Category Archives: international human rights

UN Human Rights Bodies May Curtail Work Amid Funding Shortage

Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Governments’ failure to fully fund the United Nations now threatens the work of the UN human rights treaty bodies that review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations, making it likely that six of the 10 bodies will have to skip the sessions they have planned for later this year. [OHCHR Press Release; IPS] The chairs of the human rights treaty bodies have responded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ notice of the funding shortfall with their own letter, also addressed to the UN Secretary General, highlighting the urgency of the situation and urging UN leaders and Member States to avert the impending crisis. [OHCHR Press Release] Experts warn that without the necessary funds, protections for global human rights will be dangerously reduced. [IPS] These cuts come at an especially sensitive time for the protection of human rights, as observers note the rise in right-wing and authoritarian governments, shrinking space for civil society, and a backlash on women’s rights. [IPS] While the OHCHR did not identify the specific reasons for the funding shortfall, the UN has recently warned of a funding shortage caused by the Member States’ chronic failure to make their assessed dues on time and in full, causing the UN to use up its reserves at a time when its largest contributor, the United States, is reducing its contributions. [UN News; IPI Global Observatory; IJRC]

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New Report: Civil Society Access to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

civil society meets with IACHR

The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) has published its second report in an ongoing series examining the barriers to civil society’s engagement with supranational human rights oversight bodies. See IJRC, Civil Society Access to International Oversight Bodies: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (2019). This edition analyzes the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), a principal autonomous organ of the Organization of American States (OAS) charged with addressing human rights conditions and human rights violations in the 35 OAS Member States. The 65-page report focuses on the informal policies and practical factors, as well as formal rules, that help or hinder civil society’s participation in IACHR sessions and other activities. The Executive Summary, which includes the report’s main findings and a complete list of recommendations to the IACHR, is available in both Spanish and English. Read more

ILO Advances Socio-Economic Integration Plan for Venezuelan Migrants and Refugees

Crossing the river from Venezuela to Colombia 
Credit: Policía Nacional de los colombianos via Wikimedia Commons

On May 7, 2019, the International Labour Organization (ILO) announced the launch of a new plan including a series of urgent interventions aimed at addressing the security, economic, and social integration needs of Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Ecuador, and Peru. See ILO, Appeal: Venezuelan refugees and migrants in Latin America and the Caribbean. Under this proposed plan – developed together with the International Organization for Migration (IOM), Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), and the Organization of American States (OAS) – the ILO has committed $2 million USD of its voluntary funds to support projects in the three countries that have received the majority of displaced people from Venezuela: Ecuador, Colombia, and Peru. [ILO Press Release] The ILO intervention is part of a broader appeal within the framework of the Regional Refugee and Migrant Response Plan (RMRP), a multilateral plan to coordinate a regional response to the unprecedented and growing “largest displacement of population in the modern history of Latin America and the Caribbean.” [ILO Press Release] Venezuela’s years-long economic and political crisis, which worsened in recent months following reactions by national and foreign authorities to Juan Guaidó’s attempt to claim the presidency from Nicolás Maduro, has resulted in an estimated 3.7 million people leaving the country and about seven million people in Venezuela in need humanitarian assistance. [UN News: Humanitarian Crisis]

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May 2019: UN Treaty Bodies And Regional Bodies In Session

Palais des Nations
Credit: Jean-Marc Ferré via Flickr

In May, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Three United Nations treaty bodies will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the elimination of racial discrimination, the prevention of torture, and the rights of children. The Human Rights Council Working Group on the Universal Periodic Review will consider the overall human rights situations in 14 countries. Seven UN special rapporteurs, two independent experts, and one working group will conduct country visits in May. Additionally, four UN working groups will hold sessions in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), and the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR) will all be in session. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold a Grand Chamber hearing.

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

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African Rights Court Orders Tanzania to Limit Body Cavity Searches

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Credit: African Court via Flickr

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) recently issued its judgment in the case of Lucien Ikili Rashidi v. Tanzania, finding the State violated a non-citizen’s rights when its agents detained him, subjected him to an anal search, and did not resolve his legal claims for seven years after he was arrested for not having his passport and visa in his possession. See AfCHPR, Lucien Ikili Rashidi v. United Republic of Tanzania, App. No. 009/2015, Judgment of 28 March 2019. The AfCHPR found violations of Ikili Rashidi’s rights to residence, freedom of movement, integrity of person, dignity, and to be tried within a reasonable time. Ultimately, the Court awarded Ikili Rashidi and his family modest financial compensation and ordered Tanzania to take measures to ensure that all future cavity searches would be in compliance with international standards, as clarified by the European and Inter-American human rights bodies. See id. The judgment is one of six the AfCHPR released in late March, three of which concern Tanzania. [AfCHPR Press Release] Read more

U.S. Resists International Oversight, Reduces IACHR Funding over Reproductive Rights

Secretary Pompeo Delivers Remarks on the Release of the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices

In another effort to both curtail international human rights oversight and advance a regressive view of reproductive rights, the United States Department of State indicated in late March 2019 that it would reduce its financial support for the region’s human rights bodies, which have urged States to repeal laws that criminalize abortion without any exceptions. [Washington Post; PAI] U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the U.S. would reduce its regular contribution to the Organization of American States (OAS), a regional intergovernmental organization with 35 Member States, in an effort to target the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM). See U.S. Department of State, Remarks to the Press (Michael R. Pompeo, 26 March 2019); Letter from Lankford et al., U.S. Senators, to Michael Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, United States Senate (Dec. 21, 2018).

The announcement follows other recent efforts by the U.S. to undermine international human rights protections or oversight, including revoking the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s visa to enter the U.S., and efforts to weaken the recommendations on women’s reproductive health and rights during the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. [Reuters: Prosecutor; The Guardian] Read more

Commission of Inquiry: Israeli Response to Gaza Demonstrations Violated Rights

2018 Gaza border protests, Bureij
Credit: מינוזיג – MinoZig via Wikimedia Commons

In a new 252-page report, the United Nations Commission of Inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory (CoIOPT or Commission), established by the UN Human Rights Council, presents detailed findings related to its investigation of the demonstrations that took place in Gaza between March 30 and December 31, 2018, the Israeli security forces’ response, and the impact on civilians living in Gaza and Israel. See Report of the detailed findings of the independent international Commission of inquiry on the protests in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, 18 March 2019, UN Doc. No. A/HRC/40/CRP.2, para. 1. The CoIOPT finds Israel, Hamas (as Gaza’s de facto authority), and the Palestinian Authority, responsible for human rights violations committed in the context of these protests; notes that the Israeli security forces’ response to the demonstrations gave rise to humanitarian law violations, some of which may amount to crimes against humanity; and highlights the urgent need to revise the Israeli security forces’ rules of engagement. See id. at paras. 980-81, 985. The CoIOPT presents the report with a view to ensuring accountability, proposing concrete recommendations, and identifying State and non-State actors responsible for violations of international human rights and humanitarian law, and international criminal law — the applicable international legal framework to this situation. See id. at paras. 12-13, 37.

While the Commission faced significant limitations with respect to its ability to witness information first-hand, it relied on interviews, meetings with victims, civil society, government officials, and witnesses; it also collected thousands of documents, including medical reports, expert legal opinions, drone footage, and written submissions, among others, to support its findings. See id. at paras. 19-21, 30-36. The Israeli government has since issued a statement rejecting the report’s findings and accusing the Commission of bias against Israel. See Israel Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Israel’s response to UNHRC Commission of Inquiry report, 21 March 2019. Read more

April 2019: UN Treaty Bodies & Regional Body in Session

European Court Of Human Rights
Credit: Anil Öztas via Wikimedia Commons

In April, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will review 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 and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the rights of persons with disabilities, migrant workers’ rights, enforced disappearances, the elimination of racial discrimination, and the prevention of torture. Seven UN special rapporteurs, two working groups, and one independent expert will conduct country visits in April. Additionally, three working groups will hold sessions in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold a Grand Chamber hearing.

The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the ECtHR can be viewed on the Court’s website. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

New IACHR Report Addresses Police Violence Against Black Americans

EEUU: Uso de fuerza por policía contra afrodescendientes
Credit: IACHR via Flickr

In a new report documenting the forms of police violence against people of African descent in the United States, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) examines the widespread racial disparities in the American criminal justice system, in light of the State’s international human rights obligations. See IACHR, Police Violence against Afro-descendants in the United States (2018). The report from the region’s principal human rights oversight body examines the factual situation and recommends specific reforms. [IACHR Press Release] Its conclusions are perhaps most succinctly expressed in a note on the cover art, which reads, “the United States has systematically failed to adopt preventive measures and to train its police forces to perform their duties in an appropriate fashion. This has led to the frequent use of force based on racial bias and prejudice and tends to result in unjustified killings of African Americans.” See IACHR, Police Violence against Afro-descendants in the United States.

The report goes beyond current-day excessive use of force to examine the history of racial discrimination in America, modern structural discrimination, over-policing of African American communities, a lack of accountability for excessive use of force, and various racial disparities in the larger criminal justice system. Among its recommendations, the IACHR calls on the U.S. to provide restitution “to remedy the situation of historic, structural discrimination against African Americans,” accountability for killings by police, public apologies and official declarations to restore the dignity and rights of the victims, and human rights training for law enforcement. See id. at paras. 295, 300, 301.

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Forced Sterilization as a Human Rights Violation: Recent Developments

Commission on the Status of Women, New York

In recent years, international advocacy has contributed to increased awareness of forced sterilization as a human rights violation, including as a result of our work at the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC). Around the world, healthcare providers and others continue to sterilize people without their informed consent, most often targeting those who are Indigenous, living with HIV, are persons with disabilities, or who experience discrimination on other grounds. Just this month, IJRC advanced our partners’ advocacy on this issue at the 63rd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and Human Rights Watch published a report on involuntary sterilization of transgender persons in Japan. The past three years have also seen judgments from regional human rights courts on forced sterilization and important statements from other bodies. This post details the results of advocacy before regional and United Nations human rights bodies, summarizing the growing body of recommendations, statements, and judgments that more fully define forced sterilization as a human rights violation and guide governments in addressing this harmful practice.

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