During its most recent session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) welcomed two new commissioners; examined four States’ human rights records; heard activity reports from its special mechanisms; and focused particular attention on the rights of women, implementation of ACHPR decisions, its relationship with non-governmental organizations and with national human rights institutions, and the intersections between international humanitarian law and human rights standards. The 57th Ordinary Session took place from November 4 to 11 and 18, 2015 in Banjul, the Gambia and the agenda included consideration of the periodic reports of Algeria, Burkina Faso, Kenya, and Sierra Leone. Prior to the session, members of civil society gathered in Banjul for the NGO Forum and 31st African Human Rights Book Fair. Read more
Category Archives: civil society
Amid an ongoing human rights and political crisis in which hundreds have lost their lives, civil society and human rights bodies are calling on Burundian authorities to avoid inciting violence, put a stop to attacks against advocates and journalists, and cooperate with monitoring efforts. On November 12, 2015, the UN Security Council unanimously voted to adopt a resolution condemning the killings and human rights abuses in Burundi and threatening possible sanctions against responsible parties. [The Guardian] The resolution came at the same time as the United Nations (UN) and African Union (AU) met to discuss moving peacekeepers from the neighboring Democratic Republic of the Congo to Burundi. [The Guardian] The international and regional actions seek to end a spate of violence and repression that began in April 2015 surrounding the re-election of President Pierre Nkurunziza in a vote boycotted by the opposition. [VOA News] The political unrest, which has led to over 240 killings and an estimated 200,000 displaced, now threatens to devolve into civil war and mass atrocities that some are warning could resemble the 1994 Rwandan genocide. [VOA News] Read more
During the month of November 2015, six United Nations human rights mechanisms will meet in Geneva, Switzerland. The UN Human Rights Committee, Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee), Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group, Committee Against Torture (CAT), Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT), and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) will each be holding sessions, during which they will review States’ compliance with the relevant human rights standards, consider individual complaints, and discuss best practices. Video of the public portions of these sessions is available on UN Treaty Body Webcast or UN Web TV. Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is holding its 156th session from October 17 to 28, 2015 in Washington, D.C. [IACHR Press Release] The IACHR will conduct public hearings in four cases on its docket, and receive information from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the 53 human rights issues, ranging from the human rights situation of LGBTI people, to the silencing of human rights defenders in Latin America, to the right to nationality in the Dominican Republic.
Live webcasts of the hearings are on the IACHR website. Video recordings and photographs of past hearings may be quickly accessed on the 156th Session webpage (in Spanish only), or via the hearing search page. Read more
A new campaign, GQUAL, aims to address the gender imbalance on international courts and human rights bodies, where women make up less than 25% of the existing membership. [GQUAL Press Release] The campaign will work to change the nomination and voting practices of States and the relevant institutions, to ensure that gender balance is a real consideration. Through its website, declaration, petition, events, and informational materials, the campaign is striving to raise awareness, engage civil society voices, and increase the transparency of election processes. Additionally, the GQUAL Jobs Board provides information on recent and upcoming elections for nearly all international tribunals and monitoring bodies. On September 17, 2015, the GQUAL (for “gender equal”) campaign formally launched at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York. [GQUAL Press Release] Read more
On September 16, 2015, the Constituent Assembly of Nepal adopted a new constitution almost a decade after the end of its civil war. The country’s constitution, the first to be drafted by popularly elected representatives, establishes Nepal as a secular federal republic. The constitution also divides Nepal into seven provinces and establishes a proportional electoral system to elect federal and state officials. While on the one hand, the constitution has received praise for its provisions protecting lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) rights, there has also been strong criticism about other aspects of the constitution. For example, the Madhesi and Tharu ethnic minority groups continue to protest provisions concerning the proposed provincial boundaries, on the basis that their political representation will be more limited. Additionally, women’s rights groups have protested on the basis that certain constitutional provisions discriminate against women. Scholars have also expressed concerns regarding the lack of public participation in the process of drafting and implementing the constitution. Protests against the constitution have already resulted in more than 40 deaths since August 2015. [NY Times: Amid Protests; BBC: Why is Nepal’s Constitution Controversial?]
Burkina Faso’s interim President Michel Kafando was reinstated on September 23, 2015, following a truce agreement between coup leaders and the national army. [BBC News: Reinstated; Al Jazeera: Coup leaders sign truce] This truce agreement came after the September 16th coup in which members of the Regiment of Presidential Security (RSP, for its French name: Régiment de sécurité présidentielle), calling themselves the National Democratic Council, under the leadership of General Gilbert Diendéré, kidnapped interim President Kafando, Prime Minister Zida, and two ministry officials, Augustin Loada and Rene Bagoro. [The Guardian: Warning Shots; The Guardian: Violent Protests] Following this, the military announced that it was in power and that the transitional government, which had been put into place in November 2014, had been dissolved. [Al Jazeera: Military Claims Control; Al Jazeera: Transitional Government] Under the agreement that was reached on September 23rd, the RSP agreed to step down and return to its barracks and the national army agreed to withdraw its troops from the capital, Ouagadougou, and guarantee the RSP’s safety. [Al Jazeera: Coup leaders sign truce]
On September 8, 2015 the National Secretariat of Communications of Ecuador (SECOM) sent a letter of notification to La Fundación Andina para la Observación y Estudio de los Medios [The Andean Foundation for the Social Observation and Study of Media] (Fundamedios), a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, that it was initiating an administrative process to dissolve the organization. [Committee to Protect Journalists] The SECOM order accuses Fundamedios of violating both its own founding statutes as well as Ecuadorian law governing the role of civic organizations by publishing messages, alerts, and essays with “political overtones.” [El Universo; OAS Press Release] As evidence of this, the annex to SECOM’s notice contains 57 tweets, many of which it claims contain links to opinion pieces or news articles that criticize the government. [Human Rights Watch] The organization was given 10 days since the receipt of this dissolution order to present evidence in its defense. [Freedom House]
On September 16, 2015, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, released a report on the human rights violations, including unlawful killings, enforced disappearances, and gender-based violence, committed by the Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam (LTTE) and Sri Lankan government forces from 2002-2011. See Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Report of the OHCHR Investigation on Sri Lanka (OISL), 16 September 2015 (hereinafter Report). The report concludes with a number of recommendations, including those of a general nature as well as more specific ones regarding institutional reforms, justice, truth and the right to know, reparations, and suggestions directed at the United Nations and Member States. See id. at 248-251.
On September 14, 2015 the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) commenced its 70th session in Geneva, Switzerland. During this session, which will end on October 2, the Committee will review the reports of Bangladesh, Brazil, Chile, Kazakhstan, Poland, Timor-Leste, and the United Arab Emirates concerning the States’ implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child; examine the reports of Brazil and Cuba with respect to their implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the sale of children, child prostitution and child pornography (OP-CRC-SC); and evaluate the reports of Brazil, Cuba, and Madagascar regarding their implementation of the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict (OP-CRC-AC). The Committee will also review reports by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) concerning the States’ implementation of the Convention and optional protocols.