The United Nations Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) has published new interpretation and guidance on the relationship between science and the enjoyment of economic, social, and cultural rights. See CESCR, General comment No. 25 (2020) on science and economic, social and cultural rights, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/25, 30 April 2020. In fleshing out Article 15 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), the Committee defines the scope of States’ obligation to support and share scientific research and the advances it makes possible, with regard to everyday life and in crises such as pandemics. The Committee chose to focus on this topic because “science is one of the areas of the Covenant to which States parties give least attention in their reports and dialogues.” See id. at para. 2. Specifically, the General Comment outlines ICESCR States parties’ obligations with respect to the right to enjoy the benefits of scientific progress and its applications (Art. 15(1)(b)); the conservation, development, and diffusion of science (Art. 15(2)); freedom to engage in scientific research (Art. 15(3)); and, promotion and cooperation in the scientific field (Art. 15(4)). See id. at para. 3.
Category Archives: cultural rights
In its first judgment to independently analyze the human right to a healthy environment, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) has held Argentina responsible for violating Indigenous communities’ human rights through its failure to recognize and protect their lands. [IACtHR Press Release] In Indigenous Communities of the Lhaka Honhat Association (Our Land) v. Argentina, the Court considered allegations by Indigenous communities in the province of Salta that the State had failed to implement measures to stop illegal logging and other harmful activities in their territory, which had altered their Indigenous way of life and damaged their cultural identity. See I/A Court H.R., Indigenous Communities of the Lhaka Honhat Association (Our Land) v. Argentina. Judgment of February 6, 2020. Series C No. 400 (Spanish only). This case builds on the Court’s 2017 advisory opinion, in which the Court recognized the “autonomous” right to a healthy environment under the Article 26 (the progressive realization principle) of the American Convention on Human Rights, noting that the right to a healthy environment should not only be considered a component of other substantive human rights. See IACtHR, Official Summary Issued by the Inter-American Court. The judgment also found Argentina responsible for violations of the rights to community property, cultural identity, and adequate food and water. Among other reparations, the Court ordered Argentina to clear the communities’ ancestral lands of settlers and cattle within six years and give the communities the deed. Read more
In the month of September, several universal and regional bodies will be in session to assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Five United Nations treaty bodies will meet in September to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to the rights of persons with disabilities; the rights of migrant workers; children’s rights; and economic, social, and cultural rights. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session to review communications as well as thematic and country-specific reports. Seven UN special procedures will conduct country visits focusing on States’ international financial obligations, the rights of persons with albinism, the right to food, the independence of judges and lawyers, adequate housing, cultural rights, and LGBTI issues, respectively. Additionally, the UN working group focused on forced disappearances will be in session.
Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR) will all be in session. Finally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear one case related to the prohibition of collective expulsion of aliens and the right to an effective remedy.
The UN treaty body sessions, the public hearings of the European Court, and the public hearings of the 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.
In the month of April, several 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 throughout April to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to civil and political rights, economic and cultural rights, torture, racial discrimination, and migrant workers. One treaty body will meet as a pre-sessional working group to discuss economic, social, and cultural rights. Further, civil society can register this month to participate in the sessions of two treaty bodies that will meet in May on children’s rights and enforced disappearances, respectively. Eleven UN special procedures experts will conduct country visits focusing on minority issues, freedom of religion or belief, extreme poverty, torture and inhuman treatment, safe drinking water and sanitation, violence against women, the use of mercenaries, international solidarity, older persons, human rights defenders, and racial discrimination. Three working groups will hold sessions on the use of mercenaries, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention.
Regionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will all be in session. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to liberty and security and the prohibition of cruel or inhuman treatment.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court and Inter-American Court 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.
On July 5, 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) selected Soledad García Muñoz to be the first Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights (ESCER). [IACHR Press Release: Muñoz (in Spanish)] The mandate of the newly established Rapporteurship is to promote, protect, and defend economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights in the Americas by addressing issues such as poverty; pollution; and access to health care, education, potable water, and nutrition. [IACHR Press Release: Finalists] García Muñoz, of Argentina, was selected from a list of four finalists during the IACHR’s 163rd Extraordinary Period of Sessions. [IACHR Press Release: Finalists; IACHR Press Release: Muñoz] García Muñoz is a lawyer who has worked globally to protect human rights, including with various United Nations agencies, the Organization of American States (OAS), the International Organization for Migration, and the Inter-American Institute of Human Rights, among others. [IACHR Press Release: Muñoz] She served as President of Amnesty International’s Section on Argentina and has substantial experience litigating before universal and regional human rights mechanisms. [IACHR Press Release: Muñoz] As Special Rapporteur, García Muñoz plans to work in coordination with other IACHR divisions to open a dialogue. [IACHR Press Release: Muñoz] She will take office on August 15, 2017 and serve a three-year term, which is renewable once. [IACHR Press Release: Muñoz] Read more
In its first judgment on the treatment and rights of indigenous people, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) held that Kenya violated the Ogiek peoples’ rights to land, religion, culture, development, and non-discrimination. See AfCHPR, African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights v. Kenya, App. no. 006/2012, Judgment of 26 May 2017. Specifically, the African Court held that the State violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights because Kenya expelled the Ogiek from their ancestral land against their will, without prior consultation or compensation. See id. The Ogiek are forest-dwelling people that live in the Mau Forest, one of Kenya’s largest water catchment areas. They argued that eviction would prevent them from using and maintaining ownership of their ancestral land on which they rely on for their social, economic, and cultural existence. [ACHPR Press Release] This is the second ruling from the African System against Kenya regarding its treatment of indigenous people. In 2010, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) found that the Endorois peoples’ eviction from their land in the 1970’s was in violation of their rights to property, health, culture, natural resources, and religion. [Reuters; HRW] However, this recent judgment, though, is the first from the African Court to rule on indigenous peoples’ rights. [ACHPR Press Release] Further, this is one of only three cases that the African Commission has referred to the Court, and the only one that has been referred on the basis of grave, mass human rights violations. [ESCR] Read more
- On Wednesday, a court in Bahrain ordered the dissolution of the last major opposition group in the country. [Washington Post]
- This week, it was reported that labor activists investigating alleged abuses at a Chinese factory producing Ivanka Trump shoes were detained or missing. [Guardian]
- On Friday, hundreds of Palestinians protested Israeli troops across the West Bank and Gaza to support the prisoners’ hunger strike that began in April. [Times of Israel]
Violence & Humanitarian Crises
- On Thursday, the United Nations peacekeeping camp in Mali was attacked. [Washington Post]
- On Tuesday, a car bomb claimed by ISIS killed 13 people in Baghdad, Iraq. [Washington Post]
- On Friday, monitoring groups reported that airstrikes in Mayadin, Syria resulted in dozens of civilian deaths. [Washington Post]
Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees
- On Thursday, 44 migrants died of thirst in Niger after a vehicle on its way to Libya broke down. [Al Jazeera]
- On Friday, the International Organization for Migration estimated that an average of 10,000 migrants fleeing West Mosul arrive in transit zones daily. [UN News Centre]
Activities of International Bodies
- On Wednesday, the United Nations General Assembly elected Miroslav Lajčák, Slovakia’s Foreign Minister, as its next president. [Washington Post]
- On Tuesday, the United Nations Human Rights Council authorized a three-member team to investigate alleged human rights abuses against Rohingya Muslims in Myanmar. [Al Jazeera]
- On Friday, the United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, announced a trust fund to implement community assistance in Kosovo. [UN News Centre]
- On Friday, the African Court on Human and People’s Rights ruled that Kenya violated the Ogiek indigenous people’s rights to land, religion, culture, development, and non-discrimination. [Reuters]
While celebrating the 10-year anniversary of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (UNDRIP) at the recently concluded sixteenth session of the United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII), participants also discussed the particular issues that continue to affect indigenous populations around the globe, including land dispossession and violence. During the recent session, regional and universal intergovernmental bodies, such as the International Labor Organization and the European Union, as well as human rights experts presented reports and statements on the status of the rights of indigenous peoples to the UNPFII – an entity established in 2000 to provide recommendations on indigenous issues to UN agencies. Although the declaration promotes land rights, access to education, and fair working conditions, the continued need to protect these rights were common themes raised during the forum, including in the Secretariat of the forum’s report on implementation of the declaration. In particular, both at the UNPFII and in other recent statements, the Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples, Victoria Tauli Corpuz, identified ongoing violence, arrests, land dispossession, denial of self-determination, a lack of consultation, and inadequate education and social services as just some of the continuing obstacles plaguing indigenous communities. [UN News Centre; OHCHR Press Release: United States; OHCHR Press Release: Australia] See also OHCHR, Statement of Ms. Victoria Tauli-Corpuz. As demonstrated in other recent reports, statements, and unfolding situations, recent incidents and trends around the globe – including in Australia, the United States, and Brazil, among others – reflect the concerns raised during the forum, particularly concerning violence against indigenous peoples and forced dispossession of land. [IJRC: Asia; IJRC: IACHR; Reuters; Guardian; All Africa] Read more
In recently published country reports on Andorra, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, and Luxembourg, the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) found several areas in which migrants, Roma communities, LGBTI persons, and other minorities are susceptible to discrimination and unequal treatment. [COE Press Release: ECRI] In each report, the ECRI – an independent human rights body of the Council of Europe that monitors racism, xenophobia, antisemitism, intolerance, and discrimination – acknowledged positive developments and areas in need of improvement, including improving laws on hate speech, establishing specialized national bodies that work to eliminate xenophobia and racism, providing equal access to education and employment, and eliminating xenophobic and racist language or images in the political discourse. For instance, the ECRI found a disparity in access to education for migrants or ethnic minorities in Bosnia and Herzegovina, Iceland, and Luxembourg; found that hate speech was regularly used in the political discourse in Iceland and Bosnia and Herzegovina; and found that Andorra and Iceland both lack a national body with a mandate to combat discrimination and xenophobia. The reports, though, noted in some instances developments in criminalizing racism and discrimination; support for education and employment of minorities; and, in the case of Luxembourg, low levels of hate speech in the public discourse. The Commission published its findings in public reports and made recommendations to each country on legal and structural changes that could improve xenophobia, discrimination, and racism. [COE Press Release: Andorra; COE Press Release: Bosnia and Herzegovina; COE Press Release: Iceland; COE Press Release: Luxembourg] Read more
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has identified trends in national policy in Asia that deny indigenous peoples certain rights, such as to property and to consultation, in a recent human rights-based review of the region’s domestic laws. See ILO, The right of indigenous peoples in Asia, Human rights-based overview of national legal and policy frameworks against the backdrop of country strategies for development and poverty reduction (2017). While an indigenous peoples’ movement has emerged in the region – where a majority of the world’s indigenous peoples live – the report found that national and regional institutions often fail to recognize their rights. See id. at 1, 9-10. Specifically, the report found inconsistent recognition of the status of indigenous peoples; inconsistent consultation between governments and indigenous communities; land and natural resource insecurity; and unequal access of indigenous populations to education, employment, and social services. See id. at pgs. 3, 9, 20, 21 27-28, 30, 40, 54-55. The States examined for the report – Bangladesh, Cambodia, India, Indonesia, the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, Malaysia, Nepal, the Philippines, Thailand, and Viet Nam – should, the report recommended, ensure increased coordination between indigenous communities and other domestic, regional, and international stakeholders. See id. at 59-61. This report complements a previous ILO report on the situation of indigenous peoples in the labor force in Asia and the Pacific in 2015. See ILO, Indigenous Peoples in the World of Work in Asia and the Pacific: A Status Report (2015).