Author Archives: IJRC

Four Members Join African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

28th Extraordinary Session of the ACHPR
Credit: ACHPR

On June 29, during its virtual 28th Extraordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) swore in four new Commissioners who will begin six-year terms. They are: Marie Louise Abomo (Cameroon), Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga (Zambia), Ndiamé Gaye (Senegal), and Alexia Gertrude Amesbury (Seychelles). [ACHPR Press Release; ISHR] The Commissioners were appointed during the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (the Assembly) of the African Union (AU), which took place from February 9 to 10, 2020, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The gender balance of the ACHPR will remain the same, with six members who identify as female and five who identify as male. The new Commissioners join the continent’s human rights body at a time when some AU Member States are pushing back against human rights norms and regional oversight.

The new Commissioners will replace Soyata Maiga (Mali), Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen (Mauritius), Lucy Asuagbor (Cameroon), and Lawrence Murugu Mute (Kenya). Commissioner Asuagbor was first elected to a three-year term in 2009. Commissioners Maiga and Yeung were first elected to six-year terms in 2007. The Executive Council re-elected the three commissioners, and elected Commissioner Mute, to six-year terms in 2013. Commissioner Mute was among the 10 candidates presented to the AU Executive Council in December 2019, but was not reelected. The next expected elections will take place in 2021, when three Commissioners’ terms will expire.

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Human Rights Bodies: Schedule and Procedural Changes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic (July 2020)

First hearing of the ECtHR by videoconference
Credit: ECtHR via Twitter

Universal and regional human rights oversight bodies are beginning to hold virtual sessions, following postponements and cancellations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-March 2020, almost all human rights bodies started suspending their meetings and travel through at least June, with the United Nations treaty bodies postponing all in-person meetings through August 2020. Quarantine measures in many of the bodies’ host countries are further impacting the way staff and appointed experts can carry out their work. However, many human rights bodies have adopted measures that will enable them to continue some of their work remotely. On May 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights became the first human rights body to announce that it would hold a virtual period of sessions in July 2020. This month, several regional universal and regional human rights bodies will meet virtually, including the African Commission and Peoples’ Rights, which will swear in four new commissioners during its session.

As more information becomes available in the month of July, this post will be updated. For future or past monthly updates on human rights bodies’ schedule & procedural changes, see the IJRC monthly overviews. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

Overview

The UN has suspended most meetings and conferences in Geneva, limiting entrance to those who must be on UN premises for essential official business. See UNOG, Meeting and Events Calendar. The UN’s decision to close its headquarters to all but essential work and meetings, together with States’ decisions to recall diplomats, has suspended all non-essential activity at the UN headquarters through at least July 31. See UN Secretary General, Letter to staff on extension of telecommuting, 12 June 2020. Authorities in Switzerland and New York state have begun to ease certain restrictions, but both continue to maintain strict social distancing rules. As restrictions ease, the United Nations Office at Geneva (UNOG) has announced that it will gradually resume intergovernmental meetings at UN premises in Geneva, limiting the number of in-person meetings and complying strictly with social distancing rules.

United Nations human rights treaty bodies will not hold in-person sessions until the end of August 2020, at the earliest. See OHCHR, Information note on human rights treaty bodies summer sessions, 15 May 2020. Additionally, UN special procedure mandate holders have not scheduled country visits until August. The Universal Periodic Review Working Group’s upcoming sessions, including its May 2020 session, will be postponed several months. The UN Human Rights Council will hold some in-person meetings during its 44thSession, which is scheduled to take place from June 30 to July 20, 2020. The Council session will be a hybrid of in-person and virtual meetings that may be followed via UN Web TV.

Regionally, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) have scheduled virtual sessions and implemented measures to address COVID-19’s effect on their working methods. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has one virtual hearing scheduled for July and has also implemented a series of “exceptional measures.” [ECtHR Press Release] In the GambiaTanzaniaCosta RicaWashington, D.C., and France, authorities have also implemented varying restrictions regarding travel, events, and social distancing that will affect these bodies’ activities and staff. Neither the Association of Southeast Asian Nations Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) nor the Arab Human Rights Committee have announced changes to their schedules. However, the AICHR did hold its 31st Meeting virtually, from June 9 to June 10, 2020.

UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

On May 15, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced that the UN human rights treaty bodies will not hold any in-person sessions through at least August 2020. See OHCHR, Information note on human rights treaty bodies summer sessions, 15 May 2020. This means that six treaty bodies’ upcoming sessions will be postponed. They are the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, the Human Rights Committee, the Committee Against Torture, the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disability, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child. See id. The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights completed its February session, and its subsequent session is scheduled for September. The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families does not have a session scheduled until October, but it had already postponed or suspended activities planned for March 2020. The Committee on Enforced Disappearances was the first body to announce that it would hold a virtual session. It opened its virtual 18th Session on May 4.

During their sessions, treaty bodies review States’ reports and responses to a specific list of issues through the State reporting procedure, receive additional information from nongovernmental organizations and national human rights institutions, 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.

Committee on Enforced Disappearances 

The Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) opened its virtual 18th Session on May 4, 2020. During the session, which was originally scheduled to take place from March 30 to April 9, the Committee only adopted the session agenda and programme of work, and adopted lists of issues for Panama and Brazil ahead of their interactive dialogues. The 18th Session will stay open until the first day of the CED’s 19th Session to allow the CED to adopt additional documents. The 19th Session is scheduled to take place from September 7 to 25. During the 19th Session, the CED will hold interactive dialogues with Colombia, Iraq, Mongolia, and Switzerland to assess their compliance with the Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearances. It will also adopt list of issues for the Czech Republic, Greece, Mali, and Niger ahead of their interactive dialogues. For more information on the CED, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. 

Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) will hold its 76th Session virtually, from June 29 to July 9, according to its NGO information note. While the CEDAW Committee postponed its interactive dialogues with Bahrain, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Gabon, Kyrgyzstan, Maldives, Mongolia, and Panama to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women, civil society members may still submit written information to cedaw@ohchr.org.

Following the 76th Session, the CEDAW Committee Pre-sessional Working Group will hold its 78th Session virtually, from July 13 to 17. During its closed meeting, the Working Group will prepare list of issues for Bolivia, Indonesia, Peru, Russia, South Sudan, and Uzbekistan ahead of their interactive dialogues. The Working Group will also prepare lists of issues prior to reporting for Norway, Slovakia, and Slovenia to consider as part of its simplified reporting procedure. For more information on the CEDAW Committee, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee Against Torture 

The Committee Against Torture (CAT) will hold its 69th Session virtually, from July 13 to July 30. The 69th Session was originally scheduled to take place from April 20 to May 15, but was postponed due to COVID-19. During the 69th Session, the CAT had scheduled an interactive dialogue with Bolivia to assess its compliance with the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. The CAT was also going to consider list of issues prior to reporting for Afghanistan, Argentina, Bahrain, Ireland, Mali, Panama, Paraguay, and Korea as part of its simplified reporting procedure. As of June 29, the CAT has yet to announce its programme of work for the July session. The CAT interactive dialogues with Cuba, Iceland, Kenya, Montenegro, the United Arab Emirates, and Uruguay have been postponed until the CAT’s 72nd Session, which is currently scheduled for April or May 2021. For more information on the CAT, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. 

Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture 

The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) held the opening and closing meetings of its 41st Session virtually, as well as an informal meeting with States parties, from June 15 to June 19. The SPT session information is confidential, but the SPT publishes annual reports on its activities. Its sessions generally provide its 25 members—an independent group of experts—a chance to report on and discuss upcoming and recent activities related to specific States, regions, and thematic priorities.

The SPT had previously suspended its March visit to Argentina and postponed its planned missions to Bulgaria, Australia, and Nauru. [OHCHR Press Release: SPT] For more information on the SPT, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) has postponed its 23rd Session, which was scheduled to take place from March 9 to 27, until August 17 to September 4, 2020 (subject to confirmation). The CRPD will not hold interactive dialogues with States or adopt concluding observations during this session. The Committee has postponed all dialogues and the adoption of concluding observations to future sessions. According to its informative note, the CRPD is currently identifying the programme of work for the 23rdSession.

Following the CRPD’s 23rd Session, the CRPD Pre-sessional Working Group will hold hold its 14th Sessionvirtually from September 7 to 18, subject to confirmation. During its closed session, the Pre-Sessional Working Group will prepare list of issues for Andorra, Bahrain, Burkina Faso, Israel, Kazakhstan, Togo, and Zambia. It will also prepare list of issues prior to reporting for Chile and Qatar to consider as part of its simplified reporting procedure. According to the CRPD’s informative note, the deadline for written submissions is July 17. For more information on the CRPD, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination 

The Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) has postponed its 101st Session, which was scheduled to take place from April 20 to May 8, until August 4 to 28. The CERD had scheduled interactive dialogues with Denmark, Italy, Lebanon, the Netherlands, Singapore, and Switzerland to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In August, the CERD is scheduled to hold interactive dialogues with Bahrain, Belgium, Bolivia, France, Niger, and Thailand. For more information on the CERD, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) has postponed its 85th Session, which was scheduled to take place from May 11 to 29, until September 7 to 25. The CRC was scheduled to hold interactive dialogues with Afghanistan, Cambodia, Cyprus, the Czech Republic, Eswatini (Swaziland), and Tunisia to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. It will now hold interactive dialogues with these countries in September. Moreover, the CRC will hold a Pre-sessional Working Group session virtually, from June 29 to July 3. During the session, the it was scheduled to consider list of issues prior to reporting for Mauritius, New Zealand, and Sweden to address in its simplified reporting procedure. For more information on the CRC, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Human Rights Committee 

The Human Rights Committee has postponed activities planned for its 129th Session, which was scheduled to take place from June 29 to July 24, to the 130th Session and future sessions. The 130th Session is currently scheduled to take place from October 12 to November 6, 2020. During the 129th Session, the Human Rights Committee had scheduled interactive dialogues with Armenia, Cambodia, China (Hong Kong & Macau), Iraq, Panama, Qatar, and Russia to assess their compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). During the session, the Human Rights Committee was also going to consider list of issues prior to reporting for Burundi, Congo, Gabon, Guyana, Indonesia, and Iran as part of its simplified reporting procedure.

Previously, the Human Rights Committee suspended its March 2020 session with two weeks left on its agenda. The Committee did hold constructive dialogues with States, and later adopted concluding observations and pending list of issues remotely. [OHCHR Press Release: Concluding Observations] For more information on the Human Rights Committee, 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) has postponed its 32nd Session, which was scheduled to take place from March 30 to April 3. The CMW had scheduled interactive dialogues with Cabo Verde, Chile, Paraguay, and Rwanda to assess their compliance with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. During the session, the CMW was also going to consider and adopt list of issues for Syria ahead of its interactive dialogue, and consider list of issues prior to reporting for the Congo and Nigeria as part of its simplified reporting procedure. Its next session is scheduled to take place in October. For more information on the CMW, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. 

UN Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental deliberative body, will hold its 44th Session from June 30 to July 20 in Geneva, Switzerland. In-person attendance will be considerably restricted in order to comply with social distancing rules and prevent the spread of COVID-19. All participants are encouraged to follow Council meetings via UN Web TV and enter conference rooms only to take the floor.

State delegations not wishing to participate in person will be able to deliver their statements by prerecorded video-messages. Members of civil society organizations with ECOSOC status will also be able to participate in interactive dialogues and meetings. However, only one representative per organization will be allowed in a meeting room. The UNOG will issue a badge to organizations registered via the Indico system and to individual participants. Civil society members wishing to participate in person must register via the Indico system (even if they have permanent accreditation to UNOG) and will need to show both badges prior to entering a meeting room. No “official” side events will be held during the 44th Session (online or in-person). Any events happening on the sidelines of the session will be considered independent events and won’t be publicized in the Bulletin of Informal meetings by the Secretariat. For more information on attendance and participation, see an additional explainer by the HRC-net and the Human Rights Council’s Draft Information note for return to in-person meetings. The Draft Information note was last updated on June 25 and is subject to change. For the most recent version, visit the “Quick links” section of the NGO Participation in the Human Rights Council page.

According to the session agenda and the OHCHR press release, 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.

Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group

The Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group has postponed its 36th Session, which was scheduled to take place from May 4 to 15, until November 2 to 13, 2020 (the current date for its 37th Session). [OHCHR Press Release: UPR] According to its tentative timetable, the Working Group was scheduled to hold interactive dialogues with Belarus, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Panama, the Maldives, Andorra, Bulgaria, Honduras, the United States, the Marshall Islands, Croatia, Jamaica, and Libya 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.

The UPR Working Group’s 37th Session will be postponed until January 2021, the predicted date for the 38th Session, and all subsequent sessions will be postponed accordingly. [OHCHR Press Release: UPR] As a result, the last session of the 3rd UPR cycle will take place in January 2022. [OHCHR Press Release: UPR] For more information about past, present, and future UPR sessions, including timetables and lists of troikas (a group of three Human Rights Council Member States that facilitates the review of each country), visit the UPR sessions webpage or visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. 

Special Procedures

United Nations independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures,” have cancelled or postponed their scheduled country visits and sessions considering the COVID-19 pandemic. Five independent experts have scheduled country visits beginning in August, and only the UN Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances has held a virtual session.

The UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues agreed to visit Paraguay from August 3 to 14, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the negative impact of the unilateral coercive measures on the enjoyment of human rights agreed to visit Venezuela from August 3 to 14, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons agreed to visit Mexico from October 5 to 13, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment agreed to visit the Maldives from November 1 to 10, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers agreed to visit Lebanon from November 3 to 10, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health postponed the visit to New Zealand, originally scheduled for March 23 to April 3, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief postponed the visit to Malaysia, originally scheduled for March 26 to April 8, 2020.

The UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children postponed the visit to Mexico, originally scheduled for May 11 to May 19, 2020.

The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent postponed its 26th Session, which was scheduled to take place from March 30 to April 3, until November 30 to December 4, 2020, in Geneva, Switzerland.

During their country visits, special procedures mandate holders 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. For up-to-date information on 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 Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) will hold its 28th Extraordinary Session virtually, from June 29 to July 1, 2020. During the session, four new ACHPR Commissioners will be sworn in. They are, Marie Louise Abomo (Cameroon), Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga (Zambia), Ndiame Gaye (Senegal), and Alexia Gertrude Amesbury (Seychelles). The new Commissioners were elected during the 36th Ordinary Session of the Executive Council of the African Union and the African Union Assembly decided on their appointment at its 33rd Ordinary Session, as stated in decision Ex.CL. Dec/1225(XXXVI). The four outgoing Commissioners whose terms have ended are: Soyata Maiga (Mali), Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen (Mauritius), Lucy Asuagbor (Cameroon), and Lawrence Murugu Mute (Kenya). The Extraordinary Session will be live streamed on June 29 from 09:00am to 10:30am (GMT). Civil society members may register for the public sessions via Zoom.

The ACHPR will also hold its 66th Ordinary Session virtually, from July 3 to August 7, 2020. The public session, which will take place from July 13 to July 24, will be live-streamed via YouTube. Additionally, there will be an opportunity to participate in the public session (Zoom password: 125610) and in the ACHPR Closing Ceremony (Zoom password: 040960) on August 7, via Zoom. The 66th Ordinary Session was originally scheduled to take place from April 22 to May 12, 2020, but was postponed due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. [ACHPR Press Release: Session] The ACHPR has, so far, not announced any suspension of deadlines for parties to communications (complaints) pending before it. For more information on the ACHPR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights 

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) held its 57th Ordinary Session virtually from June 1 to 26, 2020. [AfCHPR Press Release: Virtual] During the session, the Court examined 16 applications and rendered 10 judgments.

Previously, the African Court suspended its 56th Ordinary Session a week before the session was scheduled to end. [AfCHPR Press Release: COVID19] The African Court held two hearings prior to the session ending, and was also scheduled to examine 20 applications and render six judgments before it suspended the session. [AfCHPR Press Release: 56th Session] It is unclear how the 56th Session’s suspension impacted its review of applications and judgments.

Moreover, since March, the Court has ordered non-essential staff to work from home and “key departments with limited staff to carry out their duties on shift-basis until further notice.” [AfCHPR Press Release: COVID19] These measures, aimed at “ensur[ing] staff safety and business continuity,” will continue until further notice. [AfCHPR Press Release: Virtual] On May 18, the Court also announced that it would suspend the computation of all time limits (with the exception of time limits related to Provisional Measures) until at least July 31. [AfCHPR Press Release: Suspension] For more information on the ACtHPR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Committee of Social Rights 

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) has scheduled its 314th Session from July 6 to 10, 2020. The 314th Session will likely be held virtually given that the ECSR previously held its 313th and 312th sessions virtually. [ECSR Press Release: 312 Session; ECSR Press Release: 313 Session] The Committee has announced that it will proceed with all of its “essential activities,” including its collective complaints procedure. [ECSR Press Release: Complaints]

As a result of the lockdown measures that have been adopted by most European States, the ECSR also suspended all deadlines for parties with pending collective complaints from March 25 to May 15, 2020. [ECSR Press Release: Deadlines] While the ECSR initially stated that it would extend the deadline-suspension period if the lockdown measures were not lifted or reduced by April 30, it has yet to provide an update regarding the deadline-suspension measures. [ECSR Press Release: Deadlines]

During its sessions, the ECSR generally 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 ECSR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has one Grand Chamber hearing scheduled for July. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings. The ECtHR will hold a Grand Chamber hearing via videoconference in the case Vavřička v. the Czech Republic (no. 47621/13) and five other applications (nos. 3867/14, 73094/14, 19306/15, 19298/15 and 43883/15) on July 1, 2020. The time of the hearing has not been published, but the hearing will be recorded and made available on the Court’s website on July 2. The Court has been closed to the public since March 16. [ECtHR Press Release]

The Court had previously cancelled all hearings scheduled for March and April, but has continued its “essential activities,” such as the review of priority cases. The Court has also implemented “exceptional measures” in response to the COVID-19 pandemic in line with decisions by France, where its seat is located, and the Council of Europe on this issue. [ECtHR Press Release] These measures include the suspension of the six-month time limit for submitting applications to the Court – a requirement under Article 35 of the European Convention on Human Rights – beginning on March 16; the suspension of the time limits allotted in proceedings that are currently pending before the Court, beginning on March 16; and the adoption of additional procedures, which the ECtHR has not elaborated on, to examine urgent requests for interim measures during this time. [ECtHR Press Release] All of the exceptional measures will be in place until June 15. [ECtHR Press Release: Extension] As of June 29, the ECtHR has not expressly extended the exceptional measures.

Moreover, on April 15, the European Court announced various measures that it will implement to ensure that its staff is protected “from contracting and potentially spreading COVID-19” during the Court’s confinement period described above. [ECtHR Press Release: Functioning] These measures defer activities that “cannot be carried out remotely and…are not critically urgent.” [ECtHR Press Release: Functioning] During this time, the Court will continue to issue single-judge decisions, but will not notify the applicant(s) of such decisions until normal activities resume; the Court will not notify respondent States until after the confinement period, unless the case is urgent; the ECtHR Grand Chamber, chambers, and committees will examine cases under a written procedure; and, only the Deputy Section Registrar (rather than the ECtHR Registrar) will sign decisions and judgments. Except for Grand Chamber and particularly urgent cases, the Court will continue to adopt judgments and decisions but will postpone their delivery until the end of the confinement period. [ECtHR Press Release: Functioning] For more information on the ECtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 176th Period of Sessions virtually, from July 6 to 10, 2020. [IACHR Press Release: Sessions] Hearing requests that have already been submitted will remain in consideration. [IACHR Press Release: Sessions]

While the IACHR will continue its “core functions” with respect to its petition and case system, precautionary measures, and monitoring activities, it has adopted a series of measures and procedural changes in response to the COVID-19 pandemic that will impact deadlines, schedules, and timeframes for its various working methods. [IACHR Press Release: Work System] For now, and subject to new COVID-19 developments, the staff of the IACHR Executive Secretariat will work remotely. [IACHR Press Release: Work System] The IACHR will continue to process precautionary measures as usual, but it will not deactivate any precautionary measures in which the parties fail to provide updated information during this period. [IACHR Press Release: Work System]

Regarding its petition and case system, the IACHR has suspended upcoming deadlines for petitions, cases, and friendly settlements from March 19 to May 21, 2020 (it has yet to announce whether this period will be extended). There are some exceptions. The suspension period does not apply to the six-month rule for filing petitions under Article 46(b) of the American Convention, the timeframe that States must abide by under Article 51 of the Convention, and the time limit for States to respond to a new petition under Article 30(3) of the IACHR Rules of Procedure. [IACHR Press Release: Extension] The IACHR has stated that it will continue to communicate with parties regarding interrupted or extended deadlines, and has encouraged individuals to continue to submit information on petitions, cases, and precautionary measures via the online portal. [IACHR Press Release: Work System] To contact the IACHR directly, email: CIDHDenuncias@oas.org.

Moreover, the IACHR has created a Rapid and Integrated Response Coordination Unit for the COVID-19 pandemic (known as SACROI COVID-19, its Spanish acronym). [IACHR Press Release: SACROI] The SACROI is part of the IACHR’s strategy to monitor the impact of COVID-19 on the enjoyment of human rights in the region. [IACHR Press Release: SACROI] It is tasked with gathering evidence of COVID-19’s impact on human rights, monitoring State responses to the pandemic, identifying urgent cases within the petition and case system so that the IACHR can act in a timely manner, providing technical assistance for the development of State policies with a focus on human rights, following up on and monitoring recommendations, and conducting outreach and capacity building, among other tasks. [IACHR Press Release: SACROI] On April 10, 2020, the IACHR adopted a resolution on COVID-19 and Human Rights in the Americas, one of the main, initial results of the SACROI. For more information on the IACHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold its 135th Regular Session virtually, from June 1 to July 31. [IACtHR Press Release: Virtual] The session was originally scheduled to take place from April 13 to 24, 2020. [IACtHR Press Release: Session] The IACtHR announced on May 20 that it will resume the computation of all deadlines that are currently pending before it. [IACtHR Press Release: Resumes] It is the first human rights oversight body to resume the accounting of deadlines. Initially, the IACtHR suspended deadlines from March 17 to May 20, 2020. [IACtHR Press Release: Deadlines] For more information about the IACtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

ASEAN Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission 

The Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Human Rights Commission (AICHR) has not yet released any statement regarding changes to its planned activities. As of June 29, the AICHR calendar has a Special Meeting scheduled from July 30 to August 3 in Hanoi, Vietnam. The AICHR held its 31st Meeting virtually, from June 9 to June 10, so it is possible that the AICHR Special Meeting will also be held virtually.

ASEAN announced its gift shop and other spaces in its secretariat would be closed to the general public, but has not made any announcements regarding its own events or staffing. News reports indicate Indonesia has imposed quarantine requirements that may impact ASEAN and AICHR staff. [JakartaGlobe] Vietnam announced the cancellation of the ASEAN summit scheduled for early April, after imposing its own travel restrictions. [Reuters] This information is not reflected on the ASEAN website.

Arab Human Rights Committee

The Arab Human Rights Committee has also not made any official announcements regarding the coronavirus pandemic, although its chair – through the Committee’s Twitter feed – urged States to mitigate the social and economic impacts of measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19. On March 24, 2020, the League of Arab States announced restrictions on staff working in person at headquarters, specifically excluding female employees with children and employees with health conditions from entering the premises, which may impact the Committee’s work. Egypt has also imposed a curfew and other measures which may impact staff of these institutions. [Reuters] 

Additional Information

The International Justice Resource Center has put together a webpage compiling supranational human rights bodies’ guidance on States’ obligations to respect human rights in their COVID-19 mitigation efforts. See IJRC, COVID-19 Guidance from Supranational Human Rights Bodies. The webpage includes resolutions, press releases, and other statements from universal and regional bodies as well as their parent intergovernmental organizations, organized by issue area and by the body or organization that issued it. See id.

For more information on other suspended sessions or the various human rights monitoring bodies, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. To stay up-to-date on international human rights law news, visit IJRC’s News Room or subscribe to the IJRC Daily.

New Council of Europe Guidance on Rights of Trafficking Victims

Credit: GRETA via Council of Europe website

The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has published new guidance for States on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection. See Council of Europe GRETA, Guidance Note on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection, GRETA(2020)06, June 2020. In particular, GRETA’s new guide explains when trafficking victims are entitled to international protection in countries where they are not citizens or permanent residents, and identifies the kinds of services and treatment those countries must provide. [COE Press Release] Relying on various international and regional human rights instruments, including the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence, as well as the principle of non-refoulement, the guide is intended to assist Council of Europe (COE) Member States in meeting their obligations. The guide builds on the guidelines from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and elaborates on the scope of application of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. [COE Press Release]

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IACHR Launches Searchable Database of Recommendations, to Track Implementation

Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has launched an online database of recommendations it has issued to States in friendly settlement agreements, published merits reports, annual reports, country reports, and resolutions. [IACHR Press Release] The IACHR plans to soon add recommendations from thematic reports and precautionary measures, as well. The goals of the new system, known as the Inter-American SIMORE, are to facilitate State compliance and promote accountability and transparency, by improving access to information on the IACHR’s recommendations and their implementation. [IACHR Press Release] The Inter-American SIMORE is the IACHR’s first searchable database of its decisions and other outputs, and it is unique among human rights bodies in that it also serves as a channel for receiving information from many stakeholders on the status of (some) recommendations. States and civil society members may register on the platform to submit information on implementation, including regarding the IACHR’s most recent recommendation on the COVID-19 pandemic and human rights in the Americas. [IACHR Press Release] Currently, it contains 2,340 recommendations from 1999 to 2020. The interface, although not all documents, is available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

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IACHR Finds U.S. Responsible for Torture, Refoulement of Guantanamo Detainee

Guantánamo Roundtable
Credit: IACHR via Flickr

In its first decision concerning the “war on terror,” the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has found the United States responsible for violating the human rights of Djamel Ameziane, a former detainee at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 29/20, Case 12.865, Djamel Ameziane (United States), 22 April 2020. Ameziane is an Algerian national who was detained in Guantánamo without charge beginning in 2002, tortured, and later repatriated to Algeria in 2013. The IACHR’s decision on his 2008 complaint is its first published merits report of 2020. [CCR; CEJIL] The IACHR concluded that the U.S violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration) provisions on torture and inhumane treatment, religious freedom, due process and effective remedy. See Djamel Ameziane (United States), 22 April 2020, para. 5. In contravention of IACHR precautionary measures and despite its repeated calls for the U.S. to transfer the remaining detainees from the detention facility, Guantánamo Bay is still operating and the U.S. continues to prosecute detainees before military commissions (hybrid military and civilian courts) rather than in federal courts. See id. at para. 110.

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Protesters, Human Rights Bodies React to Racism, Police Violence in U.S.

Credit: UN Human Rights via Twitter

As protests spread across the United States and the world in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, human rights experts and civil society renewed their condemnation of racial discrimination and excessive use of force in the American criminal justice system. [The Guardian; UN News: Floyd; OHCHR Press Release: Floyd; IACHR Press Release] In the weeks that preceded George Floyd’s death, the names of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Sean Reed joined those of more than 1,000 others shot and killed by police in the past year, in addition to those such as Ahmaud Arbery who were killed by individuals purporting to carry out law enforcement functions. [Washington Post; Equal Justice Initiative; NYT: Sean Reed] Authorities in many American cities imposed extended curfews and dispersed protesters with police and military who often used tear gas and rubber bullets and targeted journalists. [Washington Post: Callamard; Forbes; NYT: Troops; CPJ] Regional and universal human rights monitors reiterated that the U.S. must take “serious action” to stop killings by police, avoid impunity for extrajudicial killings, address discrimination and inequality, protect the right to protest, and guarantee journalists’ freedom of expression. [OHCHR Press Release: Floyd; IACHR Press Release] Against the backdrop of a pandemic that is not yet under control and that has also disproportionately killed black Americans, pressure is mounting for radical reform grounded in human rights principles.

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Human Rights Bodies: Schedule & Procedural Changes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic (June 2020)


IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons participates in virtual panel on the “Recognition of Gender Identity in Latin America”
Credit: IACHR via Twitter

Universal and regional human rights oversight bodies have postponed or cancelled their upcoming sessions and suspended some procedural deadlines as a result of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, while striving to maintain other activities. Beginning in mid-March 2020, almost all human rights bodies have suspended their meetings and travel through at least June, with the United Nations treaty bodies postponing all in-person meetings through August 2020. Moreover, quarantine measures in many of the bodies’ host countries are further impacting the way staff and appointed experts can carry out their work. Many human rights bodies have adopted measures that will enable them to continue some of their work remotely and some have begun to hold virtual meetings. On May 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights became the first human rights body to announce that it would hold a virtual period of sessions in July 2020.

As more information becomes available in the month of June, this post will be updated. For future or past monthly updates on human rights bodies’ schedule & procedural changes, see the IJRC monthly overviews. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

*Last updated June 1, 2020

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Rwandan Genocide Suspect Félicien Kabuga Arrested, Leaving Six Fugitives

Félicien Kabuga arrested in Paris by French authorities
Credit: IRMCT Video via UN News Photo

French authorities have arrested Félicien Kabuga, long wanted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) for his alleged role in the 1994 genocide in Rwanda. [Guardian] Using his fortune and his radio station, Kabuga is accused of funding, logistically supporting, and inciting anti-Tutsi violence. [OHCHR Press Release; ACHPR Press Release] He was indicted by the ICTR in 1997 on genocide charges. [ACHPR Press Release] A French court will decide on May 27, 2020 whether his trial will be handled by the United Nations International Residual Mechanism for International Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) – which is concluding the remaining work of the ICTR and its counterpart, the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia – or in France, where Kabuga is arguing he will receive a fair trial. [IJRC; NYTimes: Trial] The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has called for the case to be transferred to Rwandan courts for trial, noting a “preference for national level prosecution” that meets the “needs of the affected people to participate in and witness the process.” [ACHPR Press Release] Kabuga’s arrest on May 16, 2020 is considered a highly significant development in international justice. [OHCHR Press Release; Just Security; NYTimes: Arrest] With his apprehension and the recently-confirmed death of Augustin Bizmana, just six fugitives indicted by the ICTR or IRMCT remain at large. See IJRC, ICTR.

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Human Rights Committee Finds Russia Responsible for Torture of Chechens

Meeting with Head of the Republic of Chechnya Ramzan Kadyrov
Credit: Presidential Executive Office, Kremlin

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has found Russia responsible for violating the rights to fair trial and to be free from torture of six Chechen men who were unlawfully detained and tortured, in the North Caucasus region, between September 2004 and February 2005 before being convicted of terrorism related charges. See Human Rights Committee, Taysumov et al. v. Russia, Communication No. 2339/2014, Views of 11 March 2020, UN Doc. CCPR/C/128/D/2339/2014. The Human Rights Committee reminded Russia of its obligation to conduct a thorough and impartial investigation into the torture allegations and to prosecute those responsible, as well as to compensate the complainants and implement measures to provide “full redress” for the violations. See id. at para. 11. While Russia is obligated to submit to the Committee an update on the measures it has taken to comply with the judgment within 180 days of this judgment, in the past, Russia has failed to conduct effective investigations and hold perpetrators accountable for similar human rights violations. See id. at paras. 2.10, 12. In similar cases brought before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), Russia has often paid the compensation ordered by the Court, but has refused to prosecute the individuals allegedly responsible for torture. [Open Democracy; HRW] Relatedly, the victims in this case had first complained to the European Court of Human Rights, which ruled the application inadmissible, without explanation, in 2012. See Human Rights Committee, Taysumov et al. v. Russia, paras. 8.3.

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