Category Archives: international human rights

Guatemala & Nicaragua: Cooperation with Human Rights Monitors Deteriorates

Press Conference by Foreign Minister of Guatemala
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

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]

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January 2019: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Human Rights and Alliance of Civilizations Room of the Palace of Nations
Credit: Ludovic Courtès via Wikimedia Commons

In January, 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, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. One United Nations treaty body will hold a session to review States’ progress regarding 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. Two UN special procedures will conduct country visits in January, and the UN Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women will hold a private session. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be holding public sessions.

The UN treaty body and UPR sessions may be watched via UN Web TV, and the public hearings of the IACtHR may be watched via the IACtHR’s website or Vimeo page. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

One of the 10 UN human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, will meet this month to review certain States parties’ implementation of their treaty obligations. Through the State reporting procedure, treaty bodies review States’ reports and responses to a specific list of issues, receive additional information from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs), engage in an interactive dialogue with each State’s representatives, and then adopt concluding observations detailing the progress and remaining challenges in the State’s implementation of the treaty.

Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will hold its 80th Session in Geneva, Switzerland from January 14 to February 1, 2019. According to its programme of work, the CRC will consider the State reports of Bahrain, Belgium, Guinea, Italy, Japan, and Syria to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CRC will also consider the State report of the Czech Republic for its compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography.

Civil society members looking to attend the CRC’s session must register through the Indico system before February 1, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRC’s 80th Session webpage. For more information on the CRC, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Human Rights Council Universal Periodic Review Working Group

The Human Rights Council’s UPR Working Group will hold its 32nd Session from January 21 to February 1, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its tentative timetable, the Working Group will hold interactive dialogues with New Zealand, Afghanistan, Chile, Vietnam, Uruguay, Yemen, Vanuatu, Macedonia, Comoros, Slovakia, Eritrea, Cyprus, Dominican Republic, and Cambodia regarding their obligations under UN Charter, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, human rights instruments to which the State is party, the State’s voluntary pledges and commitments, and applicable international humanitarian law.

During the session, a group of three Human Rights Council Member States (or troika) will facilitate the review of each country. Representatives from the country being reviewed will give an oral presentation, which is followed by an interactive dialogue with UN Member States. The States make recommendations and comments, which the troika summarizes in a report, and the reviewed country can accept or reject the recommendations and comments. A final outcome report will then be adopted, and the country will report on its implementation of the recommendations during the following UPR cycle.

NGOs and NHRIs wishing to submit written information for the report must follow the OHCHR technical guidelines for stakeholders submissions for the 3rd cycle. For more information about past, present, and future UPR sessions, including timetables and lists of troikas, visit the UPR sessions webpage or visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Special Procedures

In January, two special procedures will carry out country visits and one special procedure will hold a private session in New York.

The Special Rapporteur on minority issues is scheduled to visit Spain from January 14 to January 25, 2019.

The Working Group on arbitrary detention is scheduled to visit Bhutan from January 14 to January 25, 2019.

The Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice will hold its 24th Session from January 28 to February 1, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland.

During their country visits, these special procedures mandate holders will assess the human rights situation as it relates to their thematic focus. Experts also meet with civil society, government, and national human rights institutions when they visit a country. Their findings are published later in reports addressed to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and other visits of Special Procedures. To view a list of forthcoming country visits, visit the OHCHR website. For more information on each special procedure, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Regional Bodies

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold its 129th Regular Session from January 28 to February 8, 2019 in San José, Costa Rica. During its sessions, the IACtHR typically holds public hearings on the merits of individual complaints and deliberates on contentious cases alleging human rights violations. For more information about the IACtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Committee of Social Rights

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) of the Council of Europe will hold its 304th Session from January 21 to January 24, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. The agenda and the synopsis for this session will be published on the ECSR’s calendar at a later date. During its sessions, the ECSR reviews States’ reports on their implementation of the European Social Charter, considers collective complaints alleging violations of the Charter, and follows up on the Turin process to improve implementation of the Charter at the continental level. According to the ECSR’s calendar for national reporting, the ECSR will consider State reports concerning the rights of children, the family, and migrants from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Finland throughout the 2019 calendar year. The ECSR will consider simplified reports on the same topic from the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic throughout the 2019 calendar year. Simplified reports focus on areas of non-conformity identified in the Committee’s previous conclusions. For more information on the European Committee of Social Rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

UN Member States Adopt Global Compacts on Migration and Refugees

Visualization of States’ votes on Global Compact for Migration
Credit: Ahmedo Semsurî via Wikimedia Commons

More than 160 countries adopted the Global Compact for Safe, Orderly, and Regular Migration (Compact), the first-ever intergovernmental agreement negotiated to holistically and comprehensively cover all aspects of international migration, following a two-day conference in Marrakech, Morocco that took place from December 10 to 11, 2018. [UN News: Marrakech; NYT] The document presents a framework for international cooperation and proclaims States’ commitment to protect the rights of migrants and refugees in transit or in destination countries, regardless of their reasons for leaving their country or their migration status. See Global Compact for Migration, Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration, 11 July 2018, para. 11. Although the Compact received broad support, it faced opposition and withdrawal by a number of States, including the United States, claiming concerns over migration flows and national sovereignty. [NYT] While an agreement on the rights of refugees already exists, the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, protections for people in transit that do not qualify for refugee status have generally remained unprotected by law or guidelines until now. [Washington Post]

On Monday, December 17, the vast majority of UN Member States also voted to adopt the Global Compact on Refugees, despite opposition from the U.S. [UN News: Refugees] Today, December 18, is International Migrants Day, the anniversary of UN Member States’ adoption of the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families, in 1990. See UN, International Migrants Day.

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Human Rights Day 2018: Universal Declaration of Human Rights at 70

Visualization of States’ ratification of universal human rights treaties
Credit: OHCHR

Today marks the 70th anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), the seminal proclamation adopted by the United Nations General Assembly on December 10, 1948. See UN General Assembly, Resolution 217 A(III), Universal Declaration of Human Rights, 10 December 1948. The UDHR’s adoption followed that of the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man, making it the first UN instrument recognizing the basic principles of human rights. Over the subsequent decades, many of the rights recognized in the UDHR have been made legally binding through specialized UN human rights treaties and the development of customary international law. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet stated that the UDHR “has passed from being an aspirational treatise into a set of standards that has permeated virtually every area of international law.” [OHCHR: 70th]

While the rights set forth in the UDHR have since become widely accepted, attacks and repression against human rights defenders have spiked in recent years. [GuardianAmnestyUN News] UN human rights experts recently noted “the appalling fact that between 2015 and 2017, on average, one person was killed every day while standing up for human rights.” [OHCHR: Defenders

At the International Justice Resource Center, the UDHR’s values are central to our beliefs and our work. If you value IJRC’s efforts to make human rights protections more accessible to our readers and others around the world, please consider making a year-end donation

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Suspected War Criminal Arrested in Central African Republic, Transferred to ICC

Alfred Yekatom makes first appearance before the ICC
Credit: ICC-CPI via Flickr

Alfred Yekatom, the first person to be transferred to the International Criminal Court (ICC) in connection with the Court’s investigation into crimes committed in the Central African Republic (CAR) since 2012, made an initial appearance before the Court’s Pre-Trial Chamber II on November 23. [ICC Press Release: Alfred; FIDH] Mr. Yekatom is alleged to have committed war crimes and crimes against humanity between December 2013 and August 2014 in the context of the CAR’s ongoing conflict between the Seleka and the Anti-Balaka armed groups. [ICC Press Release: Yekatom] Yekatom is accused of having commanded an anti-balaka group that carried out killings, torture, forced displacement of Muslim civilians and looting and destruction of Muslim homes and places of worship, in western CAR. CAR authorities delivered Yekatom to the ICC on November 17 in compliance with the ICC’s November 11 warrant for his arrest. [ICC Press Release: Situation] On April 30, 2019, the Court will hold a hearing to determine whether there is sufficient evidence to support the allegations against him and, if so, to transfer his case to the Trial Chamber. [ICC Press Release: Yekatom]

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Texas Executes Man in Contravention of Multiple International Legal Decisions

Texas Department of Criminal Justice
Credit: Larry D. Moore via Wikimedia Commons

The American state of Texas executed 64-year-old Mexican national Roberto Moreno Ramos on November 14, contravening the International Court of Justice (ICJ) and several human rights bodies, which had concluded he was entitled to a retrial or new sentencing hearing because of due process violations related to his trial, and should not be subjected to the death penalty because of his psychosocial disabilities. [OHCHR Press Release] Mr. Moreno Ramos, a Mexican citizen who had been arrested on suspicion of murder in 1992, was not afforded consular assistance or prompt, effective legal representation. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 1/05, Case 12.430, Roberto Moreno Ramos (United States), 28 January 2005. He is the sixth Mexican national to be executed in defiance of the ICJ’s 2004 judgment in Avena and Other Mexican Nationals (Mexico v. United States) ordering the “review and reconsider[ation]” of convictions and death sentences because of authorities’ failure to respect the rights of Mexican nationals and the Mexican government to consular information and notification. [Mexican Government Press Release]

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UN Human Rights Committee Clarifies, Expands Guidance on Right to Life

Credit: konferenzadhs via Pixabay

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has issued new legal guidance on the right to life under Article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), expanding its interpretation of government obligations to protect reproductive rights and address climate change, among other topics. See Human Rights Committee, General comment No. 36 (2018) on article 6 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, on the right to life, UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/36, 30 October 2018. General Comment No. 36 replaces the Human Rights Committee’s two previous general comments on the right to life, both published in the 1980s. See id. at para. 1. It incorporates many developments with respect to the right to life under Article 6, such as States’ obligations with regard to the availability of “safe and legal abortion,” the development and sale of weapons, and extra-territorial activities. See id. at paras. 8, 65. Other issues addressed in the general comment include police brutality, the death penalty, and nuclear weapons. See id. at paras. 5, 13, 62, 66. In conjunction with the publication of General Comment No. 36, the Human Rights Committee announced that it will begin working on the next general comment in 2019, which it provisionally decided will be on the right to peaceful assembly. [OHCHR Press Release]

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UN Human Rights Committee Condemns “Burqa Ban,” Countering European Court

Human Rights Committee
Human Rights Committee

Human Rights Committee Chairperson Yuval Shany at the 123rd Session
Credit: UN Web TV

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has concluded that France’s ban on face coverings in public violates the rights of women who wear full-face veils for religious reasons, a conclusion directly at odds with a European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) judgment from 2014. Compare Human Rights Committee, Hebbadj v. France, Communication No. 2807/2016, Views of 17 July 2018, UN Doc. CCPR/C/123/D/2807/2016 and Human Rights Committee, Yaker v. France, Communication No. 2747/2016, Views of 17 July 2018, UN Doc. CCPR/C/123/D/2807/2016 with ECtHR, S.A.S. v. France [GC], no. 43835/11, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 1 July 2014. The Committee’s views, published on October 17, 2018, concluded that two women’s criminal convictions under the 2010 ban violated their rights to freedom of religion and to non-discrimination under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR).

The Human Rights Committee rejected France’s argument, which had been accepted by the ECtHR, that the ban was proportionate to, and the least restrictive means of achieving, the State interest in promoting the conditions for “living together” in a democratic society. In response to IJRC’s questions, the Human Rights Committee Chairperson, Yuval Shany, also noted that the Committee does not apply the ECtHR’s unique “margin of appreciation” doctrine, which gives European States latitude in balancing individual rights against State interests, particularly in areas where there is little consensus among States on a specific social issue. Read more

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