewed country can accept or reject the recommendations and comments. A final outcome report will then be adopted, and the country will report on its implementation of the recommendations during the following UPR cycle.

Nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) wishing to submit written information for the report must follow the OHCHR technical guidelines for stakeholders submissions for the 3rd cycle. For more information about past, present, and future UPR sessions, including timetables and lists of troikas, visit the UPR sessions webpage or visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Special Procedures

Five independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures,” have country visits scheduled in January.

The UN Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery, including its causes and consequences agreed to visit Qatar from January 13 to January 20, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food agreed to visit Italy from January 20 to January 31, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders agreed to visit Peru from January 21 to February 3, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights agreed to visit Spain from January 27 to February 7, 2020.

The UN Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights agreed to visit Mauritius from January 27 to February 6, 2020.

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

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold its 133rd Regular Session from January 27 to February 7, 2020, in San José, Costa Rica. During its sessions, the IACtHR typically holds public hearings on the merits of individual complaints and deliberates on contentious cases alleging human rights violations. For more information about the IACtHR, 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 311th Session from January 27 to January 31, 2020, 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 employment, training, and equal opportunities from the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic throughout the 2020 calendar year. The ECSR will consider simplified reports on the same topic from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Finland throughout the 2020 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 will hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case X and Others v. Bulgaria (no. 22457/16) on January 15, 2020. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings. This case concerns sexual abuse allegedly perpetrated against three children at a Bulgarian orphanage. The applicants, the three children who were adopted in 2012 and are now living in Italy, allege violations of their rights to be free from torture and inhuman or degrading treatment (Article 3), fair trial (Article 6), respect for private and family life (Article 8), and to an effective remedy (Article 13) under the European Convention on Human Rights. [ECtHR Press Release] They submitted an application to the European Court on April 16, 2016 following an investigation and determination by the office of the public prosecutor in Bulgaria that the evidence did not support the sexual abuse allegations. [ECtHR Press Release] In a Chamber judgment, issued on January 17, 2019, the ECtHR found that there had been no violations of articles 3 or 8 of the Convention given that the Bulgarian authorities had taken steps to investigate and remedy the situation as soon as they were notified, and that Bulgaria had adopted a number of measures to guarantee children’s safety in the orphanage. [ECtHR Press Release] The applicants requested a review of the case by the Grand Chamber, and a Grand Chamber Panel accepted the applicants’ request on June 24, 2019. [ECtHR Press Release]

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