Category Archives: international human rights

Human Rights Committee Introduces Fixed Eight-Year State Review Schedule

Meeting with the Chairpersons of the United Nations Human Rights Treaty Bodies
Credit: Manuel Elias via UN Photo

The United Nations Human Rights Committee has announced changes that will generally reduce the frequency and comprehensiveness of its review of States parties’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). With its first Predictable Review Cycle, the Committee will review all 173 States parties to the ICCPR between 2020 and 2027. See OHCHR, The Predictable Review Cycle. The changes mean that each State party will be reviewed every eight years (instead of approximately every five years), the cycle will begin with a list of issues prepared by the Committee for the State to address (unless the State opts to submit a comprehensive report first), and each State will be reviewed even if the State does not participate. These are the latest developments in the Committee’s ongoing efforts to implement the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/268 on “Strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system” and, more specifically, the Committee’s Decision on the Human Rights Committee on additional measures to simplify the reporting procedure and increase predictability. See id. The changes are also a response to challenges facing the Committee, including limited resources, a growing backlog of State reports, and lack of State compliance with recommendations and reporting deadlines. States that wish to opt-out of simplified reporting must notify the Committee’s Secretariat by December 31, 2019. See id.

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October 2019: UN Treaty Bodies & Regional Bodies in Session

Hearing before IACtHR
Credit: CorteIDH via Flickr

In October, 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 and country visits. Four United Nations treaty bodies and two pre-sessional working groups will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding enforced disappearances; economic, social, and cultural rights; women’s rights; children’s rights; and civil and political rights. Nine UN special procedures will conduct country visits in October. Additionally, three UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) 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 IACtHR, IACHR, and ECtHR may be viewed via 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 Commission Finds Violations in Cameroon’s Denial of Broadcasting License

CAL representative addresses ACHPR
ACHPR in Session

ACHPR in Session
Credit: IJRC

On September 18, 2019, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) published a decision finding Cameroon responsible for violating the rights to freedom of expression, non-discrimination, and property of a media company and its director, when it failed to create an independent licensing authority that could grant the company’s radio station a broadcasting license. See ACommHPR, Open Society Justice Initiative (on behalf of Pius Njawe Noumeni) v. the Republic of Cameroon, Communication No. 290/2004, Merits Decision, 25th Extraordinary Session (2019). Drawing and elaborating on jurisprudence from other regional and international human rights bodies, the Commission concluded that the lack of independent and transparent licensing procedures limits diversity in broadcasting and is contrary to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). See id. at para. 171.

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Committee Against Torture Decides First Complaint on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Press Conference on Prevention of Torture
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) issued its first decision against the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding that rape and other acts of sexual violence constitute torture under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention), and ordering the State to pay “fair and adequate compensation” and provide free medical and psychological care to the victim. See Committee Against Torture, Mrs. A v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Communication No. 854/2017, Views of 22 August 2019, UN Doc. CAT/C/67/D/854/2017. This decision, which concerns the rape of a Bosnian woman in the early 1990s during the Bosnian war, is the first CAT decision to examine a State’s responsibilities with respect to sexual violence committed during a period of internal armed conflict. [Trial International] In deciding Mrs. A’s complaint, the Committee applied the standards set out in earlier general comments and concluding observations, and clarified that States must ensure redress – including compensation – for victims of torture, regardless of an individual perpetrator’s ability to pay or statutes of limitation on such claims. See Mrs. A v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Views of 22 August 2019, paras. 7.5-9.

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September 2019: UN Treaty Bodies, Human Rights Council, And Regional Bodies in Session

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

In September, 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 and country visits. Three United Nations treaty bodies and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the rights of persons with disabilities, children, and migrant workers. The Human Rights Council will consider the overall human rights situations in 14 countries. Nine UN special procedures will conduct country visits in September. Additionally, the UN Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances will hold a session in Geneva, Switzerland. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session, and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold three Grand Chamber hearings.

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. Read more

IACHR Publishes Guidelines on Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle

Situation of Victims of Forced Displacement in Guatemala
Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera via IACHR Flickr

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has launched a report on internally displaced people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; it analyzes a years-long increase in internal migration due to violence and the forceful expulsion of Indigenous and farming communities, details the rights of internally displaced people, and provides human rights-based guidelines for essential policy reforms. See IACHR, Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America: Public Policy Guidelines (2018). Internally displaced people are those who are forced to flee their homes involuntarily due to armed conflict, violence, human rights violations, or natural or manmade disasters, and who remain in their country of origin or residence after fleeing their homes. See id. at para. 8. A previous IACHR report touched on forced displacement and forced migration in the three countries, known as the “Northern Triangle” of Central America, in the context of human mobility in the Americas. [IJRC] The new report includes a practical guide intended to make its main recommendations more accessible to civil society and individuals working on the promotion and protection of internally displaced people’s rights, as well as to government officials. The IACHR has stated its willingness to provide technical assistance to States and institutions in implementing its recommendations. See IACHR, Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America, para. 14.

Internal Displacement & State Obligations in the Northern Triangle

In the Northern Triangle, internal displacement has increased in recent years and is largely the result of gang violence or violence perpetuated by drug cartels. See id. at paras. 29, 42. The report finds that activities by State agents and large-scale business also contribute to internal displacement. See id. However, the IACHR highlights that internal displacement is a complex phenomenon that may be caused by multiple factors, including structural deficiencies that cannot be overlooked. See id. at para. 49. For example, the report points to the existing patriarchal system, high levels of corruption and impunity, States’ inability to ensure personal safety, weak government institutions, and social inequalities that limit access to economic and social rights, such as health, education, and housing. See id. at paras. 49-50.

Certain populations are at higher risk of internal displacement given their particular circumstances, including Indigenous and farming communities forcibly displaced by megaprojects and business activities, women, children and adolescents, human rights defenders, LGBTI people, and journalists, among others. See id. at paras. 29, 43, 54.

While internal displacement in the Northern Triangle continues to increase, the lack of accurate data makes it difficult to identify the full scope of the problem. See id. at paras. 57-59, 72. The report concludes that displacement in the region is often disregarded or minimized as a result of low-level reporting, often because of fear of reprisal or the high level of impunity in the States, and incomplete records or lack of official recognition of internal displacement in reported cases. See id. The IACHR Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons has called on States to “collect additional data […] and analysis to build a comprehensive picture of the internal displacement situation, identify trends, patterns, and risk profiles and understand the location, needs, protection concerns, and intentions of internally displaced persons.” See id. at para. 75.

Human Rights Violations & State Obligations

The IACHR analyzes internal displacement and its impact on the human rights of individuals and communities in three phases. See id. at paras. 55-56. First, it considers the human rights violations that predate and often cause the internal displacement, then the rights violations that occur during the displacement itself, and, finally, the rights violations that occur because of the State’s failure to provide adequate protections and solutions to the problem. See id. at para. 56. While forced displacement is considered a human rights violation in it of itself, the IACHR recognizes the multiple and continuous human rights violations that displacement entails, including but not limited to violations of the rights to an adequate standard of living, freedom of movement, humane treatment, private and family life, property, work, and identity. See id. at paras. 87, 92-93, 100.

As such, the IACHR clarifies that States have an obligation to prevent displacement; to provide protection and assistance during displacement, including humanitarian assistance to ensure an adequate standard of living; and to implement measures that facilitate return or local resettlement as a way to guarantee lasting solutions for internally displaced persons. See id. at paras. 99, 112, 125, 131.

Public Policy Guidelines

The report presents the core Inter-American standards, focusing on the scope of Article 22 (freedom of movement and residence) of the American Convention on Human Rights and drawing on United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. See id. at paras. 81-86. The IACHR then translates those standards into 12 policy recommendations aimed at assisting States in complying with their international obligations in this area. See id. at para. 142.

The proposed guidelines are included in the report as well as in the separate practical guide. See IACHR, Practical Guide: Guidelines for the formulation of public policies on internal displacement. The guidelines provide specific steps for States’ executive, legislative, and judicial branches with respect to creating public institutional frameworks capable of achieving effective solutions for the protection of internally displaced persons, adopting data-gathering measures that guarantee transparency and accountability, recognizing internal displacement as a human rights problem and implementing prevention measures to mitigate it, and recognizing and protecting the fundamental rights of the internally displaced. See id. at 9-17.

The guidelines also emphasize the need for a gender and diversity perspective when addressing internal displacement, noting specifically the historical discrimination impacting internally displaced women, girls, and LGBIT individuals, and also highlight the need for an approach that includes an intersectional intercultural perspective. See id. at 21-24. In line with the State obligations previously outlined, the guidelines include specific steps to facilitate humanitarian assistance and efforts to return, resettle, and reintegrate individuals into the local community. See id. at 27-29. Additionally, the guidelines call on States to guarantee access to justice and reparation, and to facilitate civil society and community participation in the process of formulating, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating policies related to internal displacement. See id. at 31-35. Finally, the guidelines include specific measures to guarantee a budget that sustains institutions and policies aimed at protecting internally displaced persons, and steps to expand regional and international cooperation. See id. at 36-37.

Additional Information

To learn more about the Inter-American human rights systemmigrants’ rights, and asylum and refugee rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. For an overview of the Northern Triangle countries’ human rights obligations, view IJRC’s Country Factsheets. To stay up-to-date on international human rights news, visit IJRC’s News Room or subscribe to the IJRC Daily.

Belém do Pará Follow-up Mechanism Issues Recommendations on Missing Women

XV Reunión CEVI
Credit: Inter-American Commission of Women via Flickr

On August 8, 2019, the Follow-up Mechanism to the Belém do Pará Convention (MESECVI) presented a new general recommendation providing guidance to States in addressing “the high number of missing women and girls in some countries” of the Americas and the inadequacy of available data on this type of violence against women. [MESECVI Press Release] The document is the second-ever general recommendation issued by MESECVI, the body charged with overseeing implementation of the Inter-American Convention to Prevent, Punish and Eradicate Violence Against Women, also known as the Belém do Pará Convention. See Inter-American Commission of Women, General Recommendation of the Committee of Experts of the MESECVI (No. 2): Missing Women and Girls in the Hemisphere, Doc. MESECVI/CEVI/doc.250/18, 5 December 2018. It adds to the Inter-American human rights doctrine on State obligations to prevent, punish, and redress disappearances of women and girls, and analyzes the connections between such disappearances and other types of violence against women, including femicides, trafficking, and sexual exploitation. See id. at 4.

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European Court Rejects Complaint of Man Who “Insulted” the Court

Nikolay Alexeyev holding ballot paper which reads “No to homophobes, no to Luzhkov”
Credit: Niko 111 via Wikimedia Commons

On July 16, 2019, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rejected a complaint by Nikolay Alekseyev, a well-known Russian lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) activist, due to posts he made on his social media sites that the ECtHR considered “personally offensive and threatening.” See ECtHR, Zhdanov and Others v. Russia, nos. 12200/08 and 2 others, Judgment of 16 July 2019, para. 83. While the Court went on to find that Russia violated the remaining applicants’ rights to non-discrimination and freedom of association by refusing to register three organizations that advocate for LGBT rights, the Court did not reach the merits of Alekseyev’s complaint. Instead, it found his application inadmissible as “an abuse of the right of application,” pursuant to Article 35 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See id. at paras. 76-86. A majority of the judges agreed with Russia’s argument that Alekseyev abused the right to petition the European Court when he published social media posts describing the European Court’s judges in derogatory, sexist, and threatening terms in response to a previous ruling by the Court in a separate case. See id. In that case, the Court had denied him and others monetary compensation after finding Russia responsible for human rights violations in connection with authorities’ refusal to authorize public LGBT events. See id.

The European Court is not the only human rights oversight body whose rules allow it to reject human rights complaints because of the complainant’s offensive or abusive language, but such provisions and their application to speech made or published outside of the complaint proceeding raise concerns regarding due process, access to justice, and freedom of expression. Three judges on the ECtHR issued a dissenting opinion challenging the Court’s reasoning in dismissing Alekseyev’s application and warning that the precedent set in the Court’s judgment may impact individuals’ ability to access the Court in the future and infringe on their right to freedom of speech. See ECtHR, Case of Zhdanov and Others v. Russia, nos. 12200/08 and 2 others, Judgment of 16 July 2019 (joint partly dissenting opinion of Judges Keller, Serghides, and Elósegui).

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August 2019: UN Treaty Bodies & Regional Body In Session

Inter-American Court Judges
Credit: CorteIDH via Flickr

In August, 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 and country visits. Three United Nations treaty bodies will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding the prevention of torture, the elimination of racial discrimination, and the rights of persons with disabilities. Five UN special procedures will conduct country visits in August. Additionally, the UN Working Group on arbitrary detention will hold a session in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold a special session this month.

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

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