Category Archives: UN Security Council

Human Rights Bodies Address Homophobia, Gun Violence after Orlando Attack


Vigil for Orlando victims outside Stonewall Inn in New York City
Credit: Elisa S

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Security Council, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have urged States to address homophobia, gun violence, and terrorism in the wake of the recent nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. [OHCHR Press Release; UN Press Release; IACHR Press Release] Early Sunday morning on June 12, 2016 Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and began shooting at the estimated 200 club-goers present for the “Hispanic party” hosted by the club that night. [CNN; IACHR Press Release] Mateen, who claimed allegiance to ISIS during the rampage, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more before being killed by police. [CNN] The Inter-American Commission and the OHCHR made recommendations to the United States to put in place measures to ensure non-discrimination and the elimination of violent attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and called for more robust gun regulation in response to the shooter’s use of quick-reload weapons that he purchased legally. [USA Today; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release]

The recommendations were made in view of human rights bodies’ determination that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in non-discrimination provisions of human rights treaties, and the OHCHR’s recent conclusion that without adequate regulation, civilian gun use has a negative impact on the realization of many human rights. See Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 20, Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/20, 10 June 2009, para. 32; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human rights and the regulation of civil acquisition, possession and use of firearms, UN Doc. A/HRC/32/21, 15 April 2016. In related news, the European Court of Human Rights has again concluded that its Member States are not required to ensure marriage equality, or equal access to partner benefits, for same-sex couples. Read more

UN Experts: Widespread Abuses and Killings of Detainees in Syria

Credit: UNHCR/V. Tan

Credit: UNHCR/V. Tan

A recent report from the Independent International Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic (COI) has revealed that all sides to the conflict in Syria have subjected those captured, kidnapped, or arrested to violence and rights abuses that amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity. See UN Human Rights Council, Out of Sight, Out of Mind: Deaths in Detention in the Syrian Arab Republic, UN Doc. A/HRC/31/CRP.1, 3 February 2016 [hereinafter Deaths in Detention]. The report details the killings, arbitrary detentions, and torture committed within both State detention centers and anti-government groups’ detention centers between March 2011 and November 2015. Id. at para. 2.

According to the COI Chair, Paulo Sérgio Pinheiro:

Nearly every surviving detainee has emerged from custody having suffered unimaginable abuses. For ordinary Syrians, the spectre of arrest or abduction, and the near-inevitable horrors that follow, have paralysed communities across the country.

[OHCHR Press Release]

The COI relied on hundreds of interviews with former detainees and with family members of detainees who were killed while in detention. Deaths in Detention, para. 2. The experts estimate that tens of thousands of people are detained in government detention centers. See id. at para. 4. While the State is responsible for the bulk of detainee abuses, anti-government groups including the Islamic State of Iraq and Al-Sham (ISIS) and Jabhat Al-Nusra have also held civilians and soldiers for prolonged periods of time in makeshift detention centers, where they have tortured and executed detainees. Id. at para. 5.

The COI determined that both the State and anti-government groups have violated international human rights law and international humanitarian law by intentionally housing detainees in life-threatening conditions, engaging in torture, and committing extrajudicial killings. See id. at paras. 98, 103. By identifying the government agencies and individuals responsible for detainees, and by pointing to evidence of their knowledge of these abuses, the COI clearly signals where it believes accountability lies. See id. at paras. 40-64. The report recommends that all groups cease these practices, and calls on the UN Security Council to impose sanctions against both State and anti-government groups and representatives and to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court or other tribunal. See id. at paras. 106-07, 109. Read more

ICTR Reduces Butare Defendants’ Sentences in Last Judgment before Closing

The UN Secretary General visits the ICTR in 1998. Credit: UN

The UN Secretary General visits the ICTR in 1998.
Credit: UN

After more than 20 years of prosecuting those most responsible for the Rwandan genocide of 1994, the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda (ICTR) has issued its final judgment and closed its doors. [The Citizen] In its forty-fifth and final judgment, delivered on December 14, 2015, the Appeals Chamber decided appeals from six defendants previously convicted by the Trial Chamber. [BBC] While it confirmed the guilty verdicts in the “Butare Six” case, the Appeals Chamber found the sentences imposed to be excessive; it ordered the release Sylvain Nsabimana and Joseph Kanyabashi, and granted sentence reductions to the remaining four appellants, Pauline Nyiramasuhuko, Arsène Shalom Ntahobali, Alphonse Nteziryayo, and Élie Ndayambaje. See ICTR, Prosecutor v. Nyiramasuhuko et al. (Butare), Case ICTR-98-42, Appeals Chamber Judgment, 14 December 2015. With this case finalized, the ICTR formally closed at the end of 2015. Since it began operating in 1995, the ICTR has indicted a total of 93 people – and convicted 61 – on charges of war crimes, crimes against humanity, and genocide. See ICTR, The ICTR in Brief. While sometimes criticized for doing too little, too slowly, the ICTR has contributed to justice and accountability for Rwandans and to the development of international criminal law. Read more

International Criminal Court Reports on Preliminary Examinations as States Parties Convene

The ICC's new permanent premises.Credit: ICC

The ICC’s new permanent premises.
Credit: ICC

On November 12, 2015, Ms. Fatou Bensouda, Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), published her annual Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2015), which details the preliminary examination activities conducted by her office between November 1, 2014 and October 31, 2015. These included two situations – Georgia and Honduras – in which the Office of the Prosecutor (OPT) has concluded its preliminary examination, and seven situations that it is still examining: Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Iraq/United Kingdom, Palestine, Nigeria, and Ukraine. The OTP completed its preliminary examination of Honduras and concluded that the crimes allegedly committed are not within the ICC’s jurisdiction, but noted the examination could be reopened if new evidence becomes available. See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2015), para. 289. The OTP also completed its preliminary examination of Georgia; pursuant to authorization from the Pre-Trial Chamber, the situation will be investigated. [ICC Press Release]

Additionally, the 14th session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute will take place from November 18 to 26, 2015 in The Hague, Netherlands, bringing together the 123 States that have accepted the ICC’s jurisdiction to discuss the tribunal’s laws and 2016 budget, as well as strategies to increase Member States’ cooperation with ICC investigations and the domestic implementation of ICC rulings and of the Rome Statute. Civil society organizations will be able to observe the session’s meetings. For more information about the 14th session visit ICC’s webpage dedicated to the ASP. See Coalition for the ICC, Assembly of States Parties 14.

Next month, the ICC will move into its permanent premises after 13 years in an interim facility provided by the Dutch government and following the completion of construction on its dedicated building. [ICC Press Release: New Premises] Note the ICC’s new address as of December 1, 2015 on its Contact webpage.

In January 2016, the ICC will release a convicted prisoner for the first time, pursuant to a decision by the Appeals Chamber to reduce Germain Katanga’s sentence from 12 to 8.25 years. [Reuters] The ICC convicted Mr. Katanga in 2014 on charges of crimes against humanity and war crimes committed in 2003, which were connected to a larger context of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo. [ICC Press Release: Katanga] Read more

Burundi: International and Regional Bodies Urge Dialogue, Fear Mass Violence

The UN Security Council considers the situation in Burundi.

The UN Security Council considers the situation in Burundi.
Credit: UN Photo

Amid an ongoing human rights and political crisis in which hundreds have lost their lives, civil society and human rights bodies are calling on Burundian authorities to avoid inciting violence, put a stop to attacks against advocates and journalists, and cooperate with monitoring efforts. On November 12, 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution condemning the killings and human rights abuses in Burundi and threatening possible sanctions against responsible parties. [The Guardian] The resolution came at the same time as the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) met to discuss moving peacekeepers from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to Burundi. [The Guardian] The international and regional actions seek to end a spate of violence and repression that began in April 2015 surrounding the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza in a vote boycotted by the opposition. [VOA News] The political unrest, which has led to over 240 killings and an estimated 200,000 displaced, now threatens to devolve into civil war and mass atrocities that some are warning could resemble the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [VOA News] Read more

Central African Republic Votes to Create New Hybrid Tribunal

Fatimata M’Baye and Philip Alston, members of the International Commission of Inquiry on the CAR
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

On April 22, 2015, the Central African Republic’s transitional parliament voted to adopt a law to create a Special Criminal Court to investigate and prosecute war crimes and crimes against humanity that have been committed in the Central African Republic since 2003. In order for the Special Criminal Court to now be established, its acting president, Catherine Samba-Panza, must enact this law. [FIDHJurist]

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New United Nations Report Details Human Rights Abuses by Militias in Libya’s Ongoing Armed Conflict

Press Conference of the Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Libya. Cherif Bassiouni, Chair of the Commission.Credit: UN Photo/UNIS - Geneva

Cherif Bassiouni, Chair of the Commission of Inquiry into human rights violations in Libya at a press conference on April 8, 2011.
Credit: UN Photo/UNIS – Geneva

Last week, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) and the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) published a joint report providing an overview of human rights abuses committed in Libya from May through August 2014, amid ongoing fighting among militias for control of Benghazi and Tripoli. See UNSMIL & OHCHR, Overview of Violations of International Human Rights and Humanitarian Law During the Ongoing Violence in Libya (2014). The report confirms that “all sides” are: indiscriminately shelling and attacking civilian objects, including hospitals, which is limiting access to medical care; detaining, abducting, and torturing fighters or suspected fighters; and attacking media professionals and civilians. See id. It concludes that the armed groups’ actions violate international human rights law and international humanitarian law and constitute war crimes, which are subject to prosecution by the International Criminal Court (ICC). See id.

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UN Human Rights Council Requests Investigation into Islamic State’s Human Rights Abuses in Iraq

Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani, Minister of Human Rights for Iraq during the special session on Iraq of the Human Rights Council. Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
Mohammed Shia' Al Sudani, Minister of Human Rights for Iraq during the special session on Iraq of the Human Rights Council. <br>Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Mohammed Shia’ Al Sudani, Minister of Human Rights for Iraq, during the special session on Iraq of the Human Rights Council.
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

The United Nations Human Rights Council held its 22nd special session this week to address human rights violations committed by the Islamic State and associated groups, which have been accused of mass atrocities as they move to take territory and eliminate minority groups in Iraq and neighboring countries. [OHCHR; Amnesty] The UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution  requesting the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) to deploy an emergency fact-finding mission to Iraq in order to investigate human rights abuses committed by the Islamic State and to provide technical assistance to the government. The High Commissioner for Human Rights should provide the Human Rights Council with an oral update on the resolution’s implementation later this month. See UN Human Rights Council, Draft Resolution S-22/ . . . ,  The human rights situation in Iraq in the light of abuses committed by the so-called Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and associated groups, UN Doc. A/HRC/S-22/L.1, 1 September 2014. Read more

UN Human Rights Council Establishes Commission of Inquiry for the Occupied Palestinian Territory as Civilian Deaths and Displacement Continue


UN Human Rights Council vote on establishing a commission of inquiry.
Credit: @UNGeneva

In a special session convened last week to address the escalating violence in Israel and the occupied Palestinian territories, the UN Human Rights Council resolved to establish an independent commission of inquiry to investigate “all violations” of international humanitarian law and human rights law committed in the context of armed conflict in the region since June 13, 2014. See UN Human Rights Council, Resolution S-21/1, Ensuring respect for international law in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem, A/HRC/RES/S-21/1, 23 July 2014, para. 13. The Human Rights Council and the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights supported a formal investigation to help hold the parties accountable for civilian loss of life and prevent further violations. [OHCHR] Read more

UN Establishes Commission of Inquiry and Independent Expert on Central African Republic, as Widespread Human Rights Violations Continue

Amid ongoing sectarian violence in the Central African Republic, including reported war crimes and crimes against humanity, the United Nations has established two expert mechanisms to monitor the human rights situation, but has so far stopped short of authorizing a UN peacekeeping mission to support the French and African Union troops already in the country. Hundreds have been killed and approximately 1 million people have been displaced since December 2012, due to attacks carried out by former rebels and militias.

Credit: OCHA/R. Gitau

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