In December, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State reports, country visits, and thematic and contentious hearings. Two United Nations treaty bodies will continue their sessions that began in November on issues concerning racial discrimination and torture. Ten United Nations special procedures mandate holders and groups of experts will conduct country visits across five continents in December, and one UN group of experts will hold sessions. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will continue its session and hold thematic hearings on specific human rights issues in the United States and Canada. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold sessions, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to assistance of counsel and the application of Islamic law in national courts, respectively.
Category Archives: corporate accountability
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently announced the publication of the Standards of Conduct for Business to fight discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. [OHCHR Press Release] The Standards of Conduct for Business build upon the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Global Compact – which collectively contain UN standards directed at businesses to respect and protect human rights, and remedy rights violations – to offer guidance to companies on how businesses should treat LGBTI people in the workplace and how businesses can promote LGBTI rights in the marketplace and in the community. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business (2017), 1, 5-6. Several businesses, including Accenture, Baker McKenzie, BNP Paribas, The Coca-Cola Company, Deutsche Bank, EDF, EY, Gap Inc., Godrej, IKEA Group, Microsoft, Oath, Orange, SAP, and Spotify, have already shown public support for the Standards of Conduct for Business. [OHCHR Press Release] The commentary from the OHCHR accompanying the Standards of Conduct for Business explains that domestic legal reforms alone are not enough to create inclusive communities, and, therefore, the OHCHR notes that the corporate sector not only has an obligation to respect human rights but also holds significant influence in curbing human rights abuses. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business, 15. The standards also bring together two areas in human rights protection that the international community is increasingly recognizing – businesses’ responsibility to respect, protect, and remedy human rights and violations thereof, and the human rights of LGBTI persons. [IJRC: SOGI; IJRC: Forum] Read more
In October, 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, interactive dialogues, country visits, seminars, and hearings. Five UN treaty bodies will meet throughout October to assess States’ compliance with their treaty obligations related to civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; elimination of discrimination against women; the prevention of torture; and the rights of the child. The Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council will be in session, and the UN Human Rights Council will also host thematic panel discussions, seminars, and working group discussions on climate change, migrants, and persons displaced across international borders; transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; and the implementation of effective safeguards to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment during police custody. One working group will be in session on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, and eight other special procedures mandate holders will conduct country visits. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be in session.
The UN Human Rights Council’s and UN treaty bodies’ sessions can be watched via UN Web TV. The IACHR’s session can be watched on its YouTube channel, and the IACtHR’s session may be viewed on its website or Vimeo page. The ECtHR hearings can be viewed on its webcast.
- Around the world, people went to the ocean this week to commemorate the death of Liu Xiaobo, a Chinese dissident who recently died in custody, after his ashes were spread in the sea. [Guardian]
- A journalist in Russia reported this week that he received threatening text messages demanding he halt his current work. [CPJ]
- A court in Turkey issued an order this week for the formal arrest of six human rights defenders, including Amnesty International’s Turkey director. [Washington Post]
- Opposition parties in Venezuela hosted a vote on Sunday in which Venezuelans opposed President Nicolás Maduro’s constituent assembly. [New York Times]
Activities of Supranational Bodies
- The United Nations Special Committee to Investigate Israeli Practices Affecting the Human Rights of the Palestinian People and Other Arabs of the Occupied Territories announced this week that the evidence it has gathered indicates that practices by the Israeli authorities negatively impact human rights in Occupied Palestinian Territories. [UN News Centre]
- United Nations experts this week called on Bahrain to comply with its international human rights obligations in relation to the detention and alleged ill-treatment of Ebtisam Alsaegh, a human rights defender currently being held in solitary confinement, according to reports. [OHCHR Press Release]
- This week, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights congratulated Mexico on its recently enacted legislation that aims to eliminate torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. [IACHR Press Release]
- The bank HSBC referred information for investigation to the Roundtable on Sustainable Palm Oil on Noble Plantations’ potential plan to clear 18,000 hectares of rainforest. [Guardian]
- Human Rights Watch released a report this week that finds a future outbreak of the Zika virus in Brazil is possible despite the government’s recent declaration that the virus is no longer a threat. [Guardian]
In a recently released General Comment, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) stated that States parties have an obligation to protect, respect, and fulfill rights implicated by the activities of businesses based in their territory, even when those businesses are operating abroad, to stay in compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). See Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 24 on State Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Context of Business Activities, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/24, 23 June 2017. The General Comment, which was adopted by the Committee on June 23, 2017, includes guidance on States parties’ obligations to ensure that business activities do not violate the rights to food, housing, health, work, favorable conditions of work, form and join trade unions, and social security, both within State borders and extraterritorially, and finds that States parties may be held directly responsible for business activities that violate the Covenant in limited circumstances. See id. at paras. 2, 11. The Committee also concludes that States parties must address barriers to access remedies for violations committed by businesses, and must implement national action plans that specifically address the question of the role of business entities in the realization of ICESCR rights. See id. at paras. 38-59.
The General Comment contributes to a growing acknowledgement of the rights abuses that arise from business activities and the need to protect against those violations. The General Comment follows widespread attacks against human rights defenders working on issues arising from business activities, and the Panama Papers and the Bahamas Leaks that both revealed business practices potentially harmful to the realization of human rights. [OHCHR Press Release; ISHR] It also elaborates on earlier statements regarding States’ responsibility with regard to corporate entities and business activities, and on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. See General Comment No. 24 on State Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Context of Business Activities, 23 June 2017, at para. 2. Read more
The United Nations Human Rights Council created or extended 11 special procedure mandates during its 35th regular session through the adoption of resolutions, including one that created the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. During the session, held from June 6 to June 23, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, the Human Rights Council also extended the mandates of eight thematic and two country special procedure mandates. [OHCHR Press Release: 35th Session] The new mandate on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members is established for a period of three years, with a mandate to monitor the progress of the implementation of the principles for the elimination of such discrimination; to identify and promote good practices; and to report on an annual basis to the Human Rights Council, a UN intergovernmental group that tracks human rights conditions in the UN Member States and is responsible for creating special procedures, or independent experts who report and give advice on particular human rights issues. [OHCHR Press Release: Leprosy] Read more
In the month of July, various universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, and reviewing individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to the rights of women, civil and political rights, torture, and racial discrimination. A working group will meet to discuss complaints submitted to the Human Rights Council, an expert mechanism will meet to discuss the rights of indigenous peoples, and two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights will be in session. Additionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case concerning the right to a fair trial in Croatia.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court and Inter-American Commission, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit IJRC’s Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
- On Thursday, several civil society organizations urged for the prompt and independent investigation into the “barrage of assaults and threats” against human rights lawyers in Pakistan. [ICJ]
- On Saturday, thousands of protesters in Madrid, Spain marched to demand that the government fulfill its pledge to take in 17,000 refugees. [Al Jazeera]
Violence & Humanitarian Crises
- On Thursday, the Taliban claimed responsibility for a car bomb attack, allegedly targeting security forces, that killed 29 people in Afghanistan. [Washington Post]
- On Tuesday, it was reported that 3,300 people have been killed in the Kasai provinces of central Congo since August 2016. [Washington Post]
- On Tuesday, 15 people, mostly civilians, were killed by a car bomb attack in Mogadishu, Somalia claimed by al-Shabab extremists. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees reported that 66 million people were forcibly displaced in 2016 due to conflict and persecution. [UN News Centre]
- On Thursday, the United States declined to join a United Nations resolution on violence against women due to its inclusion of access to safe abortions. [Reuters]
- On Wednesday, the Prime Minister of Romania, Sorin Grindeanu, was ousted from power in a vote of no confidence six months after his taking office. [Guardian]
- Last week, Ana Brnabić became Serbia’s first female and first gay Prime Minister. [Guardian]
- This week, Norway threatened to halt its financial assistance to Brazil’s Amazon fund if the rate of deforestation in the Amazon rainforest is not reduced. [Guardian]
- Several large oil companies this week publicly supported a plan to tax carbon dioxide emissions as an incentive to shift towards renewable energy sources. [Guardian]
Activities of Supranational Bodies and Courts
- The United Nations and relief partners increased global aid dedicated to humanitarian assistance by over a billion dollars. [UN News Centre]
- On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that a Russian law banning the promotion of homosexuality violated three gay activists’ rights to freedom of expression and non-discrimination. [Guardian]
- Last week, the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution establishing a new office dedicated to global counter-terrorism strategy. [UN News Centre]
On April 21, 2017, a Dutch court of appeal ruled that Dutch national Guus Kouwenhoven, acting in his capacity as president and director of two timber companies, was an accessory to war crimes including, rape, pillage, inhumane treatment, and murder committed in Liberia and Guinea between August 2000 and December 2002. See Hof ‘s-Hertogenbosch 21 april 2017, RvdW 2017, 20-001906-10 (Kouwenhoven) (Neth.) (in Dutch only). [Global Witness Press Release] The court determined that Kouwenhoven’s provision of weapons, material, personnel, and other resources to the former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in addition to his manifested intent to contribute to the commission of these grave crimes, constituted the aiding and abetting of war crimes committed by Taylor’s armed forces. The court ruled that Kouwenhoven, who assisted in the transportation and distribution of weapons, was liable both for the crimes that were directly committed with the weapons Kouwenhoven supplied and for the crimes that resulted indirectly from their use. He additionally was convicted of violating the United Nations arms embargo. See Hof ‘s-Hertogenbosch 21 April 2017 (Kouwenhoven).
The court, issuing a sentence of 19 years in prison, emphasized that with this judgment all international businessmen are put on notice that business with regimes like Charles Taylor’s can lead to involvement with and liability for international crimes. [European University Institute Blogs] While individual businessmen have been held liable for their assistance in committing war crimes in the past, such as in post-World War II trials and at least one other case in Dutch courts, civil society and academics have called for, and foresee, the increased prosecution of individuals for their assistance in the commission of war crimes through their business ties. See Trial International, Frans Van Anraat. [Global Witness Press Release] Read more
In May, various universal bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by conducting country visits, engaging in interactive dialogues, and reviewing reports from States and civil society, and human rights bodies in the African, Inter-American, and European human rights systems will hold sessions or hearings on individual complaints. Four UN treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations pertaining to torture; racial discrimination; the rights of the child; and economic, social, and cultural rights. Four UN special procedure mandate holders and two working groups will conduct country visits, and three working groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to discrimination against women, transnational corporations, and enforced disappearances. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States.
Regionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the European Committee of Social Rights will all be in session. Additionally, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case concerning the right to fair trial, the right to private life, the right to property, and the right to an effective remedy.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court, Inter-American Commission, Inter-American Court, and African Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, 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