OAS Elects Three Judges to Inter-American Court of Human Rights

OAS 48th General Assembly
Credit: Nelson Rodriguez/OAS via Flickr

On June 5, 2018, the Organization of American States (OAS) elected three judges to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), consisting of Judge Humberto Sierra Porto (Colombia), Eduardo Ferrer Mac-Gregor (Mexico), and Ricardo Pérez Manrique (Uruguay). [OAS Press Release] Judges Sierra Porto and Ferrer Mac-Gregor were re-elected after serving one full term on the IACtHR, while Judge-elect Pérez Manrique was elected to fill the seat of Judge Caldas, who resigned after accusations of domestic violence and whose term was set to expire this January. [OAS Press Release; IJRC: Resigns] See IJRC, Inter-American Court of Human Rights: 2018 Elections. The three elected judges were endorsed as qualified jurists in the 2018 report by the Independent Panel for the Election of Inter-American Human Rights Judges, a part of the Initiative on Transparency and Election Monitoring housed at American University’s Washington College of Law. See Carlos Ayala, et al., Informe Final del Panel Independiente Para la Elección de Jueces y Juezas Para La Corte Interamericana De Derechos Humanos (2018), 15, 25, 30-31 [in Spanish only]. The Independent Panel and Initiative on Transparency and Election Monitoring aims to promote civil society’s efforts to improve the election process of judges and commissioners in the Inter-American system. See Washington College of Law, Using Transparency to Strengthen the Inter-American Human Rights System. Civil society organizations welcomed the publication of the report and endorsed the report’s call for transparency in elections of human rights bodies. [OSJI Press Release; DPLF Press Release] Read more

UN Experts, Civil Society Welcome FIFA’s New Complaint Mechanism

Michel Forst, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

On May 29, 2018, the international governing body for soccer, Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA), launched a complaint mechanism for human rights defenders and journalists ahead of the 2018 World Cup in Russia, garnering praise from United Nations experts and civil society members. [FIFA Press Release: Mechanism; OHCHR Press Release; CPJ Press Release; HRW: Daily Brief] The new complaint mechanism will accept complaints from human rights defenders and media representatives who allege that their rights have been infringed while engaging in work related to FIFA’s activities, which span around the globe. [FIFA Press Release: Mechanism] FIFA intends to address complaints through engagement with third parties, including State officials, using FIFA’s influence to prevent, mitigate, or remedy rights violations when they occur. See FIFA, Statement on Human Rights Defenders and Media Representatives (2018). The creation of this mechanism followed calls from civil society for FIFA to establish a process to address complaints from media and human rights defenders. [HRW: Press Freedom] The United Nations Working Group on human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises called the mechanism “a very positive move.” [OHCHR Press Release] Under the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights (Ruggie Principles), businesses such as FIFA have the responsibility to respect human rights, avoid complicity in human rights violations, and ensure that victims of human rights violations as the result of their business activities are adequately remedied. See Human Rights Council, Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights, UN Doc. A/HRC/17/31, 21 March 2011, at 13, princ. 11. Read more

Inter-American Court Judge Resigns Amid Domestic Violence Allegations

Roberto F. Caldas recently resigned from the Inter-American Court of Human Rights
Credit: CorteIDH via Flickr

On May 15, 2018, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) accepted the resignation of Judge Roberto F. Caldas, whose appointment to the Court will terminate immediately. [IACtHR Press Release] Caldas submitted his letter of resignation on May 14, following the revelation of allegations of domestic violence against him. [IACtHR Press Release] Caldas had served on the Inter-American Court since 2013, and his term was set to expire at the end of this year. [La Nacion] The body responsible for appointing Inter-American Court judges, the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly, is expected to fill the vacancy at the next General Assembly meeting in June of this year. See Statute of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, OAS Res. 448 adopted by the General Assembly of the OAS at its Ninth Regular Session (1979), reprinted in Basic Documents Pertaining to Human Rights in the Inter-American System, OEA/Ser.L/V/1.4, rev. 13 at 205 (2010), art. 6(2) (Statute of the IACtHR). In commenting on the resignation, the President of the Inter-American Court emphasized that the Court condemns all forms of violence against women. [IACtHR Press Release] The Inter-American Court has ruled on several cases concerning the prevention of violence against women over the years. See, e.g., I/A Court H.R., Case of González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico. Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 16, 2009. Series C No. 205. Read more

COE Parliamentary Assembly Holds Hearings Following Investigation into Members’ Corruption

Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly
Credit: Council of Europe/ Candice Imbert

The Council of Europe Parliamentary Assembly (PACE) Rules Committee is set to hold a hearing today, May 15, on its findings on a member of PACE’s compliance with the PACE Code of Conduct following an investigation on allegations of corruption among members of PACE in connection to Azerbaijan; the independent investigation concluded that some PACE members have violated the PACE Code of Conduct. See PACE, Committee on Rules of Procedure, Immunities and Institutional Affairs Draft Agenda (2018). The PACE Rules Committee already held a hearing on four members mentioned in the conclusions of the investigation; issued findings on three, concluding only one violated the Code of Conduct; postponed the findings on the fourth member to today; and has dedicated itself to holding hearings on the conduct of the remaining PACE members mentioned in the report. [PACE Press Release: Findings]

Three former judges were appointed to carry out the investigation in May 2017, and nearly one year later, on April 15, 2018, the “Report of the Independent Body on the allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly” was released. The report found, among other conclusions, that several members of PACE who worked on issues related to Azerbaijan had conflicts of interest, and in one case, was accepting money in exchange for suppressing a report. See Council of Europe, Report of the Independent Body on the allegations of corruption within the Parliamentary Assembly (2018), xii, paras. 725-38. Following the release of the report, the Secretary General to PACE, Thorbjørn Jagland, observed in a public statement that PACE members have undermined the work of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe and his own work to release a political prisoner in Azerbaijan. [Council of Europe Press ReleaseRead more

U.S. Supreme Court Limits Corporate Liability for Human Rights Abuses

Arab Bank, the defendant in Jesner v. Arab Bank
Credit: jo.schz via Flickr

On April 24, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Jesner v. Arab Bank that foreign citizens cannot sue foreign corporations for civil damages in U.S. federal courts for serious violations of international law, such as torture or extrajudicial killings. See Jesner et al. v. Arab Bank, PLC, No. 16–499, slip op. (April 24, 2018). The case was brought against Arab Bank by victims of several terrorist attacks occurring in Israel and the occupied territories. See id. at 1. The plaintiffs alleged that Arab Bank supported numerous terrorist attacks, including those that harmed the victims, by knowingly providing financial services to terrorists, such as accepting deposits it knew were donations used to fund the attacks and pay money to the families of suicide bombers. See id. at 1-3. The plaintiffs brought their case under the Alien Tort Statute (ATS), which provides that United States federal courts may hear cases, brought by non-nationals, of tort committed in violation of international law. See id. at 1-2. The ATS is an exercise in universal civil jurisdiction, as it extends domestic judicial jurisdiction over actions that occurred abroad to foreign plaintiffs; it has historically been a means for non-U.S. citizens to seek redress for serious human rights violations committed outside of the U.S., although the Jesner decision and previous rulings limit the scope of the statute. See, e.g., Jesner, No. 16–499, slip op. at 1; Filártiga v. Peña-Irala, 630 F.2d 876 (2d Cir. 1980). Notably, the Supreme Court’s 2013 decision in Kiobel v. Royal Dutch Petroleum limited the scope of the ATS to cases that touch and concern the United States with sufficient force to overcome a presumption against the U.S. extending jurisdiction extraterritorially. See Kiobel et al. v. Royal Dutch Petroleum et al., 569 U.S. 108 (2013); Sosa v. Alvarez-Machain, 542 U.S. 692 (2004). International human rights bodies disagree over whether States must exercise universal civil jurisdiction over specific human rights abuses, mainly torture, that occurred abroad and by a foreign defendant. [IJRCSee Naït-Liman v. Switzerland [GC], Judgment of 15 March 2018; CAT, General Comment No. 3 (2012), UN Doc. CAT/C/GC/3, 13 Dec. 2012, paras. 22, 26.

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