February 2017: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session
In the month of February 2017, various universal and regional bodies will 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. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet this month to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to economic, social, and cultural rights; the rights of women; the rights of the child; and prevention of torture and ill treatment. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to persons with leprosy, unaccompanied migrant children, persons with disabilities, the democracy, and repatriation of illicit funds. Two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits, and two working groups will hold sessions to discuss involuntary disappearances and transnational corporations. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear one case concerning domestic criminal proceedings in which the applicant was not allowed to represent himself.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court may be watched via UN Web TV and the European Court’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. To learn more about each human rights body, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.
Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights 60th Session and 60th Pre-Sessional Working Group
The Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) will hold its 60th session from February 20 to February 24 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the agenda, the CESCR will hold a day of general discussion and discuss the draft general comment on State obligations in the context of business activities, other general comments that are under preparation, and additional substantive matters. The Committee will also consider follow-up information from States on the Committee’s recommendations and observations. To view session documents, including information submitted by civil society, visit the 60th Session webpage.
The CESCR will also hold its 60th Pre-Sessional Working Group from February 27 to March 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. It will consider the reports of Colombia, Mexico, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, and Russia. At the pre-sessional working group meeting, the working group adopts lists of issues for the States parties under consideration to respond to at the next session. To view session documents, including information for civil society organizations, visit the 60th Pre-Sessional Working Group webpage.
Civil society may submit additional information for consideration three to six weeks in advance of a session or pre-sessional working group meeting. The CESCR will hold its 61st session at the end of May 2017.
Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women 66th Session
The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW Committee) will hold its 66th session from February 13 to March 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its programme of work, the CEDAW Committee will conduct interactive dialogues with El Salvador, Germany, Ireland, Jordan, Micronesia, Rwanda, Sri Lanka, and Ukraine concerning their implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination against Women. After considering their reports and information from civil society, the Committee will later issue concluding observations on each State, noting challenges to implementation of the Convention and positive developments. According to the agenda, the Committee also will consider follow-up information from States on the Committee’s recommendations and observations.
The session webpage has information for individuals and non-governmental organizations that would like to participate. Written submissions, or alternative reports, from civil society were due January 23, or three weeks before the start of the session. To view session documents, including information submitted by civil society, visit the 66th Session webpage.
Committee on the Rights of the Child 74th Session
The Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) will continue its 74th session through February 3 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to its programme of work, the CRC will engage in interactive dialogues with Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, the Central African Republic, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Estonia, Georgia, Malawi, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and Serbia regarding their implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and its optional protocols. Upon the conclusion of these discussions and after reviewing each State’s submitted report, the CRC will issue concluding observations, which address the Committee’s concerns and contain recommendations for each State. To view session documents, including State reports and information from civil society, visit the 74th session webpage.
The CRC will also hold its 76th Pre-Sessional Working Group from February 6 to February 10 in Geneva. During the session, the CRC will consider State reports from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, Denmark, Ecuador, Republic of Moldova, Tajikistan, and Vanuatu on compliance with the Convention; reports from Guinea, Tajikistan, and Vanuatu on compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution, and child pornography; and reports from Cyprus, Guinea, Tajikistan, and Vanuatu on compliance with the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict.
At the pre-sessional working group meeting, the working group adopts lists of issues for the States parties under consideration to respond to at the next session. For more information, visit the 76th pre-sessional working group page.
Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture 31st Session
According to OHCHR’s calendar of meetings and events for 2017, the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment will conduct its 31st session from February 13 to February 17 in Geneva, Switzerland. The Subcommittee is tasked with conducting visits to places where persons may be deprived of their liberty and with assisting and advising States in the establishment of National Preventive Mechanisms. See OHCHR, Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture (OPCAT): Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture. While the SPT meets in private and does not publish specific agendas, its sessions provide an opportunity for the SPT’s 25 members to report on and discuss upcoming and recent activities in connection with specific countries, regions, and thematic priorities. The SPT does publish annual reports on its activities.
Human Rights Council 34th Session and 18th Session of the Advisory Committee
The Human Rights Council will hold its 34th session from February 27 to March 24, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland. The programme of work has not been published yet; however, the Human Rights Council has published a list of reports from the Universal Periodic Review Working Group, the High Commissioner on Human Rights, the UN Secretary General, independent experts, and others that it will consider during the 34th session. The deadline for NGOs to submit written statements for the session or to request a room for the event is February 13, and oral statement registration will open on February 23. Those who are not able to attend are encouraged to participate via video message. More information regarding NGO accreditation information about and NGO participation is available on the Human Rights Council 34th session webpage.
The Human Rights Council is an intergovernmental body of the United Nations, through which States discuss human rights conditions in the UN Member States. The Council’s mandate is to promote “universal respect for the protection of all human rights and fundamental freedoms for all” and “address situations of violations of human rights, including gross and systematic violations, and make recommendations thereon.” The Human Rights Council was established in 2006 by Resolution 60/251 as a subsidiary body to the UN General Assembly. It replaced the former Commission on Human Rights, which operated from 1946 to 2006.
The Human Rights Council Advisory Committee will hold its 18th session on February 20 to February 24 in Geneva, Switzerland. According to the draft program of work, the Advisory Committee will meet with experts, non-governmental organizations, the Human Rights Council Bureau, and regional coordinators. The provisional agenda indicates that the Advisory Committee will consider requests regarding the integration of a gender perspective to its studies; the promotion of a democratic and equitable international order; the integration of the perspective of persons with disabilities; the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members; unaccompanied migrant children and adolescents and human rights; the negative impact of the non-repatriation of funds of illicit origin on the enjoyment of human rights; and regional arrangements for the promotion and protection of human rights. It will also consider follow-up to reports of the Committee submitted to the Human Rights Council. Additional information regarding items on the agenda can be found in the Annotations to the Provisional Agenda.
The Advisory Committee is an 18-member body of independent experts that supports the work of the Human Rights Council by providing studies and research-based advice to the Human Rights Council. Established in 2008 pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 5/1, the Committee meets two times per year for a maximum of ten working days per year. The members of the Advisory Committee are selected based on their recognized competence and experience in the field of human rights, their high moral standing, and their independence and impartiality. See Resolution 5/1, para. 67. The Advisory Committee’s membership also follows geographic representation guidelines.
UN Special Procedures
Various UN special procedures have activities scheduled for February. Two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits and two working groups will hold sessions, one in Geneva, Switzerland and one in Seoul, South Korea.
The Special Rapporteur on violence against women, its causes and consequences is scheduled to visit Australia from February 13 to 27.
The Independent Expert on the effects of foreign debt and other related international financial obligations of States on the full enjoyment of all human rights, particularly economic, social and cultural rights scheduled to visit Tunisia from February 20 to March 1, 2017.
According to the Office of the High Commissioner of Human Rights’ (OHCHR) calendar of meetings and events for 2017, the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances is scheduled to hold its 111th session from February 6 to 10 in Seoul, South Korea.
According to the OHCHR’s calendar of meetings and events for 2017, the Working Group on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations and other business enterprises is scheduled to hold its 16th session from February 13 to 17 in Geneva, Switzerland.
During country visits, independent experts assess the overall human rights situation of a country as well as issues specific to their thematic focus. Experts often meet with members of civil society, government officials, and representatives of national human rights institutions in that country. Following each visit, experts prepare and submit reports to the Human Rights Council and General Assembly. See OHCHR, Country and Visits of Special Procedures.
European Court of Human Rights: Grand Chamber to Hear Correia de Matos v. Portugal
On February 8, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hold Grand Chamber hearings in one case. See ECtHR, Calendar of Hearings. In the case, Correia de Matos v. Portugal, the applicant, a lawyer in Portugal, criticized the ruling of a judge in 2008, and the prosecutor subsequently brought charges for insulting a judge. During the proceedings, the court required the applicant to be represented by counsel rather than conducting his own defense.
The Grand Chamber will consider whether Article 6(3)(c) of the European Convention on Human Rights, which protects the right to legal assistance of one’s own choosing, was violated given that the applicant was not permitted to conduct his own defense. [ECHR: Press Release] A chamber relinquished jurisdiction to the Grand Chamber on September 13, 2016. [ECHR: Press Release]
Inter-American Court of Human Rights 117th Regular Session
The 117th Regular Session of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will take place in San Jose, Costa Rica from February 6 to 17. The Court is scheduled to hold public hearings on four individual cases.
The first case, Lagos del Campo v. Peru, Alfredo Lagos del Campo was dismissed from his position after he spoke out against the company’s interference in workers’ organizations and elections. The IACHR held that Peru violated the right to freedom of expression guaranteed in Article 13.2 of the American Convention on Human Rights because the courts failed to analyze whether the applicant’s dismissal was compatible with human rights standards; the courts, instead, upheld the dismissal although it violated freedom of expression under the Convention. The IACHR submitted the case to the Court on November 28, 2015 because Peru failed to implement the IACHR’s recommendations. [IACHR Press Release: Peru]
Similarly, San Miguel Sosa et al v. Venezuela, involves the dismissal of Rocío San Miguel, Magally Chang Giron, and Thais Coromoto Peña, who all held public offices. The applicants signed a petition for a recall referendum on the Venezuelan president’s, Hugo Chávez Frías, term of office. The IACHR held that Venezuela violated the rights to a fair trial, to freedom of religion, to participate in government, to equal protection, and to judicial protection under the American Convention. The discretion to terminate employee contracts, the Commission found, was used in this case “as a veil of legality for the true motivation to punish” the applicants. The IACHR submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on March 8, 2016 because Venezuela failed to implement the IACHR’s recommendations. [IACHR Press Release: Venezuela]
In Amrhein et al v. Costa Rica, 17 petitioners alleged that Costa Rica failed to allow them to appeal criminal convictions and in some cases, failed to guarantee due process rights at trial. The IACHR held that Costa Rica violated the rights to a fair trial, judicial protection, humane treatment, and personal liberty guaranteed in the American Convention on Human Rights. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 33/14, Case 12.820, Manfred Amrhein et al (Costa Rica), 4 April 2014, paras. 1-3.
Finally, in the Ortiz Hernandez v. Venezuela case, the parents of Johan Alexis Ortiz Hernández alleged that Venezuela is responsible for the death of Johan Alexis Ortiz Hernández. He was shot during a training for the national guard; the training used real bullets. The IACHR held that Venezuela violated the rights to life, humane treatment, fair trial, and judicial protection as guaranteed under the American Convention on Human Rights. The Commission found that Venezuela failed to ensure safety measures during the training, to respond in a timely and adequate manner to the injuries, to ensure the presence of medical personnel during the training, to adequately investigate the incident, and to conduct a fair trial. The Commission submitted the case to the Inter-American Court on May 13, 2015 because Venezuela failed to comply with IACHR’s recommendations. [IACHR Press Release]
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has jurisdiction to hear cases brought against a Member State of the Organization of American States that has accepted the Court’s jurisdiction under Article 62 of the American Convention on Human Rights. The Court may also issue advisory opinions and provisional measures.
For more information visit the Court’s 117th Regular Session webpage.