Category Archives: regional human rights protection

Four Members Join African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

28th Extraordinary Session of the ACHPR
Credit: ACHPR

On June 29, during its virtual 28th Extraordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) swore in four new Commissioners who will begin six-year terms. They are: Marie Louise Abomo (Cameroon), Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga (Zambia), Ndiamé Gaye (Senegal), and Alexia Gertrude Amesbury (Seychelles). [ACHPR Press Release; ISHR] The Commissioners were appointed during the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (the Assembly) of the African Union (AU), which took place from February 9 to 10, 2020, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The gender balance of the ACHPR will remain the same, with six members who identify as female and five who identify as male. The new Commissioners join the continent’s human rights body at a time when some AU Member States are pushing back against human rights norms and regional oversight.

The new Commissioners will replace Soyata Maiga (Mali), Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen (Mauritius), Lucy Asuagbor (Cameroon), and Lawrence Murugu Mute (Kenya). Commissioner Asuagbor was first elected to a three-year term in 2009. Commissioners Maiga and Yeung were first elected to six-year terms in 2007. The Executive Council re-elected the three commissioners, and elected Commissioner Mute, to six-year terms in 2013. Commissioner Mute was among the 10 candidates presented to the AU Executive Council in December 2019, but was not reelected. The next expected elections will take place in 2021, when three Commissioners’ terms will expire.

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New Council of Europe Guidance on Rights of Trafficking Victims

Credit: GRETA via Council of Europe website

The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has published new guidance for States on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection. See Council of Europe GRETA, Guidance Note on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection, GRETA(2020)06, June 2020. In particular, GRETA’s new guide explains when trafficking victims are entitled to international protection in countries where they are not citizens or permanent residents, and identifies the kinds of services and treatment those countries must provide. [COE Press Release] Relying on various international and regional human rights instruments, including the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence, as well as the principle of non-refoulement, the guide is intended to assist Council of Europe (COE) Member States in meeting their obligations. The guide builds on the guidelines from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and elaborates on the scope of application of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. [COE Press Release]

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IACHR Launches Searchable Database of Recommendations, to Track Implementation

Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has launched an online database of recommendations it has issued to States in friendly settlement agreements, published merits reports, annual reports, country reports, and resolutions. [IACHR Press Release] The IACHR plans to soon add recommendations from thematic reports and precautionary measures, as well. The goals of the new system, known as the Inter-American SIMORE, are to facilitate State compliance and promote accountability and transparency, by improving access to information on the IACHR’s recommendations and their implementation. [IACHR Press Release] The Inter-American SIMORE is the IACHR’s first searchable database of its decisions and other outputs, and it is unique among human rights bodies in that it also serves as a channel for receiving information from many stakeholders on the status of (some) recommendations. States and civil society members may register on the platform to submit information on implementation, including regarding the IACHR’s most recent recommendation on the COVID-19 pandemic and human rights in the Americas. [IACHR Press Release] Currently, it contains 2,340 recommendations from 1999 to 2020. The interface, although not all documents, is available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

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IACHR Finds U.S. Responsible for Torture, Refoulement of Guantanamo Detainee

Guantánamo Roundtable
Credit: IACHR via Flickr

In its first decision concerning the “war on terror,” the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has found the United States responsible for violating the human rights of Djamel Ameziane, a former detainee at the Guantánamo Bay detention facility. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 29/20, Case 12.865, Djamel Ameziane (United States), 22 April 2020. Ameziane is an Algerian national who was detained in Guantánamo without charge beginning in 2002, tortured, and later repatriated to Algeria in 2013. The IACHR’s decision on his 2008 complaint is its first published merits report of 2020. [CCR; CEJIL] The IACHR concluded that the U.S violated the American Declaration on the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration) provisions on torture and inhumane treatment, religious freedom, due process and effective remedy. See Djamel Ameziane (United States), 22 April 2020, para. 5. In contravention of IACHR precautionary measures and despite its repeated calls for the U.S. to transfer the remaining detainees from the detention facility, Guantánamo Bay is still operating and the U.S. continues to prosecute detainees before military commissions (hybrid military and civilian courts) rather than in federal courts. See id. at para. 110.

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Protesters, Human Rights Bodies React to Racism, Police Violence in U.S.

Credit: UN Human Rights via Twitter

As protests spread across the United States and the world in response to the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis, human rights experts and civil society renewed their condemnation of racial discrimination and excessive use of force in the American criminal justice system. [The Guardian; UN News: Floyd; OHCHR Press Release: Floyd; IACHR Press Release] In the weeks that preceded George Floyd’s death, the names of Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, and Sean Reed joined those of more than 1,000 others shot and killed by police in the past year, in addition to those such as Ahmaud Arbery who were killed by individuals purporting to carry out law enforcement functions. [Washington Post; Equal Justice Initiative; NYT: Sean Reed] Authorities in many American cities imposed extended curfews and dispersed protesters with police and military who often used tear gas and rubber bullets and targeted journalists. [Washington Post: Callamard; Forbes; NYT: Troops; CPJ] Regional and universal human rights monitors reiterated that the U.S. must take “serious action” to stop killings by police, avoid impunity for extrajudicial killings, address discrimination and inequality, protect the right to protest, and guarantee journalists’ freedom of expression. [OHCHR Press Release: Floyd; IACHR Press Release] Against the backdrop of a pandemic that is not yet under control and that has also disproportionately killed black Americans, pressure is mounting for radical reform grounded in human rights principles.

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Human Rights Bodies: Schedule & Procedural Changes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic (June 2020)


IACHR Rapporteur on the Rights of LGBTI Persons participates in virtual panel on the “Recognition of Gender Identity in Latin America”
Credit: IACHR via Twitter

Universal and regional human rights oversight bodies have postponed or cancelled their upcoming sessions and suspended some procedural deadlines as a result of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, while striving to maintain other activities. Beginning in mid-March 2020, almost all human rights bodies have suspended their meetings and travel through at least June, with the United Nations treaty bodies postponing all in-person meetings through August 2020. Moreover, quarantine measures in many of the bodies’ host countries are further impacting the way staff and appointed experts can carry out their work. Many human rights bodies have adopted measures that will enable them to continue some of their work remotely and some have begun to hold virtual meetings. On May 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights became the first human rights body to announce that it would hold a virtual period of sessions in July 2020.

As more information becomes available in the month of June, this post will be updated. For future or past monthly updates on human rights bodies’ schedule & procedural changes, see the IJRC monthly overviews. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

*Last updated June 1, 2020

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Benin and Côte d’Ivoire to Withdraw Individual Access to African Court

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Credit: AfCHPR via Twitter

Access to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) is likely to further shrink next year, following announcements by Côte d’Ivoire and Benin that they will withdraw their acceptance of the Court’s jurisdiction over human rights complaints by individuals and non-governmental organizations. [RFI; Government of Benin Press Release] News of the announcements came days after the AfCHPR issued provisional measures ordering both States to take specific steps to avoid the exclusion of opposition candidates from upcoming elections, although Benin authorities indicated Benin had communicated its withdrawal on March 16, 2020. [RFI (French only); RTI Info (French only); Barron’s] No official notification from either State to the African Union is yet available online.

Benin and Côte d’Ivoire would become the third and fourth States to withdraw a declaration under Article 34 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the Protocol), potentially leaving only six States that allow individuals and NGOs to directly submit complaints to the AfCHPR. See IJRC, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Previously, Tanzania withdrew its declaration in November 2019 and Rwanda in February 2016. See IJRC, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The AfCHPR ruled in the case of Rwanda that a properly communicated withdrawal would take effect one year after notification. See AfCHPR, Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza v. Rwanda, App. No. 003/2014, Ruling on Jurisdiction of 3 June 2016, paras. 67-68.

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Human Rights Bodies: Schedule & Procedural Changes Amid Covid-19 Pandemic (May 2020)

European Committee of Social Rights meets via video conference
Credit: ECSR

Universal and regional human rights oversight bodies have postponed or cancelled their upcoming sessions and suspended some procedural deadlines as a result of the developing COVID-19 pandemic, while striving to maintain other activities. Beginning in mid-March 2020, almost all human rights bodies have suspended their meetings and travel through at least May, with the European Court of Human Rights extending its exceptional measures to June 2020. Moreover, quarantine measures in many of the bodies’ host countries are further impacting the way staff and appointed experts can carry out their work. Some human rights bodies have adopted measures that will enable them to continue some of their work remotely and some have already held virtual meetings. On May 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights became the first human rights body to announce that it will hold a virtual period of sessions in July 2020.

As more information becomes available in the month of May, this post will be updated. For future or past monthly updates on human rights bodies’ schedule & procedural changes, see the IJRC monthly overviews. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

*Last updated May 26, 2020

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New ACHPR Declaration on Freedom of Expression & Access to Information

ACHPR Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information Lawrence Murugu Mute
Credit: Lawrence Mute via Twitter

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has published a new Declaration on Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (Declaration), which replaces its 2002 principles on freedom of expression, and expands the guidance to States on access to information and digital rights. [ACHPR Press Release] The Declaration – a soft law document that interprets Article 9 (right to receive information and free expression) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights – consists of 43 principles, including principles on access to the internet, internet intermediaries, privacy protections, and communication surveillance, as well as on the Declaration’s implementation. See ACHPR, Declaration of Principles of Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa (2019). The ACHPR Special Rapporteur on freedom of expression and access to information led the Declaration’s drafting, and the ACHPR adopted the final Declaration during its 65th Ordinary Session in November 2019. [ACHPR Press Release]

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ACHPR Publishes Special Mechanism Rules Ahead of New Rules of Procedure

ACHPR 27th Extraordinary Session, The Gambia
Credit: ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has published new rules that partially clarify and formalize the work of the individuals and groups appointed to monitor and protect specific human rights and vulnerable groups on the Commission’s behalf. See ACommHPR, Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2020). The new Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms mandate specific procedures and conduct, and envision greater consistency and transparency with regard to the special mechanisms’ work, although some details remain unclear. The text refers to the forthcoming revised ACHPR Rules of Procedure, which the ACHPR adopted along with the new Standard Operation Procedures during its 27th Extraordinary Session, held from February 14 to March 4, 2020. See ACHPR, Final Communiqué of the 27th Extraordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights. While the ACHPR’s 12 thematic special mechanisms share similarities with the rapporteurships of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), they are unique in that the working groups and committees include outside “expert members” who are not themselves ACHPR commissioners and who volunteer on a part-time basis. See ACommHPR, Standard Operating Procedures on the Special Mechanisms of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (2020). The IACHR similarly released new guidelines on the work of its rapporteurships in February 2020. [IACHR Press Release]

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