Secretary Pompeo Delivers Remarks on the Release of the 2018 Country Reports on Human Rights Practices
In another effort to both curtail international human rights oversight and advance a regressive view of reproductive rights, the United States Department of State indicated in late March 2019 that it would reduce its financial support for the region’s human rights bodies, which have urged States to repeal laws that criminalize abortion without any exceptions. [Washington Post; PAI] U.S. Secretary of State Michael Pompeo announced that the U.S. would reduce its regular contribution to the Organization of American States (OAS), a regional intergovernmental organization with 35 Member States, in an effort to target the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) and the Inter-American Commission of Women (CIM). See U.S. Department of State, Remarks to the Press (Michael R. Pompeo, 26 March 2019); Letter from Lankford et al., U.S. Senators, to Michael Pompeo, U.S. Secretary of State, United States Senate (Dec. 21, 2018).
The announcement follows other recent efforts by the U.S. to undermine international human rights protections or oversight, including revoking the International Criminal Court prosecutor’s visa to enter the U.S., and efforts to weaken the recommendations on women’s reproductive health and rights during the 63rd Session of the Commission on the Status of Women. [Reuters: Prosecutor; The Guardian] Read more
Commission on the Status of Women, New York
In recent years, international advocacy has contributed to increased awareness of forced sterilization as a human rights violation, including as a result of our work at the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC). Around the world, healthcare providers and others continue to sterilize people without their informed consent, most often targeting those who are Indigenous, living with HIV, are persons with disabilities, or who experience discrimination on other grounds. Just this month, IJRC advanced our partners’ advocacy on this issue at the 63rd Session of the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women (CSW), and Human Rights Watch published a report on involuntary sterilization of transgender persons in Japan. The past three years have also seen judgments from regional human rights courts on forced sterilization and important statements from other bodies. This post details the results of advocacy before regional and United Nations human rights bodies, summarizing the growing body of recommendations, statements, and judgments that more fully define forced sterilization as a human rights violation and guide governments in addressing this harmful practice.
On September 10, 2018, the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC or Child Rights Committee) published its first decision involving sexual violence against a minor, finding that Cameroon had failed to adequately investigate, punish, and redress the rape of a 10-year-old girl. [ACERWC] The Child Rights Committee found that the State’s lack of due diligence also amounted to gender discrimination and a violation of the minor’s right to be free from torture or inhuman or degrading treatment. See ACERWC, Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa and Finders Group Initiative on behalf of TFA (a Minor) v. Cameroon, Communication No. 006/Com/002/2015, Merits Decision, 31st Ordinary Session (2018). The decision, which the minor’s representatives hailed as ground-breaking, diverges from a 2016 African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights decision in which it declined to find that Ethiopia’s failure respond with due diligence to the rape of a minor constituted gender-based discrimination. See ACommHPR, Equality Now and Ethiopian Women Lawyers Association (EWLA) v. Ethiopia, Communication 341/2007, Merits Decision, 19th Extra-Ordinary Session (2016), paras. 133-34, 150. Read more
We are pleased to share our latest newsletter. It details the newest additions to the Online Resource Hub, recent engagement with the universal and Inter-American human rights systems, and upcoming events. If receiving this update via email, you can also read the May 2018 newsletter online, or open the PDF directly. For the latest in human rights developments, visit the News Room and IJRC Daily.
A military parade in Bolivia
Credit: Richard12sep.1993 via Wikimedia Commons
On September 14, 2017, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a press release, applauding the Bolivian government’s establishment of a Truth Commission on August 21, 2017. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia] The Truth Commission will investigate allegations of grave human rights violations and crimes against humanity that occurred between November 4, 1964 through October 10, 1982, during the military and authoritarian rule of Bolivia. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia; Amnesty International] See Ley N 879, Ley de la Comision de la Verdad, 23 December 2016 (Bolivia) (in Spanish only). The law establishing the Truth Commission, Law 879 of December 23, 2016, set its objective as “to solve the murders, forced disappearances, tortures, arbitrary detentions, and sexual violence, considered grave human rights violations, which were committed in Bolivia for political and ideological motives.” [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia] The Truth Commission, composed of five members, will remain in place for two years, during which time the members will carry out investigations and report on their findings. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia]
The establishment of the Truth Commission follows a long period of widespread impunity, since 1982, for the grave human rights violations committed during the 18-year period, and its findings, the IACHR has noted, will contribute to ensuring justice for the victims’ families and to preventing further injustice. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia; Amnesty International] Bolivia previously made efforts towards seeking and promoting truth; however, the government made little progress, and those efforts were limited to violations relating to forced disappearances. [IACHR Press Release: Bolivia] Representatives of the victims’ families as well as civil society, though, continued to advocate for the establishment of a Truth Commission to ensure that the violations will be “remember[ed], record[ed], and clarif[ied].” [Amnesty International] Read more
Reine Alapini-Gansou, the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, (right) sits with other ACHPR Commissioners
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) recently published the Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa that recommends repealing harmful and discriminatory laws, ensuring compliance with existing international standards that impact human rights defenders, and developing standards on women human rights defenders, among other recommendations. Adopted earlier this year during the 2nd International Symposium on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa held from March 27 to April 1, 2017, in Cotonou, Benin, civil society, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), and States in the region developed the Declaration. See ACommHPR, Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa (adopted on 1 April 2017). The Commission’s Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Madame Reine Alapini-Gansou, organized the colloquium with the goal of strengthening the protection of human rights defenders in the pan-African region through an assessment of the progress made, and the development of new strategies capable of responding to the current needs of human right defenders. See ACommHPR, 60th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Intersession Activity Report (2017), para. 35. The Declaration identifies the abuse of counter-terrorism laws, undue restrictions on the right to freedom of association, violence and threats of violence against defenders and their families, reprisals, and the targeting of certain groups of defenders, among others, as challenges to the protection of human rights defenders, and recommends, in part, raising awareness through the documentation of violations and publication of reports. See Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa (2017). This Declaration is one of seven declarations adopted by the ACHPR since its founding, and while the ACHPR has adopted resolutions on human rights defenders, the existing treaties, declarations, and general comments in the pan-African Human Rights System do not address human rights defenders specifically.
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the 21st Extraordinary Session
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) recently launched General Comment No. 4 on the right to redress for victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment, which was previously adopted during the 21st Extra-Ordinary Session of the ACHPR. See ACommHPR, General Comment No. 4 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment (Article 5), (adopted at the Commission’s 21st Extra-Ordinary Session, held from February 23 to March 4, 2017). Launched on May 8, the General Comment provides an authoritative interpretation of the scope of the right to redress, and States parties obligations, under Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). The General Comment addresses the obligations to provide prompt, full, and effective redress; to ensure rehabilitation; to protect against intimidation and reprisals; and to provide redress for collective harms. See id. [IRCT Press Release] Additionally, the General Comment offers guidance on the right to redress within the contexts of sexual and gender-based violence, armed conflict, transitional justice processes, and violence carried out by non-State actors. See General Comment No. 4 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment (Article 5), (adopted at the Commission’s 21st Extra-Ordinary Session, held from February 23 to March 4, 2017). According to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) – a global civil society organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of torture survivors – this General Comment takes a significant step towards achieving protections for victims of torture and other ill-treatment in the region due to its victim-centered approach to rehabilitation and to its acknowledgement that redress should be provided to victimized communities in addition to individual victims. [IRCT Press Release] Read more
Press briefing on the Secretary General’s report
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres released a report on February 28 detailing his strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers against vulnerable communities. See UN Secretary General, Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: a new approach, UN Doc. A/71/818, 28 February 2017. The report comes less than three months after Guterres’ remarks to the UN General Assembly prior to taking the oath of office, during which he announced his intention to address such crimes. His strategy identifies four primary areas of action: prioritizing victims, ending impunity, engaging civil society and other partners, and improving strategic communications to aid in education and transparency. See id. at para. 13. The report also identifies best practices for Member States, discusses previous initiatives on the matter, and provides data regarding the nature of these allegations and the state of their investigations in 2016. See id. at Annexes, II, III, IV. In recent years, the United Nations has been plagued with allegations that UN peacekeepers have sexually abused women and children in multiple countries, where they have been stationed to assist disadvantaged communities. [IJRC: Recommendations; Bloomberg; CNN] Moreover, the United Nations has been accused of mishandling those allegations and failing to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. See Marie Deschamps et al., Taking Action on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers (2015). The former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also announced recommendations to address this issue in March 2016, but the new action items are broader in scope. [IJRC: Recommendations]