The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in session in May 2016
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
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
The United Nations General Assembly
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
In the month of December, various universal and regional bodies will be in session. Three United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to torture, racial discrimination, and enforced disappearances. Seven UN special rapporteurs and one working group will conduct country visits, and three working groups will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to people of African descent, the use of mercenaries, and activities of private military and security companies. The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly continues in New York this month, as well.
Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR), will hold sessions or case hearings this month. The Inter-American Commission will conduct thematic hearings on a variety of topics including indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of extractive industries, among others, and the Inter-American Court will consider cases covering a variety of issues, including forced sterilization and fair trial guarantees.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the Inter-American Commission, Inter-American Court, and African Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the Inter-American Commission’s website, Vimeo, and YouTube, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
Malcolm Evans, Chair of the Subcommittee on Prevention of Torture, addresses a press conference on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment.
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
The Subcommittee on the Prevention of Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman, or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (SPT) will host a conference celebrating its 10-year anniversary on Thursday November 17, 2016 from 3:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. in Geneva, Switzerland. See OHCHR, 10th Anniversary of OPCAT. At the conference, stakeholders are set to discuss the SPT’s added value and examples of best practices leading to achievements in the prevention of torture, as well as challenges and the strategies for moving beyond them. See OHCHR, 10th Anniversary of OPCAT. As a United Nations human rights treaty body with a unique mandate and working methods, the SPT has demonstrated the benefits and challenges of a collaborative and advisory relationship with States in its first decade. A live webcast of the event will be available during the conference, and speeches will be available online later.
In this news post, SPT member (and IJRC Board of Directors member) Victor Madrigal-Borloz shares his reflections on the role of the SPT in the prevention of torture. These reflections are included in the discussion of the SPT’s work, and cover topics concerning the triangular relationship between the SPT, National Preventive Mechanisms (NPMs), and States parties; the development of the SPT doctrine around the prevention of torture, particularly for those most vulnerable; and the important role of a civil society that faces risks of a shrinking space. Read more