Author Archives: IJRC

Rights Protests Continue Across the U.S. as Immigration Ban Implemented

Women’s March participants
Credit: ufcw770 via Wikimedia Commons

Protesters in the United States and around the world demonstrated last week and over the weekend, calling for the protection of the rights of migrants and refugees, women, and other vulnerable groups, as a new administration assumed power in the United States following a bitterly divisive campaign in which now-President Trump denied sexual assault allegations and promised to enact a “Muslim ban.” [Fortune] During the past year and more recently, various universal and regional international human rights monitoring bodies commented on human rights issues relevant to those prioritized in these protests, and called on American authorities to respect fundamental rights and values.

The organizers of the January 21, 2017 Women’s March on Washington, which may be the largest demonstration in U.S. history, specifically called for the protection of women’s right to be free from violence and discrimination, women of color’s right to be free from racial discrimination, migrants’ rights, environmental rights, and LGBTQIA communities’ right to be free from violence and discrimination, among other rights.

Since then, President Trump has taken several steps that civil society and human rights experts warn greatly threaten many of the same human rights championed by the demonstrators. On Friday, President Trump signed an executive order imposing a 90-day suspension on entry into the U.S. for citizens of seven countries (Iran, Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Sudan, Libya, and Somalia); a 120-day suspension of all refugee admissions; and an indefinite pause on the admission of refugees from Syria. The order, which was immediately implemented, unleashed chaos and protests in the country’s airports, as civil society and the courts struggled to define its scope and legality. [New York Times; NPR]

The U.S. is a State party to multiple human rights instruments, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD), which protect the rights to, among others, non-discrimination and equal protection. It is also a party to the 1967 Protocol to the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, commonly referred to as the “Refugee Convention.” Read more

António Guterres Assumes UN Secretary General Office, Calls for Peace

Secretary General António Guterres takes the oath of office
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The new United Nations Secretary General, António Guterres, recently appealed to Member States to join him in committing to ensuring and sustaining peace and has further called for a holistic approach to the UN’s work through close coordination between the UN’s three pillars: peace and security, sustainable development, and human rights policies. Guterres, who assumed office on January 1, 2017, replacing Ban Ki-moon, will hold the post for a five-year period, ending December 31, 2021. While only a few days in to his term, Guterres’ initial remarks have shed light on his goals and priorities and include an appeal for peace, a call to the UN to support sustainable development and the Paris Agreement on climate change, and a notice to the UN as an organization to prepare for change in its internal management structure. See United Nations, Secretary-General-designate António Guterres’ remarks to the General Assembly on taking the oath of office. On linking the three pillars, he has said, “there is no peace without development and no development without peace; it is also true that there is no peace and sustainable development without respect for human rights.” [UN News Centre: Photo Feature]

Guterres was chosen for the role after the UN implemented a more transparent selection process, which included dialogues with Member States and civil society. [UN News Centre: Guterres; IJRC] Guterres, who is fluent in Portuguese, English, French, and Spanish, previously served as the 10th UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) from June 2005 to December 2015, as Portugal’s Prime Minister from 1995 to 2002, and as president of the European Council in 2000. [UN News Centre: Photo Feature] Read more

Inter-American Commission Finds Undocumented Migrants Entitled to Workplace Protections

The petitioners’ representatives at the Inter-American Commission
Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently released a decision vindicating the rights of two undocumented workers in the United States whose employers denied them medical benefits and wage replacement after they were injured on the job, in a context of domestic jurisprudence and policy limiting labor protections for undocumented migrants. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 50/16, Case 12.834, Undocumented Workers (United States of America), 30 November 2016. The IACHR ultimately found that the U.S. violated the workers’ rights to equality before the law and social security benefits enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration). See id. This significant decision is the first to address the employment rights of undocumented migrants in the Americas and builds on the IACHR’s doctrine related to discrimination on the basis of immigration status. It includes a list of recommendations to the U.S. to ensure policies and practices that promote equal treatment and due process for undocumented workers. See id. Read more

IACtHR Holds Bolivia Responsible for Forced Sterilization in Landmark Judgment

The Inter-American Court hears from the parties in I.V. v. Bolivia
Credit: IACtHR

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) examined for the first time the issue of informed consent to medical treatment and forced sterilization, in its judgment in I.V. v. Bolivia, released last week. [IACtHR Press Release (in Spanish)] The case involves a Peruvian refugee who was sterilized by a tubal ligation performed without her informed consent in a Bolivian public hospital in 2000, resulting in permanent loss of her ability to conceive a child. See I/A Court H.R., I.V. v. Bolivia. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 30 November 2016. Series C No. 329, paras. 64-65 (in Spanish). I.V. had been admitted to a public hospital to give birth and was sterilized, immediately after doctors performed a Caesarean section, purportedly to prevent potential complications if I.V. were to become pregnant again in the future. See id. at paras. 63-64.

The IACtHR’s judgment expands the Court’s jurisprudence on the principle of informed consent, the (infrequently cited) right to dignity under the American Convention on Human Rights, and a State’s obligation to ensure adequate training for medical professionals. The IACtHR affirmed that informed consent is an essential precondition to medical treatment that is based on respect for individuals’ autonomy, dignity, and freedom to make their own decisions. See id. at para. 159. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC), together with the International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court which provided supplementary analysis on these concepts and the human rights implicated by forced sterilization of women, a practice that is regrettably common in the Americas and throughout the world. Read more

New Clips – December 31, 2016

UN Security Council adopts resolution on Israeli settlements
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • In Argentina this week, human rights advocate Milagro Sala, and other members of the organization Tupac Amaru, were sentenced to 2-3 years probation, or suspended prison, for “aggravated damage” after participating in a protest. [Telesur]
  • A United Nations agency condemned the murder of journalist, Larry Que, of the Phillippines, and called for an investigation into the death as a means of ensuring the safety of other journalists, and protecting freedom of information. [UN News Centre]
  • Bahrain released and re-imprisoned activist Nabeel Rajab for comments he made on social media about the war in Yemen and acts of torture allegedly taking place in prisons. [Guardian]
  • On Monday in Egypt, a new media law that establishes a body with the power to revoke licenses, fine, or suspend publications, broadcasters, and foreign media, was passed and signed into law, heightening concerns over the freedom of press in the region. [Al Jazeera]
  • In Bangladesh, workers in the garment factories protested job loss and workers pay. [Guardian]
  • In the wake of recent civil society suppression in Ecuador, UN Special Rapporteurs have offered technical assistance to the government to address problematic legislation, and called for a stop to the dissolution of environmental and indigenous rights groups. [OHCHR Press Release]

Migrants & Refugees

  • This week, 36 child asylum seekers who had been living in the informal Calais refugee camp in France initiated individual legal action against the United Kingdom for allegedly failing to process their asylum applications in a timely and appropriate manner. [Guardian]
  • In Germany, 20,000 more migrants and refugees have chosen to leave the country in 2016 than in 2015, as Germany’s immigration policies become more restrictive. [Al Jazeera]

Armed Conflict, Violence, & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Thursday, the Syrian Army announced the implementation of a cease-fire between government and rebel forces in much of Syria through a deal between Russia, Syria, Iran, and Turkey; the agreement did not include “terrorist organizations.”. [Washington Post]
  • This week, the Colombian Congress approved a revised peace deal that provides amnesty to thousands of FARC and army members accused of minor crimes. [BBC]
  • A second phase of an Iraqi operation intended to reclaim Mosul began on Thursday. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Wednesday, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported air strikes in eastern Syria, which were said to have killed 22 civilians, including 10 children. [Al Jazeera]

Environment

  • For the first time in Spain, an anti-pollution measure in Madrid will ban the use of about half of the private cars on roadways on Thursday between 6:30 AM-9:00 PM, with some exceptions, in an attempt to aid public health. [Guardian]
  • In Bangladesh this week, experts emphasized the water crisis imminent in the region due to water wastage, pollution, declining groundwater, and increased salinity. [Inter Press Service]

Politics

  • The United States Secretary of State reiterated the U.S. commitment to a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict following a UN Security Council resolution condemning Israeli settlement building; the U.S. had abstained from that vote, opening a rift in U.S.-Israeli relations. [Guardian]
  • British Prime Minister Theresa May reportedly intends to campaign on a promise to withdraw from the European Convention on Human Rights, an obligatory and binding human rights instrument for all European Union Member States, which gives the European Court of Human Rights jurisdiction over complaints against the United Kingdom. [Rights Info]
  • On Thursday, in response to alleged Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election, the Obama administration moved to shut down Russian compounds in the U.S. and declare 35 Russians “persona non grata.” [Washington Post]
  • On Friday in Turkey, a parliamentary commission approved a draft of a constitutional amendment that would give the president and vice president complete executive powers, the amendment will go to a referendum most likely in the spring. [Al Jazeera]
  • This week, the UN Secretary General praised the newly inaugurated parliament of Somalia and encouraged it to fill empty seats (particularly with women), establish a permanent constitution, and improve its credibility. [UN News Centre]

African Court: Côte d’Ivoire’s Partisan Electoral Body Violated International Norms

The African Court on Human and Peoples' Rights in session in May 2016Credit: AfCHPR

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in session in May 2016
Credit: AfCHPR

The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) has issued a new judgment, holding that Côte d’Ivoire violated various human rights obligations in establishing a partisan election monitoring body ahead of the 2015 national elections, the first held since Alassane Ouattara succeeded Laurent Gbagbo in the presidency following an end to the country’s civil war. See AfCHPR, Actions Pour la Protection des Droits de l’Homme v. the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, App. No. 001/2014, Judgment of 18 November 2016, para. 153. Gbagbo is currently facing trial at the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges related to violence following his defeat in the 2010 election. In its November 18, 2016 judgment, the African Court held that Côte d’Ivoire’s electoral body lacked the necessary independence and impartiality, thereby violating citizens’ rights to political participation and equal protection, because the body was composed of eight representatives of the ruling party and only four representatives of the political opposition and made decisions by simple majority. See id. at paras. 130-31. The Court ordered the State to amend the relevant law to comply with its international obligations. See id. at para. 153.

This is the first time the Court has found violations of certain provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, which the Court determined are “human rights instruments” within its material jurisdiction. See id. at paras. 47-65. The Court has previously found a violation of the right to participate in government where independent candidates were effectively prevented from running for office. [IJRC] Read more

ICC Releases Annual Report on Progress of Preliminary Examinations

The International Criminal CourtCredit: OSeveno via Wikimedia Commons

The International Criminal Court
Credit: OSeveno via Wikimedia Commons

On November 14, the International Criminal Court (ICC) released its 2016 annual report on its pending preliminary investigations into alleged war crimes, crimes against humanity, or genocide. [ICC Press Release] The report details the Court’s progress on the 10 situations being evaluated for possible investigation, including two examinations initiated during the reporting period of November 1, 2015 to October 31, 2016 (the situations in Burundi and Gabon). [ICC Press Release] See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities (2016), para. 19. The other eight preliminary examinations involve crimes allegedly committed on the territories of Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, Iraq/United Kingdom, Palestine, Nigeria, Ukraine, and Comoros (which requested an investigation into the Gaza flotilla raid by Israel of ships sailing under the flags of Comoros, Greece, and Cambodia).

The Office of the Prosecutor examines situations in three phases: first, to assess the situation’s significance and eliminate crimes outside of the ICC’s jurisdiction; second, to officially commence the examination and assess subject-matter jurisdiction over the alleged crimes; and third, to assess both the adequacy of national proceedings on the alleged crimes and the gravity of the crime, which refers to the “scale, nature, manner of commission of the crimes, and their impact[s].” See ICC Office of the Prosecutor, Report on Preliminary Examination Activities, paras. 6-7, 15. Four situations – Afghanistan, Colombia, Guinea, and Nigeria – are in the final stages of preliminary examination. Five of the situations are in the second phase and one situation that was previously dismissed (the Comoros referral) is now under reconsideration. See id. at paras. 15, 308-13. The ICC Prosecutor, Fatsou Bensouda, has indicated she intends to release decisions concerning the situation in Afghanistan and the Comoros referral shortly. [ICC Press Release] Read more

UN Experts Warn Against Egypt’s Suppression of Civil Society

UN Special Rapporteur Maina KiaiCredit: Guyinnairobi photos via Wikimedia Commons

UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai
Credit: Guyinnairobi photos via Wikimedia Commons

United Nations human rights experts have recently denounced the suppression of the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Egypt through the use of travel bans and restrictions on foreign funding for non-governmental organizations. In the last year, UN experts warn, Egypt has prevented human rights defenders from leaving the country and drafted a bill to limit civil society organizations’ ability to operate independently. [OHCHR Press Release: Defenders; OHCHR Press Release: Association]

The bill, which was approved by the State Council on November 28, is expected to arrive soon on the desk of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who will decide whether or not to sign it into law. The bill requires that an organization apply for permission to receive foreign funding; keep all work aligned with “the state’s plan, development needs and priorities;” and refrain from certain conduct, such as work “of a political nature.” [Human Rights Watch: Bill] The Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders and on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association have condemned Egypt’s recent actions, stating that the country is likely in violation of its international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. [OHCHR Press Release: Defenders; OHCHR Press Release: Association] Read more

New Resource: Manual on the African Human Rights System

screen-shot-2016-11-30-at-4-24-18-pmThe International Justice Resource Center is thrilled to announce the launch of our latest publication, Advocacy before the African Human Rights System: A Manual for Attorneys and Advocates. This manual, which is part of our publication series Preventing and Remedying Human Rights Violations through the International Framework, is the result of several years’ work and benefits from the research and review of numerous colleagues. We are grateful for the input and feedback provided by partner organizations with extensive experience engaging in advocacy before the African Commission and Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Read more

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