Category Archives: publications and resources

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ACHPR Publishes Guidelines on Human Rights while Countering Terrorism

ACHPR Principles and GuidelinesThe African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has released new principles intended to guide its Member States in implementing counter-terrorism and security measures that comply with regional and international human rights norms. As African States increasingly face real and practical challenges posed by terrorism, the Principles and Guidelines on Human and Peoples’ Rights while Countering Terrorism in Africa (Principles and Guidelines) aim to explicitly define governments’ human rights obligations in this context and encourage States respond to security threats in ways that: prioritize victims’ needs, address the root causes of extremism, recognize the need to regulate modern developments including the use of private contractors and rendition, and include a commitment to implementing their human rights obligations. [ACHPR Press Release] Although the ACHPR adopted the Principles and Guidelines in May 2015, they were officially released on January 29, 2016. Read more

U.S. State Department Releases 2012 Country Reports on Human Rights

HumanRights.Gov

The U.S. Department of State recently released its Country Reports on Human Rights Practices for 2012.  The annual reports cover nearly every country besides the United States and address various human rights topics, such as freedom of speech and press, arbitrary arrest or detention, and workers’ rights. Drawing on a variety of resources, including U.S. consular staff and civil society reports, the country reports provide a wealth of information both in terms of details on selected victims and human rights violations, as well as an overview of each country. Read more

UN Publishes Guide for Measuring Human Rights

The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) at the end of 2012 released a new publication entitled Human Rights Indicators: A Guide to Measurement and Implementation, which is available online in English and Spanish.  The Guide supports the identification of objective indicators for measuring countries’ progress in realizing human rights and came about in response to requests from UN treaty bodies for “assistance in analysing and making use of the statistical information in the State parties’ reports so as to assess their compliance with the human rights treaties they have ratified.” The Guide contains precise, measurable indicators for tracking a country’s progress, providing human rights defenders with a new tool for advocacy on specific human rights concerns. Read more

DR Congo Needs Stronger Judiciary to Fight Impunity for Int'l Crimes, Amnesty Reports

A report published by Amnesty International last week asserts that the Democratic Republic of Congo must strengthen its judicial system in order to ensure adherence to due process, hold perpetrators accountable for war crimes and crimes against humanity, and offer justice and reparation to victims.  The Time for Justice is Now: New Strategy Needed in the Democratic Republic of the Congo describes the violence and international crimes in the country’s recent history (with reference to the UN Mapping Report), the vulnerability of the judiciary to threats and political influence, the lack of sufficient resources to prosecute offenders, inadequate support and protection of victims and witnesses, weak enforcement of court judgments, and poor prison conditions.

Amnesty calls on the DRC to:

  • Proceed with the government-proposed Specialised Court with jurisdiction over international crimes;
  • Seek funding from United Nations, European Union, national government and other sources to better fund ordinary courts;
  • Allow victims to participate in the reform process;
  • Establish a program to protect victims and witnesses; and,
  • Raise victims’ awareness of their legal right to collect reparations when a court finds the government responsible for international crimes.

Growing Trend of Attacks on Health Care Workers in Conflict Zones Puts Millions at Risk, Violates International Law

The International Committee of the Red Cross issued a report earlier this week examining 655 incidents of violence involving medical aid in conflict zones, which the organization says is part of a wider, growing trend of attacks against medical personnel and infrastructure that is hindering the provision of emergency healthcare to communities in need and violates international humanitarian law. [AP]  The full report, Health Care in Danger examines sixteen countries (apparently, Somalia, Afghanistan, Democratic Republic of Congo, Somalia, and Iraq, among others).

The attacks most affected international NGOs, followed closely by local health care providers and Red Cross or Red Crescent operations (a combined total of 77% of attacks). Health Care in Danger, p. 6. As far as the perpetrators and means used in the attacks, ICRC reports:

State armed forces were identified as the people committing violence in 33% (216/655) of all events analysed, armed groups in 36.9% (242/655), and the police in 6.9% (45/655). […] In 22.6% (148/655) of the events, some kind of explosive weapon was used.  Firearms  were   known  to be   involved  in  34.2% (224/655) of the events. … In 9.3% (61/655) of events, weapons were not a factor (e.g. because the events involved threats delivered by mail or phone or administrative decisions with implicit threats). For 27.0% (177/655) of events, no information on the type of weapon used by the people committing violence was available.

Id. at p. 7.  The report also indicates that in the majority of events, personnel and healthcare facilities were harmed, resulting in the suspension of health care. Id.

The impact of these findings was summarized in ICRC’s press release:

According to Dr Robin Coupland, who led the research carried out in 16 countries across the globe, millions could be spared if the delivery of health care were more widely respected. “The most shocking finding is that people die in large numbers not because they are direct victims of a roadside bomb or a shooting,” he said. “They die because the ambulance does not get there in time, because health-care personnel are prevented from doing their work, because hospitals are themselves targets of attacks or simply because the environment is too dangerous for effective health care to be delivered.”

The ICRC’s photo gallery, Health Care in Danger: The Many Faces of A Growing Problem, features images of the destruction caused by such attacks.

Articles and Other Commentary: July 2011

  • A new General Comment No. 34 by the UN Human Rights Committee analyzes restrictions on the right to freedom of opinion and expression as protected by Article 19 of the ICCPR – including laws prohibiting blasphemy, treason, terrorism, and defamation – and addresses governments’ obligations to provide access to information.
  • Roman Anatolevich Kolodkin, the UN International Law Commission Special Rapporteur on the immunity of State officials from foreign criminal jurisdiction has published its Third report on the subject, addressing procedural aspects of immunity (timing, invocation and waiver) and State responsibility.
  • Adam Tomkins, National Security and the Due Process of Law, CURRENT LEGAL PROBLEMS (2011) p. 1-39 examines the balance between national security concerns and procedural fairness under English law, with a closer look at special advocates and closed materials, as well as the cases of Binyam MohamedAl Sweady, and Al Rawi.
  • The latest issue of the Journal of International Criminal Justice includes a symposium on the influence of the European Court of Human Rights’ case law on international criminal law, with articles analyzing the intersections between international criminal law and human rights law and the bodies charged with enforcing each, and including articles focused on torture, criminal due process, punishment.  The issue also contains four articles on the topic of “National Prosecution of International Crimes: Cases and Legislation”.  J. INT’L CRIM. JUST. (2011) 9(3)
  • Jens David Ohlin proposes a normative framework for defining States’ use of targeted killings, based on such factors as the individual’s direct participation in hostilities and functional membership in a terrorist organization, in Targeting Co-Belligerents (July 15, 2011). TARGETED KILLINGS: LAW & MORALITY IN AN ASYMMETRICAL WORLD, Claire Finkelstein, Jens David Ohlin, Andrew Altman, eds., Oxford University Press, Forthcoming.

 

Book Review – Preventing Irreparable Harm: Provisional Measures in International Human Rights Adjudication

Eva Rieter, Preventing Irreparable Harm: Provisional Measures in International Human Rights Adjudication (Intersentia, Antwerp, 2010, xl + 1200 pp., €129.00) ISBN 978-90-5095-931-5 (pb)

This year, Eva Rieter, assistant professor in public international law and international human rights at Radboud University Nijmegen, has authored an extensive volume which is the result of years of research on provisional measures in the international human rights context.

Provisional measures—also termed precautionary measures or interim measures—are those actions which international tribunals direct States to take (or refrain from taking) in order to preserve the object of the litis or to prevent irreparable harm to individuals in situations of imminent risk.  International judicial and quasi-judicial tribunals that issue such measures include those of the regional human rights systems, some U.N. treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice.

Although several scholars have previously written about the use of provisional measures, such literature has typically focused on individual tribunals[1] or on particular cases[2]. Rieter’s tome appears to be the first comprehensive analysis of the use of provisional measures in the field of international human rights law.

In addition to the dearth of scholarly analysis of provisional measures, this subject has remained elusive to practitioners and academics alike because few tribunals publish their decisions on provisional measures, and those that do may not include reference to supporting international law or jurisprudence. These factors complicate not only the study of precautionary measures, but also the work of those hoping to attain coherence and consistency in—if not progressively expand upon—their use. In addition, the lack of transparency raises questions about the expectations of States vis-à-vis their potential obligations in this area of the law.

Rieter’s book examines the conventional and/or statutory authority to examine requests for provisional measures; the procedural rules governing their authorization and implementation; and the substance of nearly a century of decisions granting, modifying and lifting such measures. Its chapters address, first, the relevant tribunals and the competence of each (Chapters I and II), before turning to the use of provisional measures in specific situations of risk (Chapters III through XII), the kind of protective action required of the State (Chapter XIII) and, lastly, more specific questions of jurisdiction  and enforcement (Chapters XIV through XVIII).

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