A new campaign, GQUAL, aims to address the gender imbalance on international courts and human rights bodies, where women make up less than 25% of the existing membership. [GQUAL Press Release] The campaign will work to change the nomination and voting practices of States and the relevant institutions, to ensure that gender balance is a real consideration. Through its website, declaration, petition, events, and informational materials, the campaign is striving to raise awareness, engage civil society voices, and increase the transparency of election processes. Additionally, the GQUAL Jobs Board provides information on recent and upcoming elections for nearly all international tribunals and monitoring bodies. On September 17, 2015, the GQUAL (for “gender equal”) campaign formally launched at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York. [GQUAL Press Release] Read more
Category Archives: ICJ
In Geneva, the 103rd Session of the Human Rights Committee (the treaty body charged with monitoring compliance with the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) is underway; it will examine the compliance of Jamaica, Kuwait, Norway, Iran, Malawi (no report submitted), and convene Country Task Forces regarding Armenia, Lithuania, Kenya, Cape Verde (no report submitted), Uruguay, Cameroon, Monaco, Denmark, Moldova in preparation for their reviews by the Committee next year, and reviewing individual complaints (in closed session). See the agenda and documentation here, and view live stream video of the Committee’s discussion here [courtesy of The Centre for Civil and Political Rights].
In New York, the United Nations General Assembly – which includes its Third Committee, focused on social and humanitarian issues – began its 66th Session on September 13. See the provisional agenda here. The Third Committee heard reports from the special procedures mandate holders, and tomorrow will hear from the International Criminal Court and International Court of Justice. The UN Security Council will also meet to discuss the situation in Sudan, and has held meetings on a number of situations throughout October (see its programme of work for October here).
In Geneva, the Working Group on mercenaries is also meeting this week
In Paris, the 36th Session of the General Conference of the UN specialized agency, United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) begins today, one day after United Nations Day.
In Washington, D.C., the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights is holding its 143rd Period of Sessions, which includes a number of public hearings on individual cases and thematic issues of concern. See the live webcast of the hearings here, or visit the Commission’s database of all audio and video recordings of hearings here. Topics of today’s IACHR hearings include violence against indigenous women in the United States, freedom of expression in Ecuador and access to public information in Venezuela.
In Banjul, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights is holding its 50th Session and commemorating the 30th anniversary of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The ACHPR will review states’ reports, hear from its special rapporteurs, consider a number of human rights topics in the region, and consider individual complaints (in private sessions).
The European Court of Human Rights, which operates year-round, has no public hearings scheduled for this week, but next week the Grand Chamber will hold a hearing on Scoppola N° 3 v. Italy 18.0102011, a case concerning a ban on the right to vote as part of hte punishment for a criminal conviction.
Economic, Social and Cultural Rights
- Syria welcomes its first visit from a UN special rapporteur, the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, in a showing of increased participation with the UN Human Rights Council’s monitoring mechanisms, including its upcoming Universal Periodic Review. [The National; OHCHR] The Special Rapporteur estimates that 2 to 3 million people face food insecurity in Syria.
- The UN General Assembly has adopted Resolution A/RES/64/292, which declares that access to safe and clean drinking water and sanitation is a human right essential to the full enjoyment of life and all other rights. Bolivia introduced the text and 122 of the 192 Member States voted in favor, while 41 – including the United States – abstained from voting. [UN]
- The UN General Assembly recognizes the right to education in emergency situations in Resolution 64/290.
Conflict and Humanitarian Emergencies
- The UN General Assembly has urged greater support for emergency relief and reconstruction in Pakistan, following widespread flooding which continue to affect up to 20 million people. [UN; BBC]
- In New York and across the United States, victims of the 9/11 attacks are honored as President Obama advocates tolerance and President Karzai warns that continued NATO involvement in Afghanistan endangers innocent civilians. [New York Times; AP] Ongoing violence in Afghanistan threatens the stability of the upcoming parliamentary election. [HRW]
- Human Rights Watch calls attention to massive, ongoing attacks and abductions by the Lord’s Resistance Army in CAR and DRC. [HRW] The UN recently prepared a report on the human rights violations committed in DRC between 1993 and 2003, to be released in October. [UN]
- The ICJ has issued an advisory opinion finding that Kosovo’s declaration of independence did not violate international law, a decision requested and acknowledged by the UN General Assembly. [UN]
Prosecutions and Impunity
- Although reports of impunity and discrimination continue, the conviction of a Honduran police officer in the stabbing of a transgender sex worker is seen as an important victory. [HRW]
- Human Rights Watch calls on Uganda to investigate and prosecute security officers’ use of lethal force during the September 2009 Kampala riots. To date, no officer has been successfully prosecuted for the dozens of deaths caused by security forces. [HRW]
- In the Philippines, 19 defendants are facing trial for the 2009 Maguindanao massacre of 57 people. [HRW]
- The Extraordinary Chamber in the Court of Cambodia has issued its first conviction, sentencing Kaing Guek Eav to 35 years’ imprisonment for war crimes and crimes against humanity for his role in running an infamous detention camp under the Khmer Rouge in the late 1970s. [UN]
- Human Rights Watch has issued a new report, Dignity on Trial, urging overhaul of India’s treatment of victims in rape investigations.
- The complexities of the use of private military contractors, or mercenaries, are evident in the UN independent experts’ concern regarding the execution of four mercenaries in Equatorial Guinea following their trial – by a military tribunal – for their participation in an armed attack against the government in 2009. [OHCHR]
- On September 10, the Ninth Circuit issued its judgment on plaintiffs’ appeal in Bowoto v. Chevron, affirming the jury verdict in favor of Chevron and the district court’s pre-trial rulings that the Alien Tort Statute claims were preempted by the Death on the High Seas Act and that corporations could not be held liable under the Torture Victims Protection Act- in connection the 1998 deaths and torture of Nigerians protesting the environmental damage caused by Chevron’s drilling of the Nigerian coast.
- CEJIL questions the Colombian government’s commitment to the investigation of the deaths and disappearances following security forces’ seizure of the Palace of Justice from guerrillas in 1985, in light of the recent firing of the prosecutor in charge of the investigation. [CEJIL]
- ICTR sentences Rwandan official to 25 years’ imprisonment for a 1994 massacre. While the tribunal convicted the former provincial sub-prefect, Dominique Ntawukulilyayo, of genocide, it acquitted him of complicity and incitement to commit genocide, for his role in the April 23, 1994 attack by soldiers in which thousands of Tutsis died. [UN]
Treaty and Tribunal Developments
- At the third session of the Conference of States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, participants advocate greater enforcement of the convention’s protections at local levels, while top UN official urges wider ratification. [UN]
- Seychelles and Saint Lucia have ratified the Rome Statute, bringing the number of States Parties to the International Criminal Court to 113. [ICC]
- The UN Security Council and General Assembly have elected two new judges to the bench of the International Court of Justice -American citizen Joan E. Donoghue and Chinese citizen Xue Hanqin – to replace judges Thomas Buergenthal and Shi Jiuyong, who resigned this year. [ICJ] Donoghue is currently Principal Deputy Legal Adviser at the U.S. Department of State, while Xue is a diplomat. [UN; Radio Netherlands]
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has designated Jorge Taiana as its Special Representative for the Strengthening of the Inter-American Commission, with the central purpose of resolving the chronic lack of resources necessary to carry out its mandate. [IACHR]
- On August 1, 2010, the Convention on Cluster Munitions took effect, prohibiting the use of cluster bombs in the 40 State Parties. [UN; BBC]
Universal Periodic Review
- The United States has submitted its first national report to the UN Human Rights Council as part of the Universal Periodic Review process. [Human Rights First] See the UN and stakeholders’ reports on the U.S. here.
Security and the Rule of Law
- The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has strongly condemned the forced transfer of Guantanamo Detainee Abdul Aziz Naji to Algeria, in spite of the precautionary measures granted in favor of all Guantanamo detainees in 2002, as a violation of the principle of non-refoulement. [IACHR]
- The ACLU and CCR have filed a federal lawsuit challenging presidential authorization of targeted killings of U.S. citizens outside of conflict zones, without requiring that the killing be necessary in the face of an imminent threat, or providing for due process of law or judicial oversight. The ACLU and CCR sought to represent Anwar al-Aulaqi, a U.S. citizen, because it learned that he was named on the Specially Designated Nationals List of suspected terrorists whose assets have been frozen by the Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) of the U.S. Department of Treasury, as well as on a “kill list” list of individuals to be targeted for killing by the U.S. government. OFAC requires that attorneys must first obtain a license from the government in order to provide legal services to individuals named on its Specially Designated Nationals List. After OFAC initially failed to respond to their request for a license to represent Mr. Aulaqi, the ACLU and CCR filed a second lawsuit challenging the license requirement for attorneys. [CCR; ACLU] The ACLU has also filed a FOIA request seeking documentation related to the legal basis for the use of predator drones to conduct targeted killings. [ACLU]
- A recent Peruvian Legislative Decree No. 1097 would appear to essentially grant amnesty to those responsible for crimes against humanity committed before November 9, 2003 and has drawn intense criticism. [IACHR; CEJIL] The UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism completed a week-long official visit to Peru on September 8. [OHCHR] Among other observations, the Special Rapporteur called attention to the broad definition of terrorism-related crimes in Peruvian law and welcomed the government’s report that a new counter-terrorism law that would take into account international standards has been drafted. [OHCHR]
- In July, the U.S. military transferred roughly 1,500 detainees to Iraqi custody by handing over control of Camp Cropper to the Iraqi government. Those transferred included former representative of the Hussein government, Tariq Aziz, whose son expressed concerns that his father would die in Iraqi custody. [Washington Post] Approximately 200 individuals deemed “too dangerous” to hand over remained in the custody of the U.S. military. Four of those prisoners escaped this week from the Baghdad detention center where they were being held. [Washington Post]
Dissent and Freedom of Expression
- Swaziland Prime Minister proposes severe corporal punishment of dissidents and foreign protesters, following arrest of 50 protesters. [Impunity Watch]
- NGOs call attention to the arbitrary detention and prosecution of human rights defenders around the world, in Angola, Morocco, Israel, Colombia, China, DRC, Kyrgyzstan, Cambodia, Russia, [HRW; Human Rights First]
- Bahrain suspends human rights NGO’s board, replacing board members with State representative, in run-up to October elections, drawing criticism from Amnesty International. [AFP]
Equal Rights and Discrimination
- Mexico’s Supreme Court has recognized that same-sex couples in Mexico City have the right to adopt children, rejecting the federal government’s constitutional challenge to last year’s legislation allowing gay marriage. [BBC]
- U.S. immigration policy continues to receive criticism on several fronts, as the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights issues its merits report in Smith and Armendariz v. United States, holding that the deportation of two foreign nationals without consideration of their family ties in the U.S. violated their rights to respect for family life and due process; the ACLU files suit challenging the lack of adequate procedures for dealing with people with mental disabilities in detention and removal proceedings; Human Rights Watch submits an amicus curiae brief before the Board of Immigration Appeals (BIA) alleging that current U.S. practices with regard to individuals with mental disabilities violate international standards; a new report details sexual abuse and harassment in immigration detention; the Ninth Circuit reverses and remands a BIA decision for appropriate consideration of whether “women in Guatemala” may constitute a particular social group for purposes of asylum; documents obtained through FOIA litigation allegedly demonstrate that immigration officers use the ‘Secure Communities’ immigration enforcement program to detain and deport non-criminals or petty criminals using racial profiling, rather than as a highly limited mechanism to target the worst criminals for deportation [CCR]; and the Third Circuit strikes down a city ordinance punishing landlords nad employers for renting to or hiring “illegal aliens” [ACLU].
- A federal judge granted the federal government’s request for preliminary injunction against some provisions of Arizona’s immigration law, SB 1070, temporarily prohibiting enforcement of the requirement that police check immigration status of individuals they stop, the provision allowing, warrantless arrests of suspected unlawful immigrants, and the requirement that immigrants carry registration papers. [Washington Post]
- New U.S. legislation ends marked inequality in drug sentencing for powder cocaine and crack cocaine, which was a significant factor in racial disparities in prison populations because of the mandatory five-year minimum sentence previously required for possession of 5 grams of crack cocaine (versus 500 grams of powder cocaine) and the fact that those prosecuted for crack offenses were predominantly African American. [HRW] The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 increases the amount of crack cocaine required to trigger the mandatory minimum sentence, eliminates the mandatory minimum for simple possession, and requires the U.S. Sentencing Commission to adopt new guidelines to take into account aggravating and mitigating circumstances in cases of drug trafficking.
- Physicians for Human Rights has published a report documenting illegal experimentation and torture by CIA medical personnel in the “war on terror”. The report is available here. Following the paper’s publication, PHR and other organizations filed a formal complaint before the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protection against the CIA. [PHR]
- Human Rights Watch kicked off its International Film Festival in New York, which will run until June 24. [HRW]
- Kuwait has drawn international attention over its detention of critical journalist and blogger, Mohammad al-Jasim. [HRW, Reporters Without Borders]
- Venezuela orders arrest of Globovision owner and his son, in connection with an investigation into their car dealerships. [Impunity Watch] Globovision owner Guillermo Zuloaga runs the only remaining private television station with an editorial stance critical of the Chavez government and has previously been the subject of governmental and private harassment as a result. Earlier this year, Zuloaga was arrested by Venezuelan authorities after having made remarks critical of the government at an assembly of the Inter-American Press Association. [CIDH] For more information on freedom of the press in Venezuela, see the Inter-American Commission’s report Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela.
- Honduras has withdrawn its application against Brazil before the ICJ, in which it had alleged that Brazil threatened the peace and stability of Honduras by housing ousted President Zelaya in its embassy in Tegucigalpa. [ICJ]
- The Mexican government and Human Rights Watch, among others, are calling for an investigation into the death of a Mexican teenager who was shot by a U.S. border agent from U.S. soil. [HRW, BBC] Another individual was killed by U.S. agents this month on the U.S. side of the border when he was being deported after 20 years in the U.S. as an undocumented worker. [BBC]
- In the case of the disappeared from the Colombian Palace of Justice, former army coronel Alfonso Plazas Vega was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment on Thursday for the enforced disappearance of 11 individuals when the army retook the Palace in November 1985 after it had been seized by guerrillas. President Uribe opined that Plazas should not have been convicted as he was “simply trying to comply with his duty”. [BBC] For many years, official reports had indicated that the disappeared died in the conflict surrounding the army’s retaking of the Palace, but in recent years evidence surfaced showing the now-disappeared leaving the Palace alive. At its most recent session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing on the case (number 10.738) against Colombia, which is pending a combined decision on admissibility and merits by the Commission. (Video of the hearing available here). CEJIL and the Colectivo de Abogados are among the NGOs representing the victims before the IACHR. Colombian judge Maria Stella Jara Gutierrez has been granted precautionary measures by the Commission because of the threats she has received while handling the Palace of Justice case.
- Kyrgyzstan’s interim government extends state of emergency as attacks by Kyrgyz against Uzbeks in southern region continue, causing the displacement of thousands, nearly 100 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. The conflict is reported to be over land and housing and follows the turbulent April overthrow of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The government has authorized its security forces to use lethal force and has sought Russian military intervention. [BBC, AlertNet]
- The IACHR has submitted two cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. One is the case of Dominican opposition leader Narciso González Medina (previously covered on this blog, here) who was forcibly disappeared in 1994 (admissibility report here). The other involves due process violations in the criminal prosecution of Jorge Fernando Grande in Argentina. Read the Commission’s admissibility report in the Grande case here. [IACHR]
- The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor calls on UN Security Council to secure arrest of suspected Sudanese criminals Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, against whom the ICC issued arrest warrants three years ago. The situation in Darfur, Sudan was referred to the ICC by the Security Council Resolution 1593. [ICC] Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s remarks could raise concerns about the presumption of innocence and duty of public officials not to make pre-trial statements regarding a suspect’s guilt.
- Last week, the lower house of Bolivia’s legislature approved a law which would give indigenous communities the right to autonomously administer their own justice systems in accordance with their customs and values. Although the reach of the new resolution is unclear, the legislature has 180 additional days to specify the areas of competence of the ordinary justice system vis-à-vis community justice systems. [BBC, JURIST]
- Meanwhile, the Argentine legislature’s lower house passed a bill that would authorize same-sex marriage in that country and grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children. Observers say that the bill has a good chance of being approved by the upper legislative house and becoming law. [Impunity Watch, Reuters]
- Freedom House identifies the world’s worst protectors of civil rights and liberties in its Freedom in the World 2010 report as: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. [Huffington Post, Freedom House]
- Human rights organizations call for an investigation into the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which the government is suspected to have been involved. [VOA]
- Yesterday, the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court concluded in Uganda, where an amendment was adopted to include a definition of the crime of aggression and regulate the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over such crimes. According to the ICC’s press release:
The Conference based the definition of the crime of aggression on United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, and in this context agreed to qualify as aggression, a crime committed by a political or military leader which, by its character, gravity and scale constituted a manifest violation of the Charter.
As regards the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction, the Conference agreed that a situation in which an act of aggression appeared to have occurred could be referred to the Court by the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, irrespective as to whether it involved States Parties or non-States Parties.