In a new report and interactive website, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has detailed flaws in the United States’ prosecution and incarceration of children, urging reforms to ensure that minors are not tried or sentenced as adults. IACHR, The Situation of Children in the Adult Criminal Justice System in the United States (2018). The report, released in September 2018, examines the legal framework that allows children to be tried in the adult criminal system in light of the State’s international legal obligations, the current status of children within the criminal system, and the conditions children face during their incarceration in adult facilities. See id. According to the IACHR, as of 2016, approximately 200,000 children were tried each year in U.S. adult criminal courts, and were held in adult penitentiaries in violation of their right to special protection and to be tried in a specialized juvenile system. [IACHR Press Release] While the U.S. has taken steps to reduce the number of children coming into contact with the adult criminal justice system, individual American states maintain laws and practices that allow children to be incarcerated in adult facilities. [IACHR Press Release] The report highlights the State’s failure to protect the rights of children in this respect, and recommends specific reforms. [IACHR Press Release] Read more
Category Archives: conditions of detention
In the past month, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights have called on Cameroon to launch an investigation into persistent reports of a deteriorating human rights situation in the English-speaking Northwest and Southwest regions of Cameroon, including to investigate a video showing the alleged extrajudicial executions of a woman and two children. [ACHPR Press Release: Allegations (French only); OHCHR Press Release] The conflict in Cameroon stems from tensions that arose in 2016 after the English-speaking communities in the State mobilized to demand respect of the English-speaking educational and judicial systems, and to demand more political autonomy. See HRW, These Killings Can Be Stopped: Abuses by Government and Separatist Groups in Cameroon’s Anglophone Regions (2018), 1. In response, the Cameroonian government violently suppressed the protests and arrested many of the demonstrators, which led to armed confrontations. See id. Most recently, the tensions between Anglophone separatists and the largely Francophone government of Cameroon have escalated as a result of separatists’ attacks targeting a Minister of Defense convoy in the country’s Southwest region and the government’s “heavy-handed response.” [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian] Cameroon is obligated, under international human rights law, to ensure the rights to life and to humane treatment, among other rights.
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.
In February 2018, 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, interactive dialogues, and hearings on individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will be holding sessions throughout February on issues related to children’s rights, prevention of torture, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the rights of women. The UN Human Rights Council and several of its working groups will also be in session to review communications as well as thematic and country-specific reports. Two UN special rapporteurs will carry out country visits, and two special procedures working groups will hold private sessions on the topics of forced disappearances, and business and human rights.
Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be in session, and will hold public hearings during those sessions. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear arguments in one case on the alleged violation of due process rights during domestic criminal proceedings, including the right to a fair trial, the right to adequate preparation of a defense, and the right to examine a witness.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court, Inter-American Commission, and Inter-American Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, the Inter-American Commission’s website, and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Last week, three United Nations independent experts – the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions; the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders; and the Special Rapporteur on the sale and sexual exploitation of children – made an urgent appeal to the government of the Philippines concerning grave human rights violations, including murder; threats against human rights defenders including those advocating for indigenous peoples’ rights; and the summary execution of children. [OHCHR Press Release: Experts] Since President Rodrigo Duterte assumed office in June 2016, a violent “war on drugs,” spearheaded by the government of the Philippines continues to undermine the respect for human rights. See HRW, World Report: Philippines (2017). According to Human Rights Watch (HRW), the drug war has led to the killing of more than 7,000 suspected drug users and dealers, the overcrowding of jails, and the targeting of critics of the drug war, without any meaningful investigation into these incidents. See HRW, Philippines. The High Commissioner of Human Rights said last year that the war on drugs has created an atmosphere of violence and impunity. [OHCHR Press Release: Zeid] The UN independent experts recommend that the Philippines investigate all instances of violence, eliminate impunity, and hold perpetrators accountable for their actions. [OHCHR Press Release: Experts] The Philippines is a State party to several human rights treaties, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and it is obligated to uphold the rights to life; prohibition of cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment; and liberty, among others. Read more
- This week, a source confirmed that the government of Syria executed activist and Internet entrepreneur, Bassel Khartabil Safadi, in October 2015. [Washington Post]
- On Thursday, it was reported that activists launched a public appeal asking the prince of Saudi Arabia to dismiss terrorism-related offenses against 14 Shiite men. [Washington Post]
- On Tuesday, two Venezuelan opposition leaders were taken into custody by security forces as a part of an alleged “expanded crackdown on dissent.” [Washington Post]
- On Wednesday, the European Court of Human Rights rejected a request for release from prison by two Turkish teachers with reportedly grave health conditions connected to their hunger strike, citing no “imminent risk to their lives.” [Al Jazeera]
- This week, two major companies, Apple and Amazon, removed apps used to circumvent censorship in China. [Washington Post]
Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers
- This week, a court in France ordered the government to provide humanitarian aid to migrants in Calais. [Washington Post]
- Last week, International Organization for Migration Director General, William Lacy Swing, visited northeast Nigeria; the Nigeria Humanitarian Fund allocated $10.5 million to fund 15 life-saving projects in the region. [UN News Centre]
- On Wednesday, the polling company in charge of the election of the Venezuelan political assembly reported that the election results were manipulated and inaccurate by at least one million votes. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, a week before Kenya’s presidential election, Christopher Msando, an election official, was found tortured and killed. [Associated Press]
- On Friday, Leo Varadkar was elected prime minister of Ireland; in addition to being the youngest leader of the country, he is also Ireland’s first gay and first ethnic minority prime minister. [Guardian]
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held last week that Belgium violated the rights of Rene Rooman – a prisoner with mental health problems who only speaks German – because the State failed to provide access to a psychologist who could also speak German. See ECtHR, Rooman v. Belgium, no. 18052/11, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 18 July 2017 (in French). Following a criminal conviction in 1997, Rooman, a Belgian and German national, was put in detention and later placed in a psychiatric institution in Paifve. [ECtHR: Press Release] Rooman’s application before the ECtHR alleged violations of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to liberty and security enshrined in articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (European Convention), respectively. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR took into account prior efforts made by mental health bodies in the Paifve institution, but found that the national authorities’ failure to provide him with a psychologist who could speak German, one of three official languages in Belgium, was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention because it caused Rooman distress that exceeded the unavoidable level of suffering that is inherent in detention. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR also considered whether there had been a violation of Article 5 (the right to liberty) but did not find a violation because Rooman was held in a facility appropriate for a person with a mental health disability. [ECtHR: Press Release] The European Court has previously held that when a State detains someone with a mental health disability and does not provide adequate medical care to the detriment of the detainee’s health, the State has violated the right to prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. See, e.g., ECtHR, Claes v. Belgium, no. 43418/09, ECHR 2013, Judgment of 10 January 2013. Read more
Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts
- Independent experts from the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issued a joint statement condemning recent attacks in Brazil on indigenous peoples’ rights and on environmental rights. [OHCHR Press Release]
- This week the United Nations Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances announced its first visit to the Gambia to take place June 12 to 19, 2017. [OHCHR Press Release]
- The European Court of Human Rights ruled this week that Bulgaria violated the right to freedom of assembly and of association for refusing to register an organization that promotes the rights of Muslims. [COE Press Release]
- In a report recently presented, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health has called for “a revolution in mental health care.” [OHCHR Press Release]
- After the United States President announced last week that the State will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states in the country announced that they will still comply with the Paris Agreement. [Guardian; Voice of America]
- This week, the opposition party in Lesotho won a majority of parliamentary seats during a snap election. [Al Jazeera]
- Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced that opposition parties in the State should not attempt to challenge recent local elections or they could be dissolved. [Washington Post]
- The United States warned again this week that it may pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the UN body reconsiders how States, particularly those with negative human rights records, become members of the Council. [Washington Post]
- The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of five protesters in Bahrain. [OHCHR Press Release]
- After five farmers died at a rally in India, protesters demonstrated on Wednesday, prompting the deployment of troops on Thursday. [Washington Post; ABC News]
- Detainees in Venezuela, including protesters detained for demonstrating, claim they are being beaten and tortured while in custody. [Miami Herald]
- On Thursday, Palestinians organized a strike, which closed down schools, institutions, and transportation, to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails. [Al Jazeera]
- On Thursday, 30 people in Turkey were detained and charged with membership in an armed terror organization as a result of their ties to a newspaper that was run by a woman accused of leading a coup attempt in the country. [Washington Post]
Activities of International Bodies
- On Tuesday, the United Nations and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland held a one-day conference in Geneva, Switzerland focused on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. [UN News Centre]
- On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that detention conditions in Romanian prisons violated the right to the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. [Council of Europe]
Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers
- On Monday, a migrant boat traveling between Greece and Turkey sunk, killing 16 people. [Washington Post]
- According to European Union (EU) officials, 23,000 unaccompanied children in Greek and Italian refugee camps are at risk of child abuse, rape, and smuggling. [Guardian]
- This week, 25,000 people were displaced due to a violent offensive in the Kodok region of South Sudan. [Washington Post]
International Criminal Law
- On Thursday, an appeals court in Senegal upheld former Chad dictator Hissene Habre’s life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed the warrant of arrest for alleged war criminal Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled for crimes committed in Libya in 2011. [ICC Press Release]
- On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Maduro announced Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS) amid ongoing violent protests in the country. [BBC News]
- On Monday, Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee approved a law that prohibits discrimination against, and expands protections for, individuals with HIV and AIDS. [Jurist]
Tunisia formally agreed last week to allow individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to directly access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) with complaints of human rights violations against Tunisia. Tunisia joins seven other countries that also currently grant the Court the same jurisdiction. [AfCHPR Press Release] The government of Tunisia hosted a delegation of the AfCHPR in the capital city of Tunis on April 13 at which time Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi praised the Court’s work in protecting human rights. [AfCHPR Press Release] AfCHPR President Justice Sylvain Oré commended Tunisia’s decision and encouraged other African countries to follow suit. [AfCHPR Press Release] Tunisia’s acceptance of this jurisdiction comes one month after Rwanda officially withdrew from it. [AfCHPR Press Release] Additionally, in the years following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, some human rights experts have praised its commitment to human rights and others condemned its rights abuses, particularly those linked to its extended state of emergency, such as the use of torture and restrictions to freedom of movement. [Amnesty International; OHCHR Press Release: Zeid; OHCHR Press Release: Terrorism]