Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
In February 2018, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, interactive dialogues, and hearings on individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will be holding sessions throughout February on issues related to children’s rights, prevention of torture, the rights of persons with disabilities, and the rights of women. The UN Human Rights Council and several of its working groups will also be in session to review communications as well as thematic and country-specific reports. Two UN special rapporteurs will carry out country visits, and two special procedures working groups will hold private sessions on the topics of forced disappearances, and business and human rights.
Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be in session, and will hold public hearings during those sessions. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear arguments in one case on the alleged violation of due process rights during domestic criminal proceedings, including the right to a fair trial, the right to adequate preparation of a defense, and the right to examine a witness.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court, Inter-American Commission, and Inter-American Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, the Inter-American Commission’s website, and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Genocide memorial near Srebrenica
Credit: Michael Büker via Wikimedia Commons
The International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY) has issued judgments in its final two cases ahead of the tribunal’s scheduled closure in December. On November 22, 2017, the ICTY – the ad hoc tribunal established by the United Nations to address war crimes committed after 1991 in the territory of the former Yugoslavia – convicted and sentenced Ratko Mladić, also known as the “Butcher of Bosnia,” to life imprisonment for genocide, crimes against humanity, and other war crimes. [ICTY Press Release: Mladić; HRW] In the wake of his conviction, the international human rights community has shown strong support for the Mladić decision, with UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein hailing the judgment as a momentous conviction and describing Mladić as the “epitome of evil.” [OHCHR Press Release] On November 29, 2017, the ICTY issued a judgment on appeal in the case Prosecutor v. Prlić et al., which will be the Tribunal’s final decision. [ICTY Press Release: Prlić et al.] The Appeals Chamber upheld the sentences of the six individuals, who remain convicted of crimes against humanity, violations of the laws or customs of war, and grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions for crimes committed against Bosnian Muslims. [ICTY Press Release: Prlić et al.] The ICTY, which has its seat in The Hague, Netherlands, will formally close on December 31, 2017 after 24 years of operation and concluding proceedings for 161 accused. [ICTY Press Release: Prlić et al.] See ICTY, Key Figures of the Cases. Read more
The former site of a mausoleum in Timbuktu that was destroyed in 2012
Credit: UN Photo/Marco Dormino
On August 17, 2017, the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a Reparations Order in the case of Ahmad Al Faqi Al Mahdi, who in September 2016, upon pleading guilty to the destruction of 10 religious and historic sites in Timbuktu, Mali, was sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment. [ICC Press Release; IJRC] In its Reparations Order, Trial Chamber VIII of the ICC found Al Mahdi liable for 2.7 million euros (or approximately 3.18 million USD) in both individual and collective reparations for the community affected by the 2012 attacks, which occurred in the context of Mali’s internal armed conflict. [ICC Press Release] The Court, emphasizing the cultural and sentimental value of the destroyed property, ordered reparations for three categories of harm: damage to the targeted buildings, resulting economic loss, and moral harm. [ICC Press Release] The reparations are designed to rehabilitate the attacked sites, address the community’s financial losses, and potentially fund symbolic measures, such as memorials, to serve as public recognition of the harms incurred by the Timbuktu community. [ICC Press Release] Given Al Mahdi’s indigence, the Court encourages the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV), an agency that will implement the order, to supplement the reparations to the extent possible. [ICC Press Release; Guardian] Read more
Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of UNAMA, at the UN Security Council
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe
On July 17, 2017, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its mid-year report on the situation of civilians in Afghanistan, revealing that the level of civilian casualties remains high. [UNAMA Press Release] UNAMA confirmed a total of 5,243 civilian casualties (1,662 deaths and 3,581 injured) from January 1 to June 30, 2017, which represents a decrease of less than one percent from the same period in 2016, but reported an increase in deaths. See UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Mid-Year Report 2017 (2017), at 3. The number of women and children killed and injured has increased this year, despite a decline in women and children casualties in 2016. [UNAMA Press Release] Civilian casualties in the first half of the year were primarily the result of anti-government forces’ use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs, in civilian-populated areas. See UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Mid-Year Report 2017, at 3–4. Medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted, impeding Afghans’ access to health care and education. See id. at 13, 17–19.
In consideration of its findings, UNAMA recommends that anti-government forces stop targeting civilians, that government forces stop using weapons such as mortars and rockets that can have devastating effects in civilian areas, and that international militaries support and train Afghanistan’s national army, among other recommendations. [UNAMA Press Release] In a statement recognizing the high rates of death and injury recorded in the report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that the statistics on casualties do not depict the full extent of the loss and suffering, such as psychological trauma and displacement. [OHCHR Press Release] Afghanistan is a State party to the Rome Statute, Geneva Conventions, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and, therefore, the State must refrain from targeting civilians during non-international armed conflict and respect and protect the right to life.
Omar al-Bashir, President of Sudan
Credit: U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Jesse B. Awalt/Released via Wikimedia Commons
In its decision of July 6, 2017, a pre-trial chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) held that South Africa violated its obligations under the Rome Statute by failing to comply with an ICC request to arrest and turn over to ICC custody Sudanese President Omar al-Bashir, who is wanted on multiple counts of crimes against humanity, war crimes, and genocide in relation to the conflcit in Darfur. [ICC Press Release] Al-Bashir was in South Africa for a meeting of the African Union from June 13–15, 2015. [ICC Press Release] Despite its conclusion, the Court elected not to refer South Africa’s non-compliance to either the Assembly of States Parties – the legislative body of the ICC – or the United Nations Security Council, citing the fact that South African courts have already disposed of the matter. [ICC Press Release] The referrals, the Court said, are unnecessary to obtain cooperation from South Africa. [ICC Press Release] This decision could have implications for al-Bashir and others wanted by the ICC as they decide whether and where to travel. [New York Times] Since the issuance of his first arrest warrant in 2009, al-Bashir has managed to travel internationally to Asia and within Africa, but has strategically avoided the United States and Western European countries where he faces a greater risk of arrest. [New York Times] Read more