On September 16, 2015, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a report on the human rights violations, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and gender-based violence, committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan government forces from 2002-2011. See Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), 16 September 2015 (hereinafter Report). The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including those of a general nature as well as more specific ones regarding institutional reforms, justice, truth and the right to know, reparations, and suggestions directed at the United Nations and Member States. See id. at 248-251.
Category Archives: reparations
The United Nations Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) is currently holding its 9th session in Geneva, Switzerland from September 7th to 18th. The CED is reviewing State reports of Iraq and Montenegro regarding their implementation of the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (Convention). During the session, the CED and each State engage in dialogue on the State’s national report and responses to the issues the CED requested the State to address; the Committee will also consider supplemental reports submitted by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) concerning the States’ compliance with the Convention. The CED will then adopt concluding observations on the States’ implementation of treaty provisions.
On July 23, 2015, the UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) adopted a general recommendation on women’s access to justice, noting that the right of access to justice for women is essential to the realization of all the rights in the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW). See Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation No. 33 on Women’s Access to Justice, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/GC/33, 23 July 2015.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) held its 53rd Extraordinary Session in Honduras, which began on August 24 and concluded on August 29, 2015. During this session the Court held public hearings in two cases: Quispialaya Vilcapoma v. Peru and Ángel Alberto Duque v. Colombia. The Court also held a private hearing concerning compliance on the part of Honduras with sentences in six cases: Juan Humberto Sánchez v. Honduras, López-Álvarez v. Honduras, Servellón-García and others v. Honduras, Kawas-Fernández v. Honduras, Pacheco Teruel and others v. Honduras, and Luna López v. Honduras. The Court prepared judgments in two cases: Gonzáles Lluy (TGGL) and family v. Ecuador and Galindo Cárdenas and others v. Peru. Additionally, the Court started proceedings in two cases: Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its members v. Honduras and Garífuna Community of Punta Piedra and its members v. Honduras. The Court also reviewed various pending cases and administrative issues.
In June 2015, the Working Group on Death Penalty and Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Killings (Working Group) of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) met in Kigali, Rwanda to develop a General Comment on Article 4 (right to life) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, also known as the Banjul Charter (Charter). This meeting also established that the draft general comment would be opened to public consultations and written comments from interested parties. See ACommHPR, Draft General Comment No. 3 on Article 4 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (the right to life) (Draft Comment), June 2015.
On August 5, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published its report “Towards the Closure of Guantanamo,” which examines the human rights situation of detainees at the U.S. Naval Base in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. See Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Towards the Closure of Guantanamo (Report), 2015. The report concludes that detainees are subject to indefinite detention; torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment; and a discriminatory detention regime that does not provide due process or other judicial protection. Commissioner Felipe González, IACHR Rapporteur for the United States, emphasized that “public security reasons cannot serve as a pretext for the indefinite detention of individuals without charge or trial.” [OAS Press Release] The report concludes with a number of recommendations including improving confinement conditions, ensuring detainees’ access to justice, and closing Guantanamo. Read more
On August 3, 2015 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) commenced its 87th session in Geneva, Switzerland. During this session, which will end on August 28, the Committee will review the State reports of Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Niger, Norway, and Suriname. The Committee will also review reports submitted by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) concerning the States’ implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) as well as follow-up information submitted by States parties.
On July 14, 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Committee met in Geneva for a half day general discussion to begin the process of developing a general comment on Article 6 (Right to Life) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). See UN Human Rights Committee, Draft General Comment No. 36: Article 6 (Right to Life), UN Doc. CCPR/C/GC/R. 36, 1 April 2015. The Human Rights Committee adopts authoritative interpretations of specific rights set forth in the ICCPR in the form of general comments, which guide States and other actors in understanding the scope of the right. Prior to this discussion, the Human Rights Committee adopted a note identifying issues that the Rapporteurs on the General Comment, Mr. Yuval Shany and Sir Nigel Rodley, contemplated being addressed in the general comment. The discussion on the development of the general comment, which took place during the 114th session, included oral presentations as well as the review of written submissions from national human rights institutions (NHRIs), civil society organizations, and members of academia.
Background to Article 6 (Right to Life)
During its 112th session in 2014, the Human Rights Committee decided to begin the drafting of a general comment on Article 6 of the ICCPR by revisiting and expanding upon General Comment 6 (1982) and General Comment 14 (1984), both of which are general comments on Article 6. The new general comment will be drafted in light of information obtained since the drafting of those two general comments including information gained through the Committee’s review of States’ reports and communications, as well as through the adoption of recent general comments on related issues. See, Draft General Comment No. 36: Article 6 (Right to Life), 1 April 2015. The purpose of the new general comment is to guide States and other actors in adopting measures that will enable them to fully comply with the rights enumerated in Article 6. [OHCHR]
Article 6 of the ICCPR states:
- Every human being has the inherent right to life. This right shall be protected by law. No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.
- In countries which have not abolished the death penalty, sentence of death may be imposed only for the most serious crimes in accordance with the law in force at the time of the commission of the crime and not contrary to the provisions of the present Covenant and to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide. This penalty can only be carried out pursuant to a final judgment rendered by a competent court.
- When deprivation of life constitutes the crime of genocide, it is understood that nothing in this article shall authorize any State Party to the present Covenant to derogate in any way from any obligation assumed under the provisions of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide.
- Anyone sentenced to death shall have the right to seek pardon or commutation of the sentence. Amnesty, pardon or commutation of the sentence of death may be granted in all cases.
- Sentence of death shall not be imposed for crimes committed by persons below eighteen years of age and shall not be carried out on pregnant women.
- Nothing in this article shall be invoked to delay or to prevent the abolition of capital punishment by any State Party to the present Covenant.
Human Rights Committee Discussion
On April 1, 2015, in advance of the discussion on the general comment, the Committee adopted a note identifying issues that Mr. Yuval Shany and Sir Nigel Rodley, both members of the Human Rights Committee and Rapporteurs on the general comment, considered should be addressed in the general comment. See Draft General Comment No. 36: Article 6 (Right to Life), 1 April 2015.
The note highlighted issues that should be focused upon for each subparagraph of Article 6. For example, with respect to Article 6(1), the following issues are relevant: how Article 6 protections relate to other ICCPR provisions protecting the right to life, including Article 7 (prohibition against torture and cruel/inhumane treatment), Article 9 (right to liberty and security of person), and Article 20 (prohibition against incitement to discrimination, hostility, and violence) as well as to Article 12 (right to health) of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), and to the preamble to the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR); how this provision applies to the unborn, frozen embryos, and clones; the relationship between the right to life and the right to die, for example in the form of euthanasia; how this provision relates to other sources of international law, including humanitarian law, refugee law, environmental law, and criminal law; the regulation of practices such as gun control and drug and alcohol use that could be life-harming; and possible exceptions to the duty to protect life, for example suicide and abortion.
With respect to Article 6(2), the note discusses various issues that could arise with respect to the death penalty including the definition of different terms within subparagraph 2 and the relationship between this article and other ICCPR provisions as well as the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG).
Issues most relevant to subparagraph three include its relationship to the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (CPPCG). Issues to be taken into account regarding subparagraph four include clarifying the meaning of different terms such as pardon, commutation, and amnesty. Regarding Article 6(5), the note discusses the importance of examining whether this provision might be extended to persons with mental disabilities, lactating mothers, and older persons. On Article 6(6), the note discusses its relationship to the Second Optional Protocol to the ICCPR, aiming at the abolition of the death penalty, as well as to Article 7 on cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Finally, some cross-cutting issues for possible discussion include: the relationship between Article 6 and other ICCPR provisions; derogability of the right to life during times of emergency (allowing States to adjust their obligations under the treaty temporarily in exceptional circumstances, such as armed conflicts or civil unrest); whether reservations (a declaration made by a State which allows it to exclude or alter the legal effect of certain provisions of a treaty) are allowable; the extraterritorial application of this provision (whether a State’s obligation extends to persons or situations outside of its territory); the application of this provision in situations of international and non-international armed conflict, forced disappearances, to non-State and multi-national actors; best practices concerning the implementation of Article 6; and procedural safeguards.
Other issues for consideration included: remedies for Article 6 violations, including the duty to investigate, prosecute, and provide reparations; special protection for detainees, minorities, women, children, older persons, migrants, and persons with disabilities; and the discriminatory application of the right to life.
Written Submissions from NHRIs, Civil Society Organizations, and Academia
The Committee received 115 written submissions from NHRIs, civil society organizations, and members of academia for the discussion concerning draft General Comment 36 on the Right to Life. These contributors included: family rights groups (e.g., The Center for Family and Human Rights and Family Watch International); international organizations (e.g., Amnesty International, Avocats Sans Frontières, and Human Rights Watch); penal reform institutions (e.g., Penal Reform International and the World Coalition Against the Death Penalty); regional human rights commissions (e.g., the New Zealand Human Rights Commission and the Northern Ireland Human Rights Commission); reproductive rights organizations (e.g., Center for Reproductive Rights, the Danish Family Planning Association, and the Information Group on Reproductive Choice); right to health organizations (e.g., Center for Health and Gender Equity, The Program on Global Health and Human Rights at the University of Southern California Institute for Global Health, and People’s Health Movement); and women’s rights groups (e.g., the Asian-Pacific Resource & Research Centre for Women, Women and Media Collective in Sri Lanka, and Women Deliver).
The submissions addressed a number of issues with respect to the right to life including: euthanasia and assisted suicide; whether Article 6 contains an implicit right to abortion; guaranteeing the right to safe abortions; protecting the rights of the unborn; and overlap between the right to life and the right to health, for example with respect to access to and use of sexual and reproductive services. See submissions by Equality Now and Women and Media Collective in Sri Lanka.
Other contributions addressed criminal justice and due process issues such as the following: pre-trial detention and detainees’ rights; extrajudicial, summary, and arbitrary executions; drones and targeted killings; and protecting refugees during rescue operations at sea. See submissions by Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.
Additionally, some organizations focused on gender and child-related issues such as: the need to prevent gender-based and sexual orientation-based violence, decrease maternal mortality and morbidity, and prohibit child and forced marriages. See submission by Asian-Pacific Resource and Research Centre for Women.
With respect to the death penalty, submissions highlighted that the death penalty, if not abolished, should only be “imposed when the guilt of the person charged is based upon clear and convincing evidence leaving no room for an alternative explanation of the facts.” See submission by Penal Reform International
Submissions also noted that the right to life encompasses the right to food, sanitation, and water, as well as protection for indigenous populations from forced evictions. See Submissions by Minority Rights Group International and Sanitation and Water for All.
Outcome of the Discussion and Next Steps
After the discussion the Rapporteurs will produce a draft of the general comment which will be presented to the Human Rights Committee for a first reading during a closed session. The text resulting from the first reading will be available to the public on the Human Rights Committee’s webpage and open for comments from interested parties until the second reading. [OHCHR]
The Human Rights Committee is one of ten committees of experts established to assess States’ implementation of specific UN human rights treaties. To learn more about the Human Rights Committee and the other human rights treaty bodies, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
On July 1, 2015, the United Nations Human Rights Council met in Geneva and adopted a landmark resolution urging States to monitor and regulate private education providers. The resolution aims to address the emergence of large-scale for-profit “low cost” private school chains that target poor families in developing countries and compromise the right to education. See UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 29/L.14/Rev.1, Resolution on the Right to Education, UN Doc. A/HRC/29/L.14/Rev.1, July 1, 2015. This resolution, which was adopted during the 29th regular session, marks the first time that the Human Rights Council has responded to the growing phenomenon of the privatization and commercialization of education. [Right to Education Project] The resolution addresses the issue of the increasing number of educational establishments that are unregistered, unregulated, and funded and managed by individuals or enterprises (including non-State actors that are not religious institutions, NGOs, community-based groups, foundations, or trusts). This has negatively impacted the right to education and undermined the concept of education as a public good. See UN Human Rights Council, Report of the Special Rapporteur on the Right to Education, Kishore Singh, UN Doc. A/HRC/29/30, June 10, 2015, 3..
IACtHR 109th Ordinary Session Addresses Custodial Death in Guatemala, Abuses of Colombian Human Rights Defenders
The 109th Ordinary Session of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) began on June 18 and concluded on July 1, 2015, in San Jose, Costa Rica. During this session, the Court publicly heard two cases, Chinchilla Sandoval and Others v. Guatemala and Yarce and Others v. Colombia. The first case concerned the ill-treatment, followed by the death, of a diabetic woman incarcerated in Guatemala, the second case concerned the situation of five Colombian human rights defenders. The Court was also scheduled to: hold a public hearing regarding Panama’s request for an advisory opinion; analyze the possibility of issuing judgments for three cases, hold a private hearing on compliance with two Barbados judgments, and celebrate the 21st Annual Meeting of Presidents and Judges of Tribunals, Courts, and Constitutional Chambers of Latin America. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish only)]
Videos of the public hearings and events are available on the Court’s Vimeo page.