Category Archives: Universal system

Committee Against Torture Decides First Complaint on Sexual Violence in Conflict

Press Conference on Prevention of Torture
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The United Nations Committee Against Torture (CAT) issued its first decision against the State of Bosnia and Herzegovina, finding that rape and other acts of sexual violence constitute torture under the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (the Convention), and ordering the State to pay “fair and adequate compensation” and provide free medical and psychological care to the victim. See Committee Against Torture, Mrs. A v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Communication No. 854/2017, Views of 22 August 2019, UN Doc. CAT/C/67/D/854/2017. This decision, which concerns the rape of a Bosnian woman in the early 1990s during the Bosnian war, is the first CAT decision to examine a State’s responsibilities with respect to sexual violence committed during a period of internal armed conflict. [Trial International] In deciding Mrs. A’s complaint, the Committee applied the standards set out in earlier general comments and concluding observations, and clarified that States must ensure redress – including compensation – for victims of torture, regardless of an individual perpetrator’s ability to pay or statutes of limitation on such claims. See Mrs. A v. Bosnia and Herzegovina, Views of 22 August 2019, paras. 7.5-9.

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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.

UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies

Three of the 10 UN human rights treaty bodies, the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities and its Pre-sessional Working Group, the Committee on the Rights of the Child, and the Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families will meet this month to review certain States parties’ implementation of their treaty obligations. Through the State reporting procedure, treaty bodies review States’ reports and responses to a specific list of issues, receive additional information from nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) and national human rights institutions (NHRIs), engage in an interactive dialogue with each State’s representatives, and then adopt concluding observations detailing the progress and remaining challenges in the State’s implementation of the treaty. Through a simplified reporting procedure, treaty bodies may invite States to respond only to questions (list of issues) prepared by the treaty body, rather than submitting a comprehensive report and also responses to a subsequent list of issues.

Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities

The Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) will continue its 22nd Session in Geneva, Switzerland. The session started on August 26 and will end on September 20, 2019. Based on its tentative programme of work, the CRPD held interactive dialogues with Albania, Ecuador, and Myanmar in August to assess their implementation of the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. In September, the CRPD will hold interactive dialogues with Australia, El Salvador, Greece, India, Iraq, and Kuwait. Additionally, the CRPD will consider list of issues prior to reporting for Canada and Ukraine to address in its simplified reporting procedure.

Civil society members who would like to attend the CRPD’s session must register through the Indico system before September 20, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRPD’s 22nd Session webpage. For more information on the CRPD, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Following the CRPD’s 22nd Session, the CRPD will hold its 12th Pre-sessional Working Group from September 23 to September 27, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Working Group will begin its review of State reports from Djibouti, France, Japan, Lao, Mexico, Singapore, Switzerland, and Venezuela to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Additionally, the Working Group will consider list of issues prior to reporting from Mauritius and Slovakia. Civil society members who would like to participate in the Committee’s pre-sessional working group must register through the Indico system before September 26, 2019.

Committee on the Rights of the Child

The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will hold its 82nd Session from September 9 to September 27, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The tentative programme of work for the session indicates that the CRC will conduct interactive dialogues with Australia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Mozambique, Portugal, and the Republic of Korea to assess their compliance with the Convention on the Rights of the Child. The CRC will also consider the State report of Georgia for its compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography, and review Georgia’s and Panama’s State reports to assess their compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.

Civil society members wishing to attend the CRC’s session must register through the Indico system before September 27, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CRC’s 82nd Session webpage. For more information on the CRC, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families

The Committee on the Protection of the Rights of Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families (CMW) will hold its 31st Session from September 2 to September 11, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. The provisional agenda for the session indicates that the CMW will conduct interactive dialogues with Argentina, Bosnia and Herzegovina, and Colombia to assess their compliance with the International Convention on the Protection of the Rights of All Migrant Workers and Members of Their Families. The CMW will also consider and adopt list of issues for Belize and Burkina Faso ahead of those States’ interactive dialogue.

According to the information note for civil society organizations and NHRIs, individuals interested in attending the session must register through the Indico system by September 11, 2019. To view session documents, including State reports and civil society submissions, visit the CMW’s 31st Session webpage. For more information on the CMW, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Human Rights Council

The Human Rights Council, an intergovernmental deliberative body, will hold its 42nd Session from September 9 to 27, 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the session agenda, the Human Rights Council will review reports from the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, the UN Secretary General, outcome reports from the Universal Periodic Review Working Group on specific States, and reports from UN special procedures mandate holders. The list of reports is available on the session’s webpage.

The Human Rights Council will convene several panel discussions on topics including the rights of indigenous peoples, unilateral coercive measures and human rights, and the integration of a gender perspective in the Human Rights Council’s work and the work of its various mechanisms.

NGOs in consultative status with the United Nations Economic and Social Council (ECOSOC) can be accredited to participate in the Human Rights Council’s sessions as observers, as described on the Council’s webpage on NGO participation. Relevant documents and further information regarding the issues that will be covered at the session, including submissions from civil society and the Council’s agenda, is available on the Human Rights Council’s 42nd Session webpage. For more information about the Human Rights Council, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Special Procedures

Various independent human rights experts and monitoring bodies, known as UN “special procedures,” have country visits or sessions scheduled in September. Nine special rapporteurs will carry out country visits and one working group will hold a session this month.

The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights will visit Mongolia from September 2 to September 11, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on human rights and the environment will visit Norway from September 12 to September 23, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context will visit Nigeria from September 13 to September 23, 2019.

The Independent Expert on the enjoyment of human rights by persons with albinism will visit South Africa from September 16 to September 26, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights will visit Tuvalu from September 16 to September 27, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health will visit Ecuador from September 17 to September 26, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association will visit Zimbabwe from September 17 to September 27, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers will visit Uzbekistan from September 19 to September 26, 2019.

The Special Rapporteur on the human rights of migrants will visit Bosnia and Herzegovina from September 24 to October 1, 2019.

The Working Group on enforced or involuntary disappearances will hold its 119th Session from September 16 to September 20, 2019, in Geneva, Switzerland.

During their country visits, these special procedures mandate holders will assess both the overall human rights situation in the country and the issues specific to their thematic focus. Experts also meet with civil society, government, and national human rights institutions when they visit a country. Their findings are published later in reports addressed to the UN Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and other visits of Special Procedures. To view the full list of forthcoming country visits, review the Special Procedures’ Visits document and visit the OHCHR website. For more information on each special procedure, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Regional Bodies

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights

The African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will continue its 54th Ordinary Session, which began on August 29 and will end on September 2, 2019, in Arusha, Tanzania. During its sessions, the AfCHPR typically holds hearings on the admissibility and merits of pending complaints alleging violations of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. During this session, the AfCHRP will also discuss the First International Court Forum on Human Rights, taking place from November 4 to 5, 2019 in Zanzibar, Tanzania, and the Fourth African Judicial Dialogue, taking place from October 30 to November 1, 2019 in Kampala, Uganda. For more information on the AfCHPR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Committee of Social Rights

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold its 308th Session from September 9 to September 13, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. The agenda and the synopsis for this session will be published on the ECSR’s calendar at a later date. During its sessions, the ECSR reviews States’ reports on their implementation of the European Social Charter, considers collective complaints alleging violations of the Charter, and follows up on the Turin process to improve implementation of the Charter at the continental level. According to the ECSR’s calendar for national reporting, the ECSR will consider State reports concerning the rights of children, the family, and migrants from France, Greece, Portugal, Italy, Belgium, Bulgaria, Ireland, and Finland throughout the 2019 calendar year. The ECSR will consider simplified reports on the same topics from the Netherlands, Sweden, Croatia, Norway, Slovenia, Cyprus, and the Czech Republic throughout the 2019 calendar year. Simplified reports focus on areas of non-conformity identified in the Committee’s previous conclusions. For more information on the European Committee of Social Rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

European Court of Human Rights

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold three Grand Chamber hearings this month. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings.

The ECtHR Grand Chamber will hold a hearing in the case Ukraine v. Russia (no. 20958/14) on September 11, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. This case is one of five inter-State applications pending before the ECtHR regarding events preceding and following from the Russian Federation’s assumption of control over the Crimean Peninsula and its exercise of control over separatist and armed groups in Eastern Ukraine. [ECtHR Press Release: UkraineECtHR Press Release: Adjourn] In this case, Ukraine alleges that Russia’s control over the region makes it responsible for the violation of numerous human rights listed in the European Convention on Human Rights, including the right to respect for private life (Article 8), freedom of religion (Article 9), freedom of expression (Article 10), freedom of assembly and association (Article 11), right to an effective remedy (Article 13), and the prohibition of discrimination (Article 14). [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine] Ukraine alleges that Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea has resulted in the killings of military personnel and civilians both directly by Russian forces and through Russia’s support for violent separatist groups. The Government also alleges that Russia is responsible for the torture and other forms of ill-treatment of Ukrainians based on their ethnic origin. [ECtHR Press Release: Ukraine]

The ECtHR will also hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case Selahattin Demirtaş v. Turkey (no. 2) (no. 14305/17) on September 18, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. This case concerns Selahattin Demirtaş, a Turkish parliamentary member who has been in pre-trial detention since 2016 on terrorism-related charges as a result of his work as a member of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a leftist, pro-Kurdish party. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] Demirtaş submitted a complaint before the ECtHR in February 2017, alleging that he was detained for expressing opinions criticizing Turkish political authorities in violation of Article 5 (right to liberty and security), Article 18 (limitation on use of restrictions on rights), Article 10 (freedom of expression), and Article 34 (right of individual petition) of the European Convention on Human Rights, as well as Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 (right to free elections) to the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] A Chamber of the ECtHR issued a judgment on November 20, 2018, finding Turkey in violation of Article 5 given that domestic authorities could not justify the duration of Demirtaş’s detention and of Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention given that Demirtaş could not fulfill his parliamentary duties while in pre-trial detention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] Additionally, the Chamber found that the fact that Demirtaş was detained during a referendum and presidential election limited his ability to participate freely in political debate, contrary to the “core concept of a democratic society” and in violation of Article 18 of the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] While the Court did not find that the State breached its obligations with respect to Article 34, the right of individual petition, the ECtHR found that the State had to take all necessary steps to end Demirtaş’s pre-trial detention. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey] The State and applicant requested that the case be referred to the Grand Chamber, and the Grand Chamber accepted the request on March 18, 2019. [ECtHR Press Release: Turkey]

Finally, the ECtHR will hold a Grand Chamber hearing in the case Muhammad and Muhammad v. Romania (no. 80982/12) on September 25, 2019 in Strasbourg, France. This case concerns the removal of two Pakistani nationals from Romania. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania] The applicants were studying in Romania in 2012 when Romanian intelligence services notified them that they “pos[ed] a potential threat to national security” and a domestic court ruled them “undesirable” in Romania. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania] The applicants submitted a complaint before the ECtHR in December 2012, alleging that Romania violated Article 1 of Protocol No. 7 (procedural safeguards relating to expulsion of aliens) and Article 13 (right to an effective remedy) of the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania] A ECtHR Chamber relinquished its jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber on February 26, 2019, and the Grand Chamber accepted the request. [ECtHR Press Release: Romania]

For more information on the ECtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will continue its 62nd Special Session, which started on August 26 and will conclude on September 6, 2019, in Colombia. During its sessions, the IACtHR typically holds public hearings on the merits of individual complaints and deliberates on contentious cases alleging human rights violations. For more information on the IACtHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will hold its 173rd Period of Sessions from September 23 to October 2, 2019 in Washington D.C., United States. During the session, it will hold public hearings on a range of human rights concerns in the region, including in 17 countries. The schedule of hearings is available on the IACHR website. For more information on the IACHR, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

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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UN Special Rapporteurs Highlight Forced Sterilization of Indigenous Women in Canada

UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women
Credit: Daniel Cima via Wikimedia Commons

In their latest reports to the United Nations Human Rights Council, the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to health and the Special Rapporteur on violence against women addressed the ongoing issue of forced or coerced sterilizations of Indigenous women in Canada’s public healthcare institutions. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health on his visit to Canada, UN Doc. No. A/HRC/41/34/Add.2, 19 June 2019, paras. 83-84; Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on her visit to Canada, UN Doc No. A/HRC/41/42/Add.1, 3 June 2019, paras. 58-61. This issue has been gaining increased attention within Canada and internationally; these reports reiterate and build upon the recommendations already made to Canada to take steps to remedy and prevent this human rights violation. See IJRC, Forced Sterilization of Indigenous Women in Canada. The special rapporteurs presented their reports at the 41st Regular Session of the Human Rights Council, which concluded on July 12, 2019, following their visits to Canada in 2018. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) has been actively supporting Canadian advocates in their international human rights advocacy regarding the forced sterilization of Indigenous women, and welcomes these latest responses.

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UN Treaty Bodies Announce New Measures to Synchronize Their Work

UN Secretary-General Meets Chairpersons of UN Human Rights Treaty Bodies
Credit: Manuel Elias via UN Photo

In a new position paper, the chairpersons of the 10 United Nations human rights treaty bodies have shared their plans to increase the accessibility and efficiency of their work monitoring States’ implementation of their human rights treaty obligations. [OHCHR Press Release] Proposed changes include holding interactive dialogues with States in their own geographic regions (rather than in Geneva), conducting periodic reviews even when the State has failed to submit its report, making the simplified reporting process available to States for all reviews, and allowing civil society members to participate in briefings via video conference. See OHCHR, Treaty Body Chairpersons Position Paper on the future of the human rights treaty body system, July 2019. The position paper, adopted at the treaty bodies’ 31st annual meeting in New York, is the latest development in their ongoing efforts to implement the UN General Assembly Resolution 68/268 on Strengthening and enhancing the effective functioning of the human rights treaty body system. [OHCHR Press Release] These measures are a response to challenges facing the treaty bodies, including limited resources, a growing backlog of State reports and communications, lack of State compliance with recommendations, and varying working methods among treaty bodies.

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July 2019: UN Treaty Bodies, Human Rights Council, & Regional Bodies in Session

Credit: European Court of Human Rights

In July, a number of 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 rights of women, civil and political rights, and the prevention of torture. The Human Rights Council will continue its consideration of the overall human rights situations in 15 countries. Three UN special procedures will conduct country visits in July. Additionally, the UN Working Group on mercenaries and the Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples will hold sessions in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold two Grand Chamber hearings.

The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the ECtHR may be viewed via the ECtHR’s website. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.

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June 2019: UN Treaty Body, Human Rights Council, and Regional Bodies in Session

African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights session banner

African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights session banner
Credit: African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (via Flickr)

In June, several 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. One United Nations treaty body will hold a session to assess States’ progress regarding the prevention of torture, and the Committee on the Rights of the Child Pre-Sessional Working Group will meet privately. The Human Rights Council will consider the overall human rights situations in 15 countries. Two UN special rapporteurs and one independent expert will conduct country visits in June. Additionally, the Working Group on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice will hold a session in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will be in session and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold a Grand Chamber hearing.

The public hearings of the AfCHPR and the ECtHR may be viewed via the AfCHPR’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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UN Human Rights Bodies May Curtail Work Amid Funding Shortage

Jens Modvig, Chair of the Committee against Torture
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Governments’ failure to fully fund the United Nations now threatens the work of the UN human rights treaty bodies that review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations, making it likely that six of the 10 bodies will have to skip the sessions they have planned for later this year. [OHCHR Press Release; IPS] The chairs of the human rights treaty bodies have responded to the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights’ notice of the funding shortfall with their own letter, also addressed to the UN Secretary General, highlighting the urgency of the situation and urging UN leaders and Member States to avert the impending crisis. [OHCHR Press Release] Experts warn that without the necessary funds, protections for global human rights will be dangerously reduced. [IPS] These cuts come at an especially sensitive time for the protection of human rights, as observers note the rise in right-wing and authoritarian governments, shrinking space for civil society, and a backlash on women’s rights. [IPS] While the OHCHR did not identify the specific reasons for the funding shortfall, the UN has recently warned of a funding shortage caused by the Member States’ chronic failure to make their assessed dues on time and in full, causing the UN to use up its reserves at a time when its largest contributor, the United States, is reducing its contributions. [UN News; IPI Global Observatory; IJRC]

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