The governments of Guatemala and Nicaragua each recently issued decisions terminating cooperation with international and regional oversight bodies in critical areas of human rights, prompting strong criticism. [UN News: Nicaragua; IACHR Press Release: Guatemala; European Council Press Release] Escalating his September 2018 decision that Guatemala would not renew its agreement with a United Nations-backed anti-corruption investigatory body, the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG), Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales unilaterally decided to expel the body prior to the agreement’s expiration and ahead of the next presidential election. [UN News: CICIG; NY Times; IJRC: Oversight] Additionally, in December 2018, the Nicaraguan government, amid mounting civil unrest, announced measures effectively barring two monitoring mechanism set up by the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and stated that it would no longer accept IACHR visits. [IACHR Press Release: Nicaragua; UN News: Nicaragua] UN experts have resoundingly condemned the governments for disregarding their international legal obligations under these agreements and the human rights at stake in the absence of this oversight. [UN News: CICIG; UN News: Nicaragua]
Category Archives: assembly and association
In recent weeks, the Ethiopian government has retreated from democratic reforms by arresting more than 1,200 individuals, killing several dozen, sending arrestees to “rehabilitation” camps, and shutting off mobile internet access as violence and protests reached the capital. [NYTimes: Arrests; Quartz] Among other reforms, new Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed had welcomed previously-outlawed opposition groups to return to Ethiopia and reopened the border with Eritrea, in keeping with a peace agreement signed earlier this year. [BBC; Amnesty International] Attacks and hate speech against ethnic minorities, and clashes with supporters of the returning opposition groups, have surged over the past year and displaced 1.5 million people; many have taken to the streets in peaceful protest, and civil society has criticized the government for arresting and killing protesters rather than protecting people from attacks. [Amnesty International] The violence continues to claim lives across the country. [Al Jazeera]
Two Central American governments ended their cooperation with the United Nations on specific human rights initiatives and sought to exclude UN representatives from their territories in late August 2018. In Guatemala, President Jimmy Morales announced on August 31 he would not renew the mandate of the International Commission against Impunity in Guatemala (CICIG) when it expires in 2019 and barred CICIG head Iván Velásquez from reentering the country, despite a Supreme Court order rejecting a previous attempt to expel him. [IACHR: Guatemala; NYT] Since 2007, CICIG has assisted national authorities in prosecuting corruption, and recently announced an investigation into President Morales for illegal campaign contributions. [NYT]
Also on August 31, Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega rescinded an invitation to a fact-finding team from the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), just after OHCHR published a report on authorities’ human rights violations against protesters since demonstrations against the Ortega government began in April 2018. [Al Jazeera; IJRC: Nicaragua] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), OHCHR, and civil society have expressed concern at these developments. [IACHR: Guatemala; IACHR: Nicaragua; OHCHR Press Release: Concern; HRW: Nicaragua; HRW: Torture] Observers fear the crises in both countries will continue to worsen. [NYT: Authoritarianism] Read more
In the past month, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have called on Cameroon to launch an investigation into persistent reports of a deteriorating human rights situation in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, including to investigate a video showing the alleged extrajudicial executions of a woman and two children. [ACHPR Press Release: Allegations (French only); OHCHR Press Release] The conflict in Cameroon stems from tensions that arose in 2016 after the English-speaking communities in the State mobilized to demand respect of the English-speaking educational and judicial systems, and to demand more political autonomy. See HRW, These Killings Can Be Stopped: Abuses by Government and Separatist Groups in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions (2018), 1. In response, the Cameroonian government violently suppressed the protests and arrested many of the demonstrators, which led to armed confrontations. See id. Most recently, the tensions between Anglophone separatists and the largely Francophone government of Cameroon have escalated as a result of separatists’ attacks targeting a Minister of Defense convoy in the country’s Southwest region and the government’s “heavy-handed response.” [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian] Cameroon is obligated, under international human rights law, to ensure the rights to life and to humane treatment, among other rights.
This month the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe (COE) adopted guidelines and recommendations on the rights of children in the digital environment for all Member States of the Council of Europe. See Committee of Ministers, Recommendation CM/Rec(2018) 7 of the Committee of Ministers to member States on Guidelines to respect, protect, and fulfil the rights of the child in the digital environment (2018). While the guidelines are non-binding, they derive their content, in part, from existing binding COE legal conventions, as well as other non-binding COE and United Nations standards and recommendations, on children’s rights, business and human rights, privacy, and internet governance. The guidelines focus, in particular, on the rights to non-discrimination, freedom of expression and information, freedom of association, privacy, education, and protection and safety, as well as access to remedies. See id. Recognizing the significant positive and negative influences the digital environment – which includes all information and communication technologies (ICTs) – has on children’s lives, the guidelines make recommendations to Member States to develop legislation and policies that protect and promote the rights of the child in the digital environment, to cooperate and coordinate with the COE and public and private stakeholders in those efforts, and to ensure that businesses and other stakeholders respect children’s rights. See id. at sec. 1. Read more
In June, the United Nations Office for the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) issued the first ever UN report detailing human rights abuses in Kashmir. [OHCHR Press Release] See OHCHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir (2018). The report seeks to draw attention to the victims of the human rights violations created by the political situation in the region, with a focus on abuses since the July 2016 killing of a militant leader by Indian security forces, which sparked violent protests throughout the region. [OHCHR Press Release] See OHCHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir, para. 1. Among the human rights abuses, the report finds cases of unlawful use of force by security forces, enforced or involuntary disappearances, sexual violence, and limitations on education, expression, assembly, and association. [OHCHR Press Release] See OHCHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir, paras. 32-164. Additionally, the report finds that perpetrators act with impunity and that victims do not have adequate access to justice. [OHCHR Press Release] To address the human rights concerns, the OHCHR calls for an independent mechanism to further investigate human rights allegations in the Kashmir region. See OHCHR, Report on the Situation of Human Rights in Kashmir, 48. Human rights experts have urged the Indian government to allow the creation of such an investigation. [HRW] Both States, India and Pakistan, have committed to, and are legally obligated to, ensure certain rights, including the rights to life, prohibition of torture and inhuman treatment, freedom of expression, freedom of assembly, freedom of association, and education. Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations experts have expressed concern over Nicaragua’s response to protests that began in opposition to President Ortega’s proposed social security reforms and led to violence, deaths, and the suppression of media attention. [NY Times: Protests; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release: Concern] The demonstrations started in Managua after President Ortega proposed changes that would require workers to pay higher contributions in to the social security system but would also lower benefits to pensioners. [NY Times: Protests] The protests’ geographic scope and protesters’ demands grew, sparking protests in other cities and covering a range of issues surrounding general discontent with the Ortega government. [NY Times: Protests; NPR] Universal and regional human rights bodies and experts have expressed concern with the use of force used by security forces and threats to protesters’ safety due to non-State actors’ responses, and called on Nicaragua to respect and protect human rights. [OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release: Concern] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reminded the State that it must respect people’s right to peacefully express their views and that tactics of repression in the context of demonstrations do the opposite. The regional human rights body also called on the State to investigate the deaths that occurred during the protest and asked to make a working visit to the State. [IACHR Press Release: Coordination; IACHR Press Release: Concern] The UN experts further added their concern over the State’s stigmatization of protesters. [OHCHR Press Release] Nicaragua is obligated to ensure and protect the rights to freedom of assembly, to freedom of expression, and to life under the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Read more
This month, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and United Nations special procedures mandate holders all took steps to expose Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime’s responsibility for human rights violations and international crimes committed against the Venezuelan population. On February 8, the prosecutor of the ICC announced that she opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Venezuela. The preliminary examination will study, since April 2017, the use of excessive force by State security forces to disperse and end demonstrations and the arrest and detention of thousands of perceived members of the opposition, some of whom have allegedly been subjected to abuse and ill-treatment during their detention. [ICC Press Release] On February 12, the IACHR published and presented to the Organization of American States its report on the human rights situation in Venezuela in 2016 and 2017, noting the deterioration of human rights in Venezuela, and in particular the political, economic, and social crisis in the country. [IACHR Press Release] A group of independent experts at the UN consisting of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights released a statement on February 9 that asserts that the degradation of human rights in Venezuela has led to the starvation, deprivation of necessary medicine, lack of necessary hygiene products, and deterioration of living conditions for a large number of Venezuelans. [OHCHR Press Release: Experts]
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Tunisian government to respect demonstrators’ rights following the protests that began around January 8, continuing through January 14, and have resulted in almost 850 arrests. [UN News Centre; NY Times: Arrests; BBC: Gas] In addition to mass arrests, the police have responded to the protests with tear gas and violence, which the State claims is justified by some protesters’ vandalism, theft, and aggression, despite reports of these tactics also being used against peaceful protesters. [BBC: Gas; Amnesty International] January 14, 2018 marks the seventh anniversary of the 2011 protests that culminated in the ousting of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, following his 23 year-long rule. [BBC: Gas] While Tunisians gathered to commemorate this date, the demonstrators also protested the recent 2018 Finance Act, which took effect on January 1, 2018, and imposes austerity measures such as an increase in taxes on specific goods and services, including food and gas prices. [CNN; NY Times: Economic; Al Jazeera] As a party to several universal human rights treaties, and to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Tunisia is obligated to ensure the human rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, to freedom of peaceful assembly, and to freedom of expression, which the OHCHR has urged the government to abide by. [UN News Centre] See OHCHR, Ratification Status for Tunisia; African Union, List of countries which have signed, ratified/acceded to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Read more
In January 2018, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, interactive dialogues, country visits, and hearings. One United Nations treaty body will meet throughout January to assess States’ compliance with their treaty obligations related to the rights of the child. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Three UN special procedures mandate holders will conduct country visits, and an additional special procedure working group will hold sessions. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the rights of liberty and security, the right to freedom of assembly, the right to a fair trial, and the limitation of restrictions on rights.