This month, The Opportunity Agenda and the Program on Human Rights and the Global Economy (PHRGE) of Northeastern University School of Law issued a comprehensive survey of significant determinations by state courts and attorneys general in the United States that address international human rights law. The report, entitled Human Rights in State Courts 2014, follows up on a 2011 edition and argues that litigants are citing international human rights law in an increasing range of topics, including environmental claims, tort cases and guardianship matters. See Opportunity Agenda & PHRGE, Human Rights in State Courts 2014, at 4. The 2014 report supplements the previous edition with cases decided after 2011, in addition to relevant attorney general opinions. Id.
On May 30, Ms. Gabriela Knaul, the UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers, presented her report on the right to legal aid to the UN Human Rights Council.
Legal Aid as a Human Right
In framing the report, the Rapporteur stresses that “[l]egal aid is an essential component of a fair and efficient justice system that is founded on the rule of law,” and also “a right in itself.” The right to free legal aid appears numerous times across international and regional human rights instruments, including article 14(3)(d) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, article 18(3)(d) of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, articles 37 and 40 of the Convention of the Rights of the Child, article 6 of the European Convention on Human Rights, and article 8 of the American Convention on Human Rights. Read more
At the close of the Southern African Development Community (SADC) Summit held in August, 2012 in Maputo, Mozambique, SADC issued a final meeting communiqué. While much of the communiqué was unremarkable, tucked away towards the end was a short paragraph stating:
…a new Protocol on the [SADC] Tribunal should be negotiated and that its mandate should be confined to interpretation of the SADC Treaty and Protocols relating to disputes between Member States.
Following SADC’s suspension of the Tribunal in 2010, this communiqué now signals a decision, strongly criticized by lawyers and human rights organizations, to strip the Tribunal of its mandate to hear human rights cases Read more
Today marks the tenth year anniversary of the United States government’s use of the prison camp at Guantánamo Bay, Cuba to hold individuals suspected of supporting or being associated with al Qaeda or other groups – some, but not all, of which were designated terrorist groups by the U.S. government. See Mark Denbeaux et al., Report on the Guantanamo Detainees: A Profile of 517 Detainees through Analysis of Department of Defense Data (2006). On January 11, 2002, the first twenty prisoners – then labeled ‘enemy combatants’ – were brought to the facility, in an attempt to deny those detained in the ‘war on terror’ access to U.S. courts and limit their enforceable rights. See legal timeline here.
Who Are the Detainees?
Over the years, a total of 779 detainees – citizens of 48 countries – have been held at Guantanamo, most initially detained by Pakistani or Afghani forces and then handed over to U.S. custody.