Recent changes in the United States’ immigration policies have drawn fresh condemnation from human rights experts and civil society, particularly as news spread that authorities had separated approximately 2,000 children from their parents at the country’s southern border. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release; UNHCR Press Release] These changes include automatic criminal prosecution and detention of adults – including asylum seekers – entering the United States without authorization, separation and detention of children who crossed the southern border outside a port of entry with their parents, and a directive instructing immigration officials not to recognize a State’s failure to protect victims of gang violence and domestic violence as grounds for asylum. In response to criticism earlier this month, President Trump signed an Executive Order on June 20, 2018 to detain children and parents together, but that also raised concerns because it did not address the reunification of separated families and proposed modifying time limits on detention of families. [OHCHR Press Release: UN Experts] The policy changes add to long-standing human rights concerns related to U.S. immigration policy. This post reviews 10 of the primary principles implicated. Read more
Author Archives: IJRC
We are pleased to share our latest newsletter. It details the newest additions to the Online Resource Hub, recent engagement with the universal and Inter-American human rights systems, and upcoming events. If receiving this update via email, you can also read the May 2018 newsletter online, or open the PDF directly. For the latest in human rights developments, visit the News Room and IJRC Daily.
Happy Human Rights Day from the International Justice Resource Center! On this day, we celebrate the adoption of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and the fundamental values it recognizes. At IJRC, we believe justice is borderless, but as the Universal Declaration of Human Rights enters its 70th year, much work remains to realize its vision.
For nearly seven years now, IJRC has been working to make international human rights protections more accessible, transparent, and relevant to the lives of people around the world. Our services help ensure that individuals harmed by human rights violations can achieve accountability and redress, no matter their circumstances. Watch below for a one-minute glimpse into one area in which our work has made a difference over the past year.
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On behalf of the IJRC team and the many people we serve, thank you for joining us in this important work.
We are pleased to share our latest newsletter. It details the newest additions to the Online Resource Hub, recent engagement with the African and Inter-American human rights systems, upcoming events, and new members of the IJRC team. Read the November 2017 newsletter below, or open the PDF. For the latest in human rights developments, visit the News Room and IJRC Daily.
In the month of February 2017, various universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through interactive dialogues, the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet this month to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to economic, social, and cultural rights; the rights of women; the rights of the child; and prevention of torture and ill treatment. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to persons with leprosy, unaccompanied migrant children, persons with disabilities, the democracy, and repatriation of illicit funds. Two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits, and two working groups will hold sessions to discuss involuntary disappearances and transnational corporations. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear one case concerning domestic criminal proceedings in which the applicant was not allowed to represent himself.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court may be watched via UN Web TV and the European Court’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. To learn more about each human rights body, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. Read more
Protesters in the United States and around the world demonstrated last week and over the weekend, calling for the protection of the rights of migrants and refugees, women, and other vulnerable groups, as a new administration assumed power in the United States following a bitterly divisive campaign in which now-President Trump denied sexual assault allegations and promised to enact a “Muslim ban.” [Fortune] During the past year and more recently, various universal and regional international human rights monitoring bodies commented on human rights issues relevant to those prioritized in these protests, and called on American authorities to respect fundamental rights and values.
The organizers of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, which may be the largest demonstration in U.S. history, specifically called for the protection of women’s right to be free from violence and discrimination, women of color’s right to be free from racial discrimination, migrants’ rights, environmental rights, and LGBTQIA communities’ right to be free from violence and discrimination, among other rights.
Since then, President Trump has taken several steps that civil society and human rights experts warn greatly threaten many of the same human rights championed by the demonstrators. On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order imposing a 90-day suspension on entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia); a 120-day suspension of all refugee admissions; and an indefinite pause on the admission of refugees from Syria. The order, which was immediately implemented, unleashed chaos and protests in the country’s airports, as civil society and the courts struggled to define its scope and legality. [New York Times; NPR]
The U.S. is a State party to multiple human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which protect the rights to, among others, non-discrimination and equal protection. It is also a party to the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, commonly referred to as the “Refugee Convention.” Read more
The new United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, recently appealed to Member States to join him in committing to ensuring and sustaining peace and has further called for a holistic approach to the UN’s work through close coordination between the UN’s three pillars: peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights policies. Guterres, who assumed office on January 1, 2017, replacing Ban Ki-moon, will hold the post for a five-year period, ending December 31, 2021. While only a few days in to his term, Guterres’ initial remarks have shed light on his goals and priorities and include an appeal for peace, a call to the UN to support sustainable development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and a notice to the UN as an organization to prepare for change in its internal management structure. See United Nations, Secretary-General-designate António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly on taking the oath of office. On linking the three pillars, he has said, “there is no peace without development and no development without peace; it is also true that there is no peace and sustainable development without respect for human rights.” [UN News Centre: Photo Feature]
Guterres was chosen for the role after the UN implemented a more transparent selection process, which included dialogues with Member States and civil society. [UN News Centre: Guterres; IJRC] Guterres, who is fluent in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish, previously served as the 10th UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from June 2005 to December 2015, as Portugal’s Prime Minister from 1995 to 2002, and as president of the European Council in 2000. [UN News Centre: Photo Feature] Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently released a decision vindicating the rights of two undocumented workers in the United States whose employers denied them medical benefits and wage replacement after they were injured on the job, in a context of domestic jurisprudence and policy limiting labor protections for undocumented migrants. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 50/16, Case 12.834, Undocumented Workers (United States of America), 30 November 2016. The IACHR ultimately found that the U.S. violated the workers’ rights to equality before the law and social security benefits enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration). See id. This significant decision is the first to address the employment rights of undocumented migrants in the Americas and builds on the IACHR’s doctrine related to discrimination on the basis of immigration status. It includes a list of recommendations to the U.S. to ensure policies and practices that promote equal treatment and due process for undocumented workers. See id. Read more
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) examined for the first time the issue of informed consent to medical treatment and forced sterilization, in its judgment in I.V. v. Bolivia, released last week. [IACtHR Press Release (in Spanish)] The case involves a Peruvian refugee who was sterilized by a tubal ligation performed without her informed consent in a Bolivian public hospital in 2000, resulting in permanent loss of her ability to conceive a child. See I/A Court H.R., I.V. v. Bolivia. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 30 November 2016. Series C No. 329, paras. 64-65 (in Spanish). I.V. had been admitted to a public hospital to give birth and was sterilized, immediately after doctors performed a Caesarean section, purportedly to prevent potential complications if I.V. were to become pregnant again in the future. See id. at paras. 63-64.
The IACtHR’s judgment expands the Court’s jurisprudence on the principle of informed consent, the (infrequently cited) right to dignity under the American Convention on Human Rights, and a State’s obligation to ensure adequate training for medical professionals. The IACtHR affirmed that informed consent is an essential precondition to medical treatment that is based on respect for individuals’ autonomy, dignity, and freedom to make their own decisions. See id. at para. 159. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC), together with the International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court which provided supplementary analysis on these concepts and the human rights implicated by forced sterilization of women, a practice that is regrettably common in the Americas and throughout the world. Read more
- In Argentina this week, human rights advocate Milagro Sala, and other members of the organization Tupac Amaru, were sentenced to 2-3 years probation, or suspended prison, for “aggravated damage” after participating in a protest. [Telesur]
- A United Nations agency condemned the murder of journalist, Larry Que, of the Phillippines, and called for an investigation into the death as a means of ensuring the safety of other journalists, and protecting freedom of information. [UN News Centre]
- Bahrain released and re-imprisoned activist Nabeel Rajab for comments he made on social media about the war in Yemen and acts of torture allegedly taking place in prisons. [Guardian]
- On Monday in Egypt, a new media law that establishes a body with the power to revoke licenses, fine, or suspend publications, broadcasters, and foreign media, was passed and signed into law, heightening concerns over the freedom of press in the region. [Al Jazeera]
- In Bangladesh, workers in the garment factories protested job loss and workers pay. [Guardian]
- In the wake of recent civil society suppression in Ecuador, UN Special Rapporteurs have offered technical assistance to the government to address problematic legislation, and called for a stop to the dissolution of environmental and indigenous rights groups. [OHCHR Press Release]
Migrants & Refugees
- This week, 36 child asylum seekers who had been living in the informal Calais refugee camp in France initiated individual legal action against the United Kingdom for allegedly failing to process their asylum applications in a timely and appropriate manner. [Guardian]
- In Germany, 20,000 more migrants and refugees have chosen to leave the country in 2016 than in 2015, as Germany’s immigration policies become more restrictive. [Al Jazeera]
Armed Conflict, Violence, & Humanitarian Crises
- On Thursday, the Syrian Army announced the implementation of a cease-fire between government and rebel forces in much of Syria through a deal between Russia, Syria, Iran, and Turkey; the agreement did not include “terrorist organizations.”. [Washington Post]
- This week, the Colombian Congress approved a revised peace deal that provides amnesty to thousands of FARC and army members accused of minor crimes. [BBC]
- A second phase of an Iraqi operation intended to reclaim Mosul began on Thursday. [Al Jazeera]
- On Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported air strikes in eastern Syria, which were said to have killed 22 civilians, including 10 children. [Al Jazeera]
- For the first time in Spain, an anti-pollution measure in Madrid will ban the use of about half of the private cars on roadways on Thursday between 6:30 AM-9:00 PM, with some exceptions, in an attempt to aid public health. [Guardian]
- In Bangladesh this week, experts emphasized the water crisis imminent in the region due to water wastage, pollution, declining groundwater, and increased salinity. [Inter Press Service]
- The United States Secretary of State reiterated the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building; the U.S. had abstained from that vote, opening a rift in U.S.-Israeli relations. [Guardian]
- British Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly intends to campaign on a promise to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, an obligatory and binding human rights instrument for all European Union Member States, which gives the European Court of Human Rights jurisdiction over complaints against the United Kingdom. [Rights Info]
- On Thursday, in response to alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, the Obama administration moved to shut down Russian compounds in the U.S. and declare 35 Russians “persona non grata.” [Washington Post]
- On Friday in Turkey, a parliamentary commission approved a draft of a constitutional amendment that would give the president and vice president complete executive powers, the amendment will go to a referendum most likely in the spring. [Al Jazeera]
- This week, the UN Secretary General praised the newly inaugurated parliament of Somalia and encouraged it to fill empty seats (particularly with women), establish a permanent constitution, and improve its credibility. [UN News Centre]