Category Archives: civil society

May 2018: UN Treaty Bodies, UPR, and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Human Rights Council 
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

In the month of May, several universal and regional bodies will be in session to 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 throughout May to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to torture, racial discrimination, forced disappearances, and children’s rights. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Ten UN special procedures will conduct country visits focusing on human rights defenders, contemporary forms of racism, indigenous peoples, sale and sexual exploitation of children, effects of foreign debt, countering terrorism, housing, migrants, health, and torture. Three working groups will hold sessions on enforced disappearances, transnational corporations and other business enterprises, and private military and security companies.

Regionally, the African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR), and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) will be in session. The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will also be in session, and will hold public hearings during those sessions. Finally, the European Committee of Social Rights will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear one case related to State obligations during an armed conflict.

The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court, the IACHR, and IACtHR, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website or Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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International Community Questions Fairness of Election As Hungary Re-elects Orbán

Hungarian Parliament
Credit: Andrew Shiva via Wikimedia Commons

International election observers, civil society, and protesters have raised concerns over the fairness of Hungary’s April 8 parliamentary elections in which the incumbent prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and his Fidesz party secured a strong majority, winning 133 of 199 parliamentary seats; media bias and intimidation of independent journalists as well as xenophobic and intimidating rhetoric, civil society and election observers have noted, steered the election outcomes in favor of Fidesz. [Guardian: OSCE; HRW; Reuters: Protest] The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental body that monitors the elections of Member States, found that the incumbent Fidesz party exploited its current position in power to “[undermine] contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis” through the use of intimidating rhetoric, media bias, and the government’s use of public money to support the campaign of the incumbent party to influence the voting public. See OSCE, Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions (2018), 1. Echoing the OSCE, civil society organizations raised concerns over Fidesz’s practice of smearing journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that oppose the party’s views, and over the government’s support, announced a day after the election, of a law that would limit the activities of civil society working with migrants and refugees. [HRW; HHC Press Release] Protesters gathered in Budapest over the weekend referring to the election as unfair and calling for a free media. [Reuters: Protest] Before the election, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns over the “racist and xenophobic” rhetoric of Orbán and the undermining of the independence of the press and the judiciary. [OHCHR Press Release] Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Hungary is obligated to ensure the rights to non-discrimination, to freedom of expression, to freedom of association, and to vote. Read more

ECtHR, Civil Society, & Academics Respond to Proposed ECtHR Reforms

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Alfredovic via Wikimedia Commons

On February 5, 2018, the Chair of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, the primary intergovernmental organization tasked with promoting human rights in Europe, circulated an advanced draft of the Copenhagen Declaration, the next stage in ongoing reform efforts of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), prompting civil society, academics, and the Court itself to respond to the proposal. See Danish Chairmanship of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe, Draft Copenhagen Declaration (2018). Civil society and members of academia have warned against potential flaws in the draft, including, some argue, that it would lock the Court into deferring to State sovereignty. See AIRE Centre et al., Joint NGO Response to Draft Copenhagen Declaration (2018). [EJIL: Rewritten; EJIL: Dialogue; EJIL: Madsen and Christoffersen] In the midst of increasing discussion and at the request of the Chair of the Committee of Ministers, the European Court weighed in on February 19, 2018 with its own set of observations on the draft, which were primarily positive, despite civil society and academia’s opinions. See ECtHR, Opinion on the draft Copenhagen Declaration (2018), paras. 1, 5. The Declaration is part of the Interlaken process, a long-term reform process that aims to identify and implement measures to ensure the long-term viability of the European Court of Human Rights and the European Convention on Human Rights. The draft Declaration will set the stage for the next round of high-level talks on reform scheduled for April of 2018 in Copenhagen between State representatives; those talks will produce a final version of the Declaration. Previous declarations from similar talks have produced significant changes to the European human rights system, including amendments to the European Convention as well as changes in the European Court’s rules of procedure. See European Court, History of the Court’s Reforms. Read more

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