The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) announced new charges on September 16, 2019 against Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to his alleged involvement in the 2004 and 2005 attacks targeting Lebanese politicians Marwan Mohammed Hamade, Georges Anis Hawi, and Elias Miche El-Murr. [STL Press Release] The new charges are separate from the pending charges against Ayyash, and three other defendants, in connection with the February 14, 2005 attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. [STL Press Release] While Ayyash’s whereabouts are unknown, the Pre-Trial Judge issued both domestic and international warrants to be executed by Lebanese authorities and INTERPOL, respectively, for his arrest and handover to the STL. [STL Press Release] The STL is the first internationalized criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes of terrorism. See STL, Ayyash Case Information Sheet, March 2019. Since opening its doors in 2009, the tribunal has yet to issue any judgments in its pending cases, and none of the defendants are in its custody. [Washington Post; UN Press Release: STL]
Author Archives: IJRC
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is calling on State and non-State actors, including civil society, to provide input on the most recent draft of its revised Rules of Procedure. [ACHPR Press Release] The Revised Clean Draft for Public Consultation (Draft Rules), currently available in English, French, Portuguese, and Arabic, was adopted by the ACHPR at its 25th Extraordinary Session, which was held from February 19 to March 5, 2019, and will replace the standing Rules of Procedure that have been in effect since May 2010. [ACHPR Press Release] The Draft Rules modify some of the formal deadlines and other requirements that govern the ACHPR’s work, including its processing of complaints and internal procedures; outline expectations for its interaction with other stakeholders; and help define the scope of the ACHPR’s authority.
All inputs and contributions are due by September 27, 2019, and should be sent via email to the ACHPR Secretariat at email@example.com. [ACHPR Press Release] In an effort to facilitate civil society participation in the revision process, this post highlights some of the most notable changes to the 2010 Rules of Procedure.
The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) issued its first decision against the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding that rape and other acts of sexual violence constitute torture under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention), and ordering the State to pay “fair and adequate compensation” and provide free medical and psychological care to the victim. See Committee Against Torture, Mrs. A v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Communication No. 854/2017, Views of 22 August 2019, UN Doc. CAT/C/67/D/854/2017. This decision, which concerns the rape of a Bosnian woman in the early 1990s during the Bosnian war, is the first CAT decision to examine a State’s responsibilities with respect to sexual violence committed during a period of internal armed conflict. [Trial International] In deciding Mrs. A’s complaint, the Committee applied the standards set out in earlier general comments and concluding observations, and clarified that States must ensure redress – including compensation – for victims of torture, regardless of an individual perpetrator’s ability to pay or statutes of limitation on such claims. See Mrs. A v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Views of 22 August 2019, paras. 7.5-9.
In September, universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports and country visits. Three United Nations treaty bodies and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the rights of persons with disabilities, children, and migrant workers. The Human Rights Council will consider the overall human rights situations in 14 countries. Nine UN special procedures will conduct country visits in September. Additionally, the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances will hold a session in Geneva, Switzerland. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold three Grand Chamber hearings.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the AfCHPR, IACtHR, IACHR, and ECtHR may be viewed via the AfCHPR’s YouTube page, the IACtHR’s Vimeo page, the IACHR’s YouTube page, 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
Three of the 10 UN human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Pre-sessional Working Group, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families will meet this month to review certain States parties’ implementation of their treaty obligations. 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 on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities
The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will continue its 22nd Session in Geneva, Switzerland. The session started on August 26 and will end on September 20, 2019. Based on its tentative programme of work, the CRPD held interactive dialogues with Albania, Ecuador, and Myanmar in August to assess their implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In September, the CRPD will hold interactive dialogues with Australia, El Salvador, Greece, India, Iraq, and Kuwait. Additionally, the CRPD will consider list of issues prior to reporting for Canada and Ukraine to address in its simplified reporting procedure.
Civil society members who would like to attend the CRPD’s session must register through the Indico system before September 20, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRPD’s 22nd Session webpage. For more information on the CRPD, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Following the CRPD’s 22nd Session, the CRPD will hold its 12th Pre-sessional Working Group from September 23 to September 27, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Working Group will begin its review of State reports from Djibouti, France, Japan, Lao, Mexico, Singapore, Switzerland, and Venezuela to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, the Working Group will consider list of issues prior to reporting from Mauritius and Slovakia. Civil society members who would like to participate in the Committee’s pre-sessional working group must register through the Indico system before September 26, 2019.
Committee on the Rights of the Child
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will hold its 82nd Session from September 9 to September 27, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The tentative programme of work for the session indicates that the CRC will conduct interactive dialogues with Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mozambique, Portugal, and the Republic of Korea to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CRC will also consider the State report of Georgia for its compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and review Georgia’s and Panama’s State reports to assess their compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
Civil society members wishing to attend the CRC’s session must register through the Indico system before September 27, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRC’s 82nd Session webpage. For more information on the CRC, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families
The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW) will hold its 31st Session from September 2 to September 11, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The provisional agenda for the session indicates that the CMW will conduct interactive dialogues with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Colombia to assess their compliance with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The CMW will also consider and adopt list of issues for Belize and Burkina Faso ahead of those States’ interactive dialogue.
According to the information note for civil society organizations and NHRIs, individuals interested in attending the session must register through the Indico system by September 11, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CMW’s 31st Session webpage. For more information on the CMW, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Human Rights Council
The Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental deliberative body, will hold its 42nd Session from September 9 to 27, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the session agenda, the Human Rights Council will review reports from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary General, outcome reports from the Universal Periodic Review Working Group on specific States, and reports from UN special procedures mandate holders. The list of reports is available on the session’s webpage.
The Human Rights Council will convene several panel discussions on topics including the rights of indigenous peoples, unilateral coercive measures and human rights, and the integration of a gender perspective in the Human Rights Council’s work and the work of its various mechanisms.
NGOs in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions as observers, as described on the Council’s webpage on NGO participation. Relevant documents and further information regarding the issues that will be covered at the session, including submissions from civil society and the Council’s agenda, is available on the Human Rights Council’s 42nd Session webpage. For more information about the Human Rights Council, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Various independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures,” have country visits or sessions scheduled in September. Nine special rapporteurs will carry out country visits and one working group will hold a session this month.
The 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 will visit Mongolia from September 2 to September 11, 2019.
The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment will visit Norway from September 12 to September 23, 2019.
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 visit Nigeria from September 13 to September 23, 2019.
The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism will visit South Africa from September 16 to September 26, 2019.
The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights will visit Tuvalu from September 16 to September 27, 2019.
The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health will visit Ecuador from September 17 to September 26, 2019.
The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association will visit Zimbabwe from September 17 to September 27, 2019.
The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers will visit Uzbekistan from September 19 to September 26, 2019.
The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina from September 24 to October 1, 2019.
The Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances will hold its 119th Session from September 16 to September 20, 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.
African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will continue its 54th Ordinary Session, which began on August 29 and will end on September 2, 2019, in Arusha, Tanzania. During its sessions, the AfCHPR typically holds hearings on the admissibility and merits of pending complaints alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. During this session, the AfCHRP will also discuss the First International Court Forum on Human Rights, taking place from November 4 to 5, 2019 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and the Fourth African Judicial Dialogue, taking place from October 30 to November 1, 2019 in Kampala, Uganda. For more information on the AfCHPR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
European Committee of Social Rights
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold its 308th Session from September 9 to September 13, 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 ECtHR Grand Chamber will hold a hearing in the case Ukraine v. Russia (no. 20958/14) on September 11, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. This case is one of five inter-State applications pending before the ECtHR regarding events preceding and following from the Russian Federation’s assumption of control over the Crimean Peninsula and its exercise of control over separatist and armed groups in Eastern Ukraine. [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine; ECtHR Press Release: Adjourn] In this case, Ukraine alleges that Russia’s control over the region makes it responsible for the violation of numerous human rights listed in the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to respect for private life (Article 8), freedom of religion (Article 9), freedom of expression (Article 10), freedom of assembly and association (Article 11), right to an effective remedy (Article 13), and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine] Ukraine alleges that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea has resulted in the killings of military personnel and civilians both directly by Russian forces and through Russia’s support for violent separatist groups. The Government also alleges that Russia is responsible for the torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Ukrainians based on their ethnic origin. [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine]
The ECtHR will also hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case Selahattin Demirtaş v. Turkey (no. 2) (no. 14305/17) on September 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. This case concerns Selahattin Demirtaş, a Turkish parliamentary member who has been in pre-trial detention since 2016 on terrorism-related charges as a result of his work as a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a leftist, pro-Kurdish party. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] Demirtaş submitted a complaint before the ECtHR in February 2017, alleging that he was detained for expressing opinions criticizing Turkish political authorities in violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights), Article 10 (freedom of expression), and Article 34 (right of individual petition) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) to the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] A Chamber of the ECtHR issued a judgment on November 20, 2018, finding Turkey in violation of Article 5 given that domestic authorities could not justify the duration of Demirtaş’s detention and of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention given that Demirtaş could not fulfill his parliamentary duties while in pre-trial detention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] Additionally, the Chamber found that the fact that Demirtaş was detained during a referendum and presidential election limited his ability to participate freely in political debate, contrary to the “core concept of a democratic society” and in violation of Article 18 of the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] While the Court did not find that the State breached its obligations with respect to Article 34, the right of individual petition, the ECtHR found that the State had to take all necessary steps to end Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] The State and applicant requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber, and the Grand Chamber accepted the request on March 18, 2019. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey]
Finally, the ECtHR will hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case Muhammad and Muhammad v. Romania (no. 80982/12) on September 25, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. This case concerns the removal of two Pakistani nationals from Romania. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania] The applicants were studying in Romania in 2012 when Romanian intelligence services notified them that they “pos[ed] a potential threat to national security” and a domestic court ruled them “undesirable” in Romania. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania] The applicants submitted a complaint before the ECtHR in December 2012, alleging that Romania violated Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 (procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania] A ECtHR Chamber relinquished its jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber on February 26, 2019, and the Grand Chamber accepted the request. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania]
For more information on the ECtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Inter-American Court of Human Rights
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will continue its 62nd Special Session, which started on August 26 and will conclude on September 6, 2019, in Colombia. 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 on the IACtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 173rd Period of Sessions from September 23 to October 2, 2019 in Washington D.C., United States. During the session, it will hold public hearings on a range of human rights concerns in the region, including in 17 countries. The schedule of hearings is available on the IACHR website. For more information on the IACHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has launched a report on internally displaced people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; it analyzes a years-long increase in internal migration due to violence and the forceful expulsion of Indigenous and farming communities, details the rights of internally displaced people, and provides human rights-based guidelines for essential policy reforms. See IACHR, Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America: Public Policy Guidelines (2018). Internally displaced people are those who are forced to flee their homes involuntarily due to armed conflict, violence, human rights violations, or natural or manmade disasters, and who remain in their country of origin or residence after fleeing their homes. See id. at para. 8. A previous IACHR report touched on forced displacement and forced migration in the three countries, known as the “Northern Triangle” of Central America, in the context of human mobility in the Americas. [IJRC] The new report includes a practical guide intended to make its main recommendations more accessible to civil society and individuals working on the promotion and protection of internally displaced people’s rights, as well as to government officials. The IACHR has stated its willingness to provide technical assistance to States and institutions in implementing its recommendations. See IACHR, Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America, para. 14.
Internal Displacement & State Obligations in the Northern Triangle
In the Northern Triangle, internal displacement has increased in recent years and is largely the result of gang violence or violence perpetuated by drug cartels. See id. at paras. 29, 42. The report finds that activities by State agents and large-scale business also contribute to internal displacement. See id. However, the IACHR highlights that internal displacement is a complex phenomenon that may be caused by multiple factors, including structural deficiencies that cannot be overlooked. See id. at para. 49. For example, the report points to the existing patriarchal system, high levels of corruption and impunity, States’ inability to ensure personal safety, weak government institutions, and social inequalities that limit access to economic and social rights, such as health, education, and housing. See id. at paras. 49-50.
Certain populations are at higher risk of internal displacement given their particular circumstances, including Indigenous and farming communities forcibly displaced by megaprojects and business activities, women, children and adolescents, human rights defenders, LGBTI people, and journalists, among others. See id. at paras. 29, 43, 54.
While internal displacement in the Northern Triangle continues to increase, the lack of accurate data makes it difficult to identify the full scope of the problem. See id. at paras. 57-59, 72. The report concludes that displacement in the region is often disregarded or minimized as a result of low-level reporting, often because of fear of reprisal or the high level of impunity in the States, and incomplete records or lack of official recognition of internal displacement in reported cases. See id. The IACHR Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons has called on States to “collect additional data […] and analysis to build a comprehensive picture of the internal displacement situation, identify trends, patterns, and risk profiles and understand the location, needs, protection concerns, and intentions of internally displaced persons.” See id. at para. 75.
Human Rights Violations & State Obligations
The IACHR analyzes internal displacement and its impact on the human rights of individuals and communities in three phases. See id. at paras. 55-56. First, it considers the human rights violations that predate and often cause the internal displacement, then the rights violations that occur during the displacement itself, and, finally, the rights violations that occur because of the State’s failure to provide adequate protections and solutions to the problem. See id. at para. 56. While forced displacement is considered a human rights violation in it of itself, the IACHR recognizes the multiple and continuous human rights violations that displacement entails, including but not limited to violations of the rights to an adequate standard of living, freedom of movement, humane treatment, private and family life, property, work, and identity. See id. at paras. 87, 92-93, 100.
As such, the IACHR clarifies that States have an obligation to prevent displacement; to provide protection and assistance during displacement, including humanitarian assistance to ensure an adequate standard of living; and to implement measures that facilitate return or local resettlement as a way to guarantee lasting solutions for internally displaced persons. See id. at paras. 99, 112, 125, 131.
Public Policy Guidelines
The report presents the core Inter-American standards, focusing on the scope of Article 22 (freedom of movement and residence) of the American Convention on Human Rights and drawing on United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. See id. at paras. 81-86. The IACHR then translates those standards into 12 policy recommendations aimed at assisting States in complying with their international obligations in this area. See id. at para. 142.
The proposed guidelines are included in the report as well as in the separate practical guide. See IACHR, Practical Guide: Guidelines for the formulation of public policies on internal displacement. The guidelines provide specific steps for States’ executive, legislative, and judicial branches with respect to creating public institutional frameworks capable of achieving effective solutions for the protection of internally displaced persons, adopting data-gathering measures that guarantee transparency and accountability, recognizing internal displacement as a human rights problem and implementing prevention measures to mitigate it, and recognizing and protecting the fundamental rights of the internally displaced. See id. at 9-17.
The guidelines also emphasize the need for a gender and diversity perspective when addressing internal displacement, noting specifically the historical discrimination impacting internally displaced women, girls, and LGBIT individuals, and also highlight the need for an approach that includes an intersectional intercultural perspective. See id. at 21-24. In line with the State obligations previously outlined, the guidelines include specific steps to facilitate humanitarian assistance and efforts to return, resettle, and reintegrate individuals into the local community. See id. at 27-29. Additionally, the guidelines call on States to guarantee access to justice and reparation, and to facilitate civil society and community participation in the process of formulating, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating policies related to internal displacement. See id. at 31-35. Finally, the guidelines include specific measures to guarantee a budget that sustains institutions and policies aimed at protecting internally displaced persons, and steps to expand regional and international cooperation. See id. at 36-37.
To learn more about the Inter-American human rights system, migrants’ rights, and asylum and refugee rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. For an overview of the Northern Triangle countries’ human rights obligations, view IJRC’s Country Factsheets. To stay up-to-date on international human rights news, visit IJRC’s News Room or subscribe to the IJRC Daily.
In a landmark decision, the United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Paraguay responsible for failing to protect individuals from severe environmental contamination by large-scale farms’ use of illegal chemicals, in violation of the State’s international obligations to protect the rights to life and respect for private and family life and the home. [OHCHR Press Release: Paraguay] While regional human rights bodies have recognized the link between pollution and enjoyment of human rights, this decision marks a first for the Human Right Committee, which oversees implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), to which 173 States are party. [OHCHR Press Release: Paraguay] Other relevant developments include a new partnership between the UN Environmental Programme and the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights seeking to strengthen global environmental protection efforts and increase protections for environmental activists. [NYTimes; OHCHR Press Release: UNEP]
On August 8, 2019, the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) presented a new general recommendation providing guidance to States in addressing “the high number of missing women and girls in some countries” of the Americas and the inadequacy of available data on this type of violence against women. [MESECVI Press Release] The document is the second-ever general recommendation issued by MESECVI, the body charged with overseeing implementation of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence Against Women, also known as the Belém do Pará Convention. See Inter-American Commission of Women, General Recommendation of the Committee of Experts of the MESECVI (No. 2): Missing Women and Girls in the Hemisphere, Doc. MESECVI/CEVI/doc.250/18, 5 December 2018. It adds to the Inter-American human rights doctrine on State obligations to prevent, punish, and redress disappearances of women and girls, and analyzes the connections between such disappearances and other types of violence against women, including femicides, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. See id. at 4.
Nuon Chea, a former high-ranking official in the Khmer Rouge, died on August 4, 2019 while serving a life sentence imposed by the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC). [ECCC Press Release: Chea; HRW] In 2014, the ECCC convicted Chea, also known as “Brother No. 2,” of orchestrating the forced removal of approximately two million people and directing the torture and killing of more than 14,000 people at a Cambodian detention center. [HRW] His death has prompted renewed scrutiny of the search for justice in Cambodia and the role of the ECCC, a United Nations-backed tribunal tasked with prosecuting senior Khmer Rouge leaders and other individuals “most responsible” for the atrocities carried out under the regime, from 1975 to 1979. [HRW] The ECCC has initiated four principal cases, involving 10 defendants, since it began operating in 2006; in that time, it has completed the trials of three defendants, all of whom were convicted and sentenced to life imprisonment. See ECCC, Key Events; ECCC, Introduction to the ECCC. Civil society and others have criticized the ECCC for being long overdue in convictions and for addressing only a fraction of Khmer Rouge’s crimes, resulting in impunity for many other senior Khmer Rouge leaders and current government officials. [HRW] The tribunal faces serious obstacles and pushback, in particular from uncooperative government members and Cambodian Prime Minister and former Khmer Rouge official, Hun Sen, who does not require government members to produce evidence. [HRW]
On July 16, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected a complaint by Nikolay Alekseyev, a well-known Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist, due to posts he made on his social media sites that the ECtHR considered “personally offensive and threatening.” See ECtHR, Zhdanov and Others v. Russia, nos. 12200/08 and 2 others, Judgment of 16 July 2019, para. 83. While the Court went on to find that Russia violated the remaining applicants’ rights to non-discrimination and freedom of association by refusing to register three organizations that advocate for LGBT rights, the Court did not reach the merits of Alekseyev’s complaint. Instead, it found his application inadmissible as “an abuse of the right of application,” pursuant to Article 35 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See id. at paras. 76-86. A majority of the judges agreed with Russia’s argument that Alekseyev abused the right to petition the European Court when he published social media posts describing the European Court’s judges in derogatory, sexist, and threatening terms in response to a previous ruling by the Court in a separate case. See id. In that case, the Court had denied him and others monetary compensation after finding Russia responsible for human rights violations in connection with authorities’ refusal to authorize public LGBT events. See id.
The European Court is not the only human rights oversight body whose rules allow it to reject human rights complaints because of the complainant’s offensive or abusive language, but such provisions and their application to speech made or published outside of the complaint proceeding raise concerns regarding due process, access to justice, and freedom of expression. Three judges on the ECtHR issued a dissenting opinion challenging the Court’s reasoning in dismissing Alekseyev’s application and warning that the precedent set in the Court’s judgment may impact individuals’ ability to access the Court in the future and infringe on their right to freedom of speech. See ECtHR, Case of Zhdanov and Others v. Russia, nos. 12200/08 and 2 others, Judgment of 16 July 2019 (joint partly dissenting opinion of Judges Keller, Serghides, and Elósegui).
In August, universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports and country visits. Three United Nations treaty bodies will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the prevention of torture, the elimination of racial discrimination, and the rights of persons with disabilities. Five UN special procedures will conduct country visits in August. Additionally, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention will hold a session in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold a special session this month.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the IACtHR may be viewed on the IACtHR’s Vimeo page. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.