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
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
On May 21, 2018, Qatar acceded to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Covenant on Economic, Social, and Cultural Rights (ICESCR), which will both come into force for the State in August. [HRW: Treaties] Qatar’s accession to these conventions included both formal reservations on articles to which Qatar will not consider itself bound by as well as statements by Qatar indicating how the government will interpret certain provisions, in accordance with Islamic Sharia law, the national constitution, and other national laws. Civil society has expressed concern at these reservations and statements, particularly as they relate to limitations on women’s rights and migrant workers’ rights. [HRW: Treaties] Including these most recent accessions, Qatar is now a party to nine United Nations conventions, obliging the State to guarantee the rights to equal protection and non-discrimination, among other rights. See OHCHR, Ratification Status for Qatar. Read more
On May 10, 2018, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) ruled that Mali’s Persons and Family Code violates international human rights standards on the State obligation to establish a minimum age of marriage for girl children; the right to consent to marriage; the right to inheritance; and the State obligation to eliminate harmful social and cultural practices for women, girl children, and children born out of wedlock. See AfCHPR, APDF and IHRDA v. Republic of Mali, App. No. 046/2016, Judgment of 11 May 2018, paras. 78, 95, 115, 125. The Association Pour le Progrès et la Défense des Droits des Femmes Maliennes (APDF) and the Institute for Human Rights and Development in Africa (IHRDA) brought the case against Mali to the African Court to challenge the domestic law’s compliance with three human rights treaties to which Mali is a party: the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Women in Africa (Maputo Protocol), the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Children’s Charter), and the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW). The Court found violations of all three treaties. This is the first time that the AfCHPR has applied provisions of the Maputo Protocol, which protects women’s rights in Africa. [IHRDA Press Release] Read more
In the month of June, several universal and regional bodies will be in session to assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through interactive dialogues, the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Two United Nations treaty bodies will meet in June to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to forced disappearances and children’s rights. Further, civil society can register this month to participate in the sessions of three treaty bodies that will meet in July to engage with States regarding their obligations related to discrimination against women, torture, and civil and political rights, respectively. The UN Human Rights Council and several of its working groups will be in session to review communications as well as thematic and country-specific reports. Four UN special procedures will conduct country visits focusing on torture, human rights defenders, enforced and involuntary disappearances, and the use of mercenaries, respectively.
Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will be in session, and will hold public hearings during those sessions. Additionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear one case related to the State’s obligation to provide a prisoner access to psychiatric care in a language that the prisoner understands and that is an official language of the State.
The UN treaty body sessions, the public hearings of the European Court, and the public hearings of the IACtHR, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website or Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC’s Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
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
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 Release] Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and United Nations experts have expressed concern over Nicaragua’s response to protests that began in opposition to President Ortega’s proposed social security reforms and led to violence, deaths, and the suppression of media attention. [NY Times: Protests; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release: Concern] The demonstrations started in Managua after President Ortega proposed changes that would require workers to pay higher contributions in to the social security system but would also lower benefits to pensioners. [NY Times: Protests] The protests’ geographic scope and protesters’ demands grew, sparking protests in other cities and covering a range of issues surrounding general discontent with the Ortega government. [NY Times: Protests; NPR] Universal and regional human rights bodies and experts have expressed concern with the use of force used by security forces and threats to protesters’ safety due to non-State actors’ responses, and called on Nicaragua to respect and protect human rights. [OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release: Concern] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reminded the State that it must respect people’s right to peacefully express their views and that tactics of repression in the context of demonstrations do the opposite. The regional human rights body also called on the State to investigate the deaths that occurred during the protest and asked to make a working visit to the State. [IACHR Press Release: Coordination; IACHR Press Release: Concern] The UN experts further added their concern over the State’s stigmatization of protesters. [OHCHR Press Release] Nicaragua is obligated to ensure and protect the rights to freedom of assembly, to freedom of expression, and to life under the American Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Read more
We are pleased to share our latest newsletter. It details the newest additions to the Online Resource Hub, recent engagement with the universal and Inter-American human rights systems, and upcoming events. If receiving this update via email, you can also read the May 2018 newsletter online, or open the PDF directly. For the latest in human rights developments, visit the News Room and IJRC Daily.
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. [IJRC] See 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.