As oversight bodies call for restraint amid ongoing protests in Haiti, the United Nations is ending its 15-year peacekeeping mission in the country. [IACHR Press Release; UN News: Protests] On October 16, 2019, a special political mission, the United Nations Integrated Office in Haiti (BINUH), replaced the United Nations Mission for Justice Support in Haiti (MINUJUSTH), shifting the UN’s focus from law enforcement to governance. [UN News: Security Council] The UN Secretary General appointed Helen Meagher La Lime, a citizen of the United States, as the Special Representative for Haiti to head the BINUH, which is charged with promoting and strengthening political stability and peaceful relations, good governance, and human rights. [UN Press Release] The MINUJUSTH and its predecessor, the UN Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH), leave behind a mixed legacy, marred with controversies ranging from sexual abuse to a cholera epidemic. The new special political mission will begin its work in the midst of an economic crisis, fuel and food shortages, and ongoing violent protests against President Jovenel Moïse that have resulted in at least 30 deaths since September 2019. [Washington Post; UN News: Security Council]
In her latest report to the United Nations General Assembly, the UN Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences outlined a human rights-based approach to the violence and mistreatment that many women suffer in reproductive health services, focusing specifically on childbirth and obstetric care. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences on a human rights-based approach to mistreatment and violence against women in reproductive health services with a focus on childbirth and obstetric violence, UN Doc. A/74/137, 11 July 2019. Noting a “lack of respect for women’s equal status and human rights,” the report highlights a number of human rights violations that women experience during childbirth and outlines the root causes of mistreatment during childbirth and obstetric violence. See id. It further calls on States to: collect reproductive health-related data, apply human rights and World Health Organization standards to maternity care, and to establish complaint and accountability mechanisms, among other recommendations. See id. at paras. 8-11, 81. While the report does not assert new or expanded interpretations of the relevant rights or obligations, it does synthesize many of the issues and adds to the growing body of international human rights guidance on ensuring informed consent in all reproductive health services. See id. at para. 14.
The United Nations Human Rights Committee has announced changes that will generally reduce the frequency and comprehensiveness of its review of States parties’ implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). With its first Predictable Review Cycle, the Committee will review all 173 States parties to the ICCPR between 2020 and 2027. See OHCHR, The Predictable Review Cycle. The changes mean that each State party will be reviewed every eight years (instead of approximately every five years), the cycle will begin with a list of issues prepared by the Committee for the State to address (unless the State opts to submit a comprehensive report first), and each State will be reviewed even if the State does not participate. These are the latest developments in the Committee’s 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” and, more specifically, the Committee’s Decision on the Human Rights Committee on additional measures to simplify the reporting procedure and increase predictability. See id. The changes are also a response to challenges facing the Committee, including limited resources, a growing backlog of State reports, and lack of State compliance with recommendations and reporting deadlines. States that wish to opt-out of simplified reporting must notify the Committee’s Secretariat by December 31, 2019. See id.
In October, 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. Four United Nations treaty bodies and two pre-sessional working groups will hold sessions to assess States’ progress regarding enforced disappearances; economic, social, and cultural rights; women’s rights; children’s rights; and civil and political rights. Nine UN special procedures will conduct country visits in October. Additionally, three UN Working Groups will hold sessions in Geneva. Of the regional bodies, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR), Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will all be in session. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold a Grand Chamber hearing.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The public hearings of the IACtHR, IACHR, and ECtHR may be viewed via 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.
On September 18, 2019, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) published a decision finding Cameroon responsible for violating the rights to freedom of expression, non-discrimination, and property of a media company and its director, when it failed to create an independent licensing authority that could grant the company’s radio station a broadcasting license. See ACommHPR, Open Society Justice Initiative (on behalf of Pius Njawe Noumeni) v. the Republic of Cameroon, Communication No. 290/2004, Merits Decision, 25th Extraordinary Session (2019). Drawing and elaborating on jurisprudence from other regional and international human rights bodies, the Commission concluded that the lack of independent and transparent licensing procedures limits diversity in broadcasting and is contrary to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). See id. at para. 171.
The Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) announced new charges on September 16, 2019 against Salim Jamil Ayyash relating to his alleged involvement in the 2004 and 2005 attacks targeting Lebanese politicians Marwan Mohammed Hamade, Georges Anis Hawi, and Elias Miche El-Murr. [STL Press Release] The new charges are separate from the pending charges against Ayyash, and three other defendants, in connection with the February 14, 2005 attack that killed former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri and 21 others. [STL Press Release] While Ayyash’s whereabouts are unknown, the Pre-Trial Judge issued both domestic and international warrants to be executed by Lebanese authorities and INTERPOL, respectively, for his arrest and handover to the STL. [STL Press Release] The STL is the first internationalized criminal tribunal to prosecute crimes of terrorism. See STL, Ayyash Case Information Sheet, March 2019. Since opening its doors in 2009, the tribunal has yet to issue any judgments in its pending cases, and none of the defendants are in its custody. [Washington Post; UN Press Release: STL]
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) is calling on State and non-State actors, including civil society, to provide input on the most recent draft of its revised Rules of Procedure. [ACHPR Press Release] The Revised Clean Draft for Public Consultation (Draft Rules), currently available in English, French, Portuguese, and Arabic, was adopted by the ACHPR at its 25th Extraordinary Session, which was held from February 19 to March 5, 2019, and will replace the standing Rules of Procedure that have been in effect since May 2010. [ACHPR Press Release] The Draft Rules modify some of the formal deadlines and other requirements that govern the ACHPR’s work, including its processing of complaints and internal procedures; outline expectations for its interaction with other stakeholders; and help define the scope of the ACHPR’s authority.
All inputs and contributions are due by September 27, 2019, and should be sent via email to the ACHPR Secretariat at firstname.lastname@example.org. [ACHPR Press Release] In an effort to facilitate civil society participation in the revision process, this post highlights some of the most notable changes to the 2010 Rules of Procedure.
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.
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.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has launched a report on internally displaced people in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras; it analyzes a years-long increase in internal migration due to violence and the forceful expulsion of Indigenous and farming communities, details the rights of internally displaced people, and provides human rights-based guidelines for essential policy reforms. See IACHR, Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America: Public Policy Guidelines (2018). Internally displaced people are those who are forced to flee their homes involuntarily due to armed conflict, violence, human rights violations, or natural or manmade disasters, and who remain in their country of origin or residence after fleeing their homes. See id. at para. 8. A previous IACHR report touched on forced displacement and forced migration in the three countries, known as the “Northern Triangle” of Central America, in the context of human mobility in the Americas. [IJRC] The new report includes a practical guide intended to make its main recommendations more accessible to civil society and individuals working on the promotion and protection of internally displaced people’s rights, as well as to government officials. The IACHR has stated its willingness to provide technical assistance to States and institutions in implementing its recommendations. See IACHR, Internal Displacement in the Northern Triangle of Central America, para. 14.
Internal Displacement & State Obligations in the Northern Triangle
In the Northern Triangle, internal displacement has increased in recent years and is largely the result of gang violence or violence perpetuated by drug cartels. See id. at paras. 29, 42. The report finds that activities by State agents and large-scale business also contribute to internal displacement. See id. However, the IACHR highlights that internal displacement is a complex phenomenon that may be caused by multiple factors, including structural deficiencies that cannot be overlooked. See id. at para. 49. For example, the report points to the existing patriarchal system, high levels of corruption and impunity, States’ inability to ensure personal safety, weak government institutions, and social inequalities that limit access to economic and social rights, such as health, education, and housing. See id. at paras. 49-50.
Certain populations are at higher risk of internal displacement given their particular circumstances, including Indigenous and farming communities forcibly displaced by megaprojects and business activities, women, children and adolescents, human rights defenders, LGBTI people, and journalists, among others. See id. at paras. 29, 43, 54.
While internal displacement in the Northern Triangle continues to increase, the lack of accurate data makes it difficult to identify the full scope of the problem. See id. at paras. 57-59, 72. The report concludes that displacement in the region is often disregarded or minimized as a result of low-level reporting, often because of fear of reprisal or the high level of impunity in the States, and incomplete records or lack of official recognition of internal displacement in reported cases. See id. The IACHR Special Rapporteur on the human rights of internally displaced persons has called on States to “collect additional data […] and analysis to build a comprehensive picture of the internal displacement situation, identify trends, patterns, and risk profiles and understand the location, needs, protection concerns, and intentions of internally displaced persons.” See id. at para. 75.
Human Rights Violations & State Obligations
The IACHR analyzes internal displacement and its impact on the human rights of individuals and communities in three phases. See id. at paras. 55-56. First, it considers the human rights violations that predate and often cause the internal displacement, then the rights violations that occur during the displacement itself, and, finally, the rights violations that occur because of the State’s failure to provide adequate protections and solutions to the problem. See id. at para. 56. While forced displacement is considered a human rights violation in it of itself, the IACHR recognizes the multiple and continuous human rights violations that displacement entails, including but not limited to violations of the rights to an adequate standard of living, freedom of movement, humane treatment, private and family life, property, work, and identity. See id. at paras. 87, 92-93, 100.
As such, the IACHR clarifies that States have an obligation to prevent displacement; to provide protection and assistance during displacement, including humanitarian assistance to ensure an adequate standard of living; and to implement measures that facilitate return or local resettlement as a way to guarantee lasting solutions for internally displaced persons. See id. at paras. 99, 112, 125, 131.
Public Policy Guidelines
The report presents the core Inter-American standards, focusing on the scope of Article 22 (freedom of movement and residence) of the American Convention on Human Rights and drawing on United Nations Guiding Principles on Internal Displacement. See id. at paras. 81-86. The IACHR then translates those standards into 12 policy recommendations aimed at assisting States in complying with their international obligations in this area. See id. at para. 142.
The proposed guidelines are included in the report as well as in the separate practical guide. See IACHR, Practical Guide: Guidelines for the formulation of public policies on internal displacement. The guidelines provide specific steps for States’ executive, legislative, and judicial branches with respect to creating public institutional frameworks capable of achieving effective solutions for the protection of internally displaced persons, adopting data-gathering measures that guarantee transparency and accountability, recognizing internal displacement as a human rights problem and implementing prevention measures to mitigate it, and recognizing and protecting the fundamental rights of the internally displaced. See id. at 9-17.
The guidelines also emphasize the need for a gender and diversity perspective when addressing internal displacement, noting specifically the historical discrimination impacting internally displaced women, girls, and LGBIT individuals, and also highlight the need for an approach that includes an intersectional intercultural perspective. See id. at 21-24. In line with the State obligations previously outlined, the guidelines include specific steps to facilitate humanitarian assistance and efforts to return, resettle, and reintegrate individuals into the local community. See id. at 27-29. Additionally, the guidelines call on States to guarantee access to justice and reparation, and to facilitate civil society and community participation in the process of formulating, implementing, monitoring, and evaluating policies related to internal displacement. See id. at 31-35. Finally, the guidelines include specific measures to guarantee a budget that sustains institutions and policies aimed at protecting internally displaced persons, and steps to expand regional and international cooperation. See id. at 36-37.
To learn more about the Inter-American human rights system, migrants’ rights, and asylum and refugee rights, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. For an overview of the Northern Triangle countries’ human rights obligations, view IJRC’s Country Factsheets. To stay up-to-date on international human rights news, visit IJRC’s News Room or subscribe to the IJRC Daily.