African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during its 54th Session
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has rejected a complaint concerning Djibouti’s alleged involvement in the extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of a Yemeni national, in an inadmissibility decision released last month. See ACommHPR, Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Al-Asad v. Djibouti, Communication No. 383/2010, 55th Ordinary Session, 14 October 2014. The Commission held that evidence pointing to the wrongful detention of Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Al-Asad in a secret United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prison in Djibouti was insufficient to find the communication admissible. The case against Djibouti was the first to challenge the cooperation of an African State in the CIA’s widely-condemned extraordinary rendition and secret detention program, components of the “war on terror.” [INTERIGHTS]
Among other controversial aspects of the decision was the Commission’s analysis of the evidence supporting its exercise of jurisdiction. Reflecting on the appropriate standards of proof to be applied at the admissibility stage, the African Commission held that territorial jurisdiction must be “conclusively substantiated” in order for the complaint to be admissible. The Commission found that the evidence provided – which included records of habeas corpus proceedings in Tanzania, descriptions of the people who interrogated and kept guard over Al-Asad, and his experience of an earthquake at around the same time that a 5.0-magnitude earthquake shook Djibouti – failed to “conclusively establish [his] presence in [Djibouti’s] territory or that he was otherwise under its effective control or authority.” Because it deemed that Al-Asad had failed to satisfy the territorial jurisdiction requirement, the Commission declared the communication inadmissible for being incompatible with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). See ACommHPR, Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Al-Asad v. Djibouti, 14 October 2014, paras. 146, 177, 183. Read more
European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Council of Europe
In a new judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has addressed a novel issue in human rights law: whether allowing medical students to observe a childbirth without the mother’s explicit consent violated her right to privacy. [ECtHR Press Release] The applicant, Ms. Yevgeniya Konovalova, argued that the unauthorized presence of medical students during her childbirth unlawfully interfered with her privacy rights and was neither necessary nor proportionate to the needs of a democratic society. The Court unanimously held that Russia violated Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and ordered the State to pay Ms. Konovalova 3,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 200 euros for costs and expenses. ECtHR, Konovalova v. Russia, no. 37873/04, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 9 October 2014. Read more
Last week, the European Court of Human Rights held that the establishment of military polling stations, in contravention of the Azerbaijani Electoral Code, violated the right to free elections under the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. ECtHR, Karimov v. Azerbaijan, no. 12535/06, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 25 September 2014, para. 52. The applicant, Mr. Hasan Huseyn oglu Karimov, who was the unsuccessful opposition candidate in Azerbaijan’s November 2005 parliamentary elections, argued that his electoral rights were violated when State agents interfered with his electoral campaign by specially setting up unlawful military polling stations, where military personnel and detainees allegedly voted under coercion and in conditions lacking transparency. See id. at paras. 1–11, 24. He also alleged, but failed to convince the European Court, that the State had violated Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court unanimously held that Azerbaijan violated Article 3 of the First Protocol to the Convention, and ordered the State to pay Mr. Karimov 7,500 euros for non-pecuniary damages and 2,544 euros for costs and expenses. See id. at paras. 56, 67, 75. Read more
UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr. Ben Emmerson, speaks as a third party intervenor in the cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
In its first judgment concerning the human rights of current Guantánamo detainees, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Poland failed to uphold its international obligations by allowing the secret detention, torture, and extraordinary rendition of a Saudi Arabian national and a stateless Palestinian, both suspected of terrorist acts. See ECtHR, Al Nashiri v. Poland, no. 28761/11, Judgment of 24 July 2014; ECtHR, Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Poland, no. 7511/13, Judgment of 24 July 2014. In both cases, the Court found Poland had violated the applicants’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by: enabling the United States to secretly detain and torture the applicants on Polish soil, conducting an inadequate investigation into the acts of torture and ill treatment committed in Poland, and allowing the applicants’ transfer to Guantánamo despite the real risk they would be tortured and could be subjected to unfair trials and the death penalty by the United States. The Court held that these failures constituted violations of the applicants’ rights to humane treatment, liberty and security, respect for private and family life, an effective remedy, and a fair trial. The tribunal also held that Poland had failed to comply with its Article 38 obligation to cooperate with the European Court’s investigation in the cases.
26th session of the UN Human Rights Council
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
In a new attempt to hold transnational corporations accountable for human rights violations, the United Nations Human Rights Council has decided to establish a working group to prepare a treaty imposing international human rights legal obligations on transnational corporations. [OHCHR Press Release] The mandate of the working group will be to “elaborate an international legally binding instrument to regulate, in international human rights law, the activities of transnational corporations and other business enterprises.” UN Human Rights Council, Resolution 26/9, Elaboration of an internationally legally binding instrument on transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights, A/HRC/26/L.22/Rev.1, 26 June 2014, para. 1. Read more
IACHR hearing on criminal justice in Mexico, March 2014
Credit: Daniel Cima/IACHR
The Mexican Congress has adopted a revision of the country’s Code of Military Justice to transfer jurisdiction over alleged human rights abuses committed by members of the armed forces against civilians to the ordinary, civilian justice system. [LA Times] Mexico’s military plays an important role in policing and law enforcement in the country, and although thousands of serious human rights abuses by soldiers are reported each year, the military overwhelming fails to hold its members accountable. See, e.g., Human Rights Watch, Military Injustice: Mexico’s Failure to Punish Army Abuses (2001); CMDPDH, Jurisdicción militar: Impunidad y violaciones a los derechos humanos (2013). Read more