The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights at its November 2015 session
A recent case involving capital punishment in Botswana required the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) to consider the adequacy of appointed counsel and clemency procedures, hanging as a method of execution, the death row phenomenon, and whether notice is required prior to imposition of the death penalty. See ACommHPR, Interights & Ditshwanelo v. Botswana, Communication No. 319/06, Merits Decision, 57th Ordinary Session (2015). The case concerned a prisoner who was secretly hanged to death without advance warning to him or his family, who were then denied the opportunity to bury him. In its decision, published on June 28, 2016, the Commission declined to “suddenly” hold that the death penalty itself was an arbitrary deprivation of the right to life, but it signaled growing discomfort with capital punishment and held that execution by hanging constitutes cruel and unusual punishment in violation of Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Further, it held that a prisoner must be informed in advance of the time and place of his execution and have a prior opportunity to meet with family or seek spiritual comfort.
The case also involved several procedural peculiarities. Botswana failed to participate in the proceedings before the ACHPR, leaving the Commission to rely on the complainant organizations’ submissions. Although the complainants requested provisional measures to prevent the victim’s execution, the ACHPR was unable to convey the request to the government before he was hanged, on the day after the Commission received the complaint and request. Finally, in the time since the complaint was submitted in April 2006, one of the complainant organizations, INTERIGHTS, has closed. Read more
The seminar that was held during the Court’s 53rd Extraordinary Session
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) held its 53rd Extraordinary Session in Honduras, which began on August 24 and concluded on August 29, 2015. During this session the Court held public hearings in two cases: Quispialaya Vilcapoma v. Peru and Ángel Alberto Duque v. Colombia. The Court also held a private hearing concerning compliance on the part of Honduras with sentences in six cases: Juan Humberto Sánchez v. Honduras, López-Álvarez v. Honduras, Servellón-García and others v. Honduras, Kawas-Fernández v. Honduras, Pacheco Teruel and others v. Honduras, and Luna López v. Honduras. The Court prepared judgments in two cases: Gonzáles Lluy (TGGL) and family v. Ecuador and Galindo Cárdenas and others v. Peru. Additionally, the Court started proceedings in two cases: Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its members v. Honduras and Garífuna Community of Punta Piedra and its members v. Honduras. The Court also reviewed various pending cases and administrative issues.
Human Rights Council UPR Working Group
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
The Human Rights Council is close to concluding its 22nd Session of the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group which began on May 4 and will conclude on May 15, 2015 to examine 14 States’ human rights records. [OHCHR Press Release] During these Working Group discussions, UN Member States are reviewing the human rights practices of Belarus, Liberia, Malawi, Mongolia, Panama, Maldives, Andorra, Bulgaria, Honduras, the United States, Marshall Islands, Croatia, Jamaica, and Libya (listed in the order of their scheduled reviews). [OHCHR: Universal Periodic Review Timetable]
The Inter-American Court in session.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) convened its 107th regular session from January 26 to February 6, 2015 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The Court held hearings concerning five pending cases, provisional measures regarding Venezuelan prisons, and States’ compliance with four previous judgments. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
Public hearings were held on the following pending cases: Rural Community of Santa Barbara v. Peru, Galindo Cárdenas v. Peru, López Lone et al. v. Honduras, Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname, and García Ibarra and Family v. Ecuador. These cases involve allegations of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention during Peru’s internal armed conflict, administrative punishment of judges who questioned the legality of the coup d’état in Honduras, indigenous land rights in Suriname, and the killing of an unarmed teenager by police in Ecuador, respectively. Read more
The IACHR, Mexico, and families’ representatives sign the agreement.
In response to the disappearance of 43 student protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has signed a tripartite agreement with the government of Mexico and a group of nongovernmental organizations representing the student victims and their families to provide technical assistance with the search for the students, the investigation and subsequent actions regarding their disappearance, and support for the families of the victims. [IACHR: Official Agreement] The students have been missing since September 26 after a shooting incident with police that left six people dead and 17 injured. Although the students are believed to be dead, their whereabouts are yet to be discovered, fueling complaints of gang-related violence, impunity, and State corruption in the country. [Al Jazeera: Protests rage]
IACHR Chair, Tracy Robinson, stated:
For the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this historic agreement is of fundamental importance in the sense that it represents a key opportunity to advance in solving a structural issue that Mexico has been experi[enc]ing for years: forced disappearances … The main objective is to solve the underlying structural problems to these disappearances, not only the cases involving the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, but other cases, which unfortunately are many.
[IACHR: Official Agreement] Read more
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights released its opinion in Case of Dominican and Haitian People Expelled v. the Dominican Republic, where it held that the State’s discrimination, detention, and mass expulsion of individuals of Haitian descent violated the rights to: juridical personality, nationality, a name, personal liberty, privacy, fair trial, judicial protection, equal protection before the law, freedom of movement and residence, rights of the family, rights of the child, and the guarantee of non-discrimination, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Dominican and Haitian People Expelled v. the Dominican Republic. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of August 28, 2014. Series C No. 282, para. 512 (Spanish only).
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights holds a hearing in the case during its 48th Extraordinary Session.
The Inter-American Court has previously condemned the Dominican Republic’s treatment of persons of Haitian descent and its counterpart, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, has urged the State to modify its immigration laws and practices to comply with regional human rights standards, including by averting the implementation of a 2013 Constitutional Court judgment that directed authorities to strip possibly thousands of their citizenship. [IACHR Press Release] Now, in a binding judgment, the Inter-American Court has echoed these findings and directed the State to take specific action. Read more
The Inter-American Court holds a hearing in Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru
From October 8 to 17, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its 105th Regular Session at its headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. [IACtHR] During this session, the Court handed down three judgments, which will be publicized soon, concerning forced disappearance, indigenous land rights, and arbitrary killings. The Court also issued orders regarding provisional measures in three cases. On October 17, the Court held a public hearing on a pending case, Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru, involving the right to a fair trial and judicial protection. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] Read more
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in session
From March 31 to April 4, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights celebrated its 50th Special Session at its headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. The Court held public hearings on three pending cases concerning forced disappearance, indigenous land rights, and torture in arbitrary detention. The Court also conducted private deliberations to prepare its judgment in a case concerning the alleged failure to properly investigate a woman’s disappearance and death. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] Video recordings from the public hearings are archived in the Court’s Multimedia Gallery. Read more
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights will hear expert and witness testimony in three pending cases concerning extrajudicial executions, convene two private hearings on States’ compliance with prior decisions, and deliberate on the merits of two cases concerning alleged criminal due process violations during its ongoing 102nd Regular Session, being held from January 27 through February 7 at its headquarters in San Jose, Costa Rica. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in session
Hearing in Hassan v. UK
Over the past week, the European Court of Human Rights has held hearings in several cases relating to the “war on terror,” at the same time as the United States has forcibly repatriated two Guantanamo Bay detainees, despite their fears of persecution. The following post summarizes these developments and – in follow-up to this previous post – also surveys recent advances in other cases concerning extraordinary rendition, torture, and secret detention sites that have been brought before regional and international human rights bodies.