Category Archives: Inter-American System

Recent Developments Highlight Increased Collaboration Among Human Rights Bodies

Signing of the MOU between the UN and the World Economic Forum
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Over the past several months, supranational human rights bodies have announced a flurry of joint events and agreements, highlighting some specific rights challenges and the increasing importance of technical collaboration. Between September and November 2019, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and the United Nations Education, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) were among the bodies that entered into cooperation agreements or hosted events to formalize and enhance collaboration in the implementation of human rights instruments. While there are many other examples over the past decade, it is noteworthy that these collaborations appear to be happening with increasing frequency, formality, and transparency.

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IACHR Announces Results and Changes in Efforts to Reduce Backlog

Assistant Executive Secretary for Petitions and Cases, Marisol Blanchard Vera (far right), IACHR 173 Period of Sessions
Credit: IACHR via Flickr

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), which has long faced a significant backlog in its resolution of individual complaints, has announced developments in the implementation of its Special Procedural Backlog Reduction Program, approved in its Strategic Plan 2017-2021. [IACHR Press Release: Stages] According the IACHR’s press release on its 2019 conclusions, to date, the IACHR has achieved record results in terms of the number of petitions it reviews, decisions it adopts, and friendly settlements it approves. [IACHR Press Release: Stages] It also expects to notify States and petitioners of a record number of decisions to open petitions for processing in 2019. [IACHR Press Release: Stages] The IACHR attributes the increases to the addition of 21 individuals to its case system team in the last two years, largely thanks to the regular fund budget increase from the Organization of American States. [IACHR Press Release: Stages]

The IACHR has also made logistical and procedural changes in its handling of petitions. Most recently, the IACHR adopted Resolution 1/19 limiting the opportunities for petitioners to request review of a decision by the IACHR to reject a petition at the initial review stage. [IACHR Press Release: Initial Review] It also continues to implement Resolution 1/16, allowing the IACHR to consider the admissibility and merits of certain petitions together (rather than in separate stages and reports). Other efforts include increased facilitation of friendly settlements, using template reports for similar cases, and archiving petitions after three years of inactivity (rather than five). [IACHR Press Release: Stages]

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November 2019: UN Treaty Bodies, UPR Working Group & Regional Bodies In Session

UPR Reports Reviewed
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc FerrŽ

In November, 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 and country visits. Five United Nations treaty bodies and one pre-sessional working group will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding women’s rights, civil and political rights, the prevention of torture, and the elimination of racial discrimination. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States. Ten UN special procedures will conduct country visits in November. Additionally, two UN Working Groups will hold sessions 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 Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will be in session.

The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the IACtHR and the IACHR may be viewed via the IACtHR’s Vimeo page and the IACHR’s YouTube page, respectively.

To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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UN Transitions from Peacekeeping to Governance, amid Crisis in Haiti

Security Council Considers Peacebuilding and Sustaining Peace
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

As oversight bodies call for restraint amid ongoing protests in Haiti, the United Nations is ending its 15-year peacekeeping mission in the country. [IACHR Press Release; UN News: Protests] On October 16, 2019, a special political mission, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), replaced the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), shifting the UN’s focus from law enforcement to governance. [UN News: Security Council] The UN Secretary General appointed Helen Meagher La Lime, a citizen of the United States, as the Special Representative for Haiti to head the BINUH, which is charged with promoting and strengthening political stability and peaceful relations, good governance, and human rights. [UN Press Release] The MINUJUSTH and its predecessor, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), leave behind a mixed legacy, marred with controversies ranging from sexual abuse to a cholera epidemic. The new special political mission will begin its work in the midst of an economic crisis, fuel and food shortages, and ongoing violent protests against President Jovenel Moïse that have resulted in at least 30 deaths since September 2019. [Washington Post; UN News: Security Council]

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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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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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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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Inter-American Court to Address Gender-Based Violence Against Journalists in Conflict

Jineth Bedoya
Credit: CIDH via Flickr

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will, for the first time, address States’ obligations to prevent gender-based violence against female journalists in conflict zones, in the case of Jineth Bedoya Lima, a Colombian journalist who was kidnapped, tortured, and raped despite the State’s prior knowledge of threats against her due to her work as a journalist. [IACHR Press Release; CEJIL (Spanish only)] On July 16, 2019, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented Bedoya Lima’s case to the Court because Colombia has so far failed to implement the IACHR’s recommendations in its merits report, which was issued in January 2019. [IACHR Press Release; CEJIL] The IACHR’s decision to refer the case to the Court marks the latest step in Bedoya Lima’s fight against impunity, and presents an opportunity for the Court to develop its jurisprudence on States’ obligations related to sexual violence against female journalists and restrictions on press freedom. [IACHR Press Release; CEJIL] The merits report is not yet available online.

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