Category Archives: reproductive and sexual rights

African Commission Launches General Comment on Torture Victims’ Right to Redress

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the 21st Extraordinary Session
Credit: ACHPR

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

Guterres Reveals Strategy to Address Sexual Exploitation by UN Peacekeepers

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]

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Rights Protests Continue Across the U.S. as Immigration Ban Implemented

Women’s March participants
Credit: ufcw770 via Wikimedia Commons

Protesters in the United States and around the world demonstrated last week and over the weekend, calling for the protection of the rights of migrants and refugees, women, and other vulnerable groups, as a new administration assumed power in the United States following a bitterly divisive campaign in which now-President Trump denied sexual assault allegations and promised to enact a “Muslim ban.” [Fortune] During the past year and more recently, various universal and regional international human rights monitoring bodies commented on human rights issues relevant to those prioritized in these protests, and called on American authorities to respect fundamental rights and values.

The organizers of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, which may be the largest demonstration in U.S. history, specifically called for the protection of women’s right to be free from violence and discrimination, women of color’s right to be free from racial discrimination, migrants’ rights, environmental rights, and LGBTQIA communities’ right to be free from violence and discrimination, among other rights.

Since then, President Trump has taken several steps that civil society and human rights experts warn greatly threaten many of the same human rights championed by the demonstrators. On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order imposing a 90-day suspension on entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia); a 120-day suspension of all refugee admissions; and an indefinite pause on the admission of refugees from Syria. The order, which was immediately implemented, unleashed chaos and protests in the country’s airports, as civil society and the courts struggled to define its scope and legality. [New York Times; NPR]

The U.S. is a State party to multiple human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which protect the rights to, among others, non-discrimination and equal protection. It is also a party to the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, commonly referred to as the “Refugee Convention.” Read more

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