President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
Credit: Cobot156 via Wikimedia Commons
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), two United Nations special rapporteurs, and one UN working group recently condemned Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s decision to issue a humanitarian pardon on December 24, 2017 to former President Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted and sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for murder, kidnapping, and crimes against humanity during his presidency; the IACHR and the UN human rights experts question whether the decision meets international human rights legal requirements, and asserts that it undermines the efforts of victims and witnesses who brought Fujimori to justice. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release; HRW: Pardon] See Resolución Suprema No. 281-2017-JUS (2017) [Spanish Only]. The pardon, issued officially for humanitarian reasons due to Fujimori’s health, absolves Fujimori of his convictions and releases him from his sentence. [IACHR Press Release] Peru is obligated under international human rights law to investigate alleged rights violations and punish perpetrators, and not to implement pardons or amnesty laws that undermine the rights to a fair trial and to judicial protection. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release]
Some Peruvians and UN experts believe that the pardon was politically motivated because of a potential connection between Fujimori’s pardon and the cancelled impeachment proceedings against President Kuczynski; the impeachment proceedings were dropped just three days after the impeachment hearing of President Kuczynski, who survived a removal vote with the help of a 10-person coalition that crossed party lines to abstain from the removal vote, led by Fujimori’s son Kenji Fujimori. Seven of the 10 lawmakers communicated with Fujimori leading up to the vote. [Reuters; HRW: Pardon; OHCHR Press Release] President Kuczynski’s decision triggered street protests and unrest in Peru. [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian: Pardon] Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds a thematic hearing.
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.
The UN treaty bodies’ sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The IACHR sessions may be viewed on its YouTube channel. The ECtHR hearings may be viewed on its webcast.
To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
United Nations General Assembly hall
Credit: UN Photo/Sophia Paris
The Sixth Committee – an intergovernmental committee that considers legal questions in the United Nations General Assembly – finished late last month its consideration of a draft article that asserts State officials do not have immunity from the prosecution of crimes of genocide, crimes against humanity, war crimes, crimes of apartheid, torture, and enforced disappearance in a foreign criminal jurisdiction; the debate arose from a draft article from the International Law Commission (ILC), a group of international legal experts who prepare draft conventions and codify existing rules of international law. The ILC will put forth the draft article as a recognition of existing State practice or as a proposal for a future international convention. See ILC, About the Commission. [UN Press Release: Debate Ends] The Sixth Committee debated the contents of the ILC’s most recent report released during its 69th Session, which included the ILC’s draft of its provisionally adopted Article 7 on international crimes for which immunity from rationae materiae jurisdiction (subject matter jurisdiction) does not apply. See International Law Commission, Report of the International Law Commission at its sixty-ninth session, UN Doc. A/72/10, 4 August 2017, para. 140.
The draft of Article 7 originated from the report of a special rapporteur – a member of the ILC – appointed to address the issue of State officials’ immunity. Some ILC members expressed disagreement with the special rapporteur’s position that States’ practice supports the finding of exceptions to State officials’ immunity – the substance of Article 7. The ILC provisionally adopted the text with only 21 of the 34 members voting in favor of it. [UN Press Release: Immunity] The Sixth Committee’s two-day discussion on the draft law mirrored many of the arguments that were debated within the ILC before its provisional adoption of Article 7, namely whether the basis for the Article is supported by customary international law, whether procedural requirements may address impunity, the balance between prosecution of State officials and State sovereignty, and the ILC’s view of Article 7’s function as either the codification of existing law or the development of law. See Report of the International Law Commission, at VII.C., 180–183. [UN Press Release: Immunity] Read more
OAS session on Venezuela
Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS
In the last two months, the Organization of American States (OAS) held unprecedented hearings to gather witness testimony on the situation in Venezuela to determine whether to refer the State to the International Criminal Court (ICC). [OAS Press Release: First Session; OAS Press Release: Second Session] In the sessions of hearings held so far, the OAS has heard testimony from activists, former members of the Venezuelan government and judiciary, and former members of the Bolivian National Armed Forces, among others; their testimony has described arbitrary arrests and detention, extrajudicial killings, and cruel and degrading treatment. [Moreno Ocampo] Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former ICC prosecutor and current Special Adviser on Crimes against Humanity (Special Advisor) at the OAS, convened the two public sessions of hearings – one in September and one in October – at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.; he may convene additional sessions in November. [OAS Press Release: Adviser; OAS Press Release: First Session; OAS Press Release: Second Session]
In July, the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, designated Moreno Ocampo as Special Adviser, and as such, Moreno Ocampo is tasked with analyzing, studying, and debating the ongoing situation in Venezuela with interested parties to determine whether the State committed crimes against humanity and can be referred to the ICC. [OAS Press Release: Adviser] Accordingly, the sessions were held to examine whether the abuses by the Venezuelan government rise to the level of crimes against humanity and if they were committed in a widespread and systematic manner. [OAS Press Release: First Session; OAS Press Release: Second Session; Moreno Ocampo] The testimony gathered in the sessions will contribute to a final report, along with information submitted by additional organizations; the Independent Panel of International Experts, appointed by the OAS Secretary General in September, will review the report and recommend it to the Secretary General. [OAS Press Release: Independent Panel] This is the first time that the regional body has held sessions with the purpose of referring a Member State to the ICC. Read more
Former Liberian President Charles Taylor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone
Credit: UN Photo/SCSL/AP Pool/Peter DeJong
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
The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly
Credit: Council of Europe
Due to “serious concerns” about Turkey’s compliance with its human rights obligations and the erosion of democratic institutions and functions, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) decided in a resolution issued last week to reinstate Turkey into its monitoring procedure, a process by which PACE ensures Council of Europe Member States are in compliance with their human rights obligations. [COE Press Release; Guardian: Pressure] While under monitoring, human rights officials will repeatedly visit the country and a progress report will be presented to PACE in 2018. [Guardian: Pressure] See Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution 2156, The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey, 25 April 2017, para. 39. The resolution expresses PACE’s concerns about the Turkish government’s respect for “human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” particularly the actions taken under the ongoing state of emergency in the country, which PACE states has gone beyond “what is necessary and proportionate,” and the more recent steps towards consolidation of executive power through a constitutional amendment. [New York Times; COE Press Release; Guardian: Coup] The Assembly calls upon the State to lift its state of emergency, discontinue the improper use of emergency decree laws, release those who have been detained, and restore freedom of expression, among other requests. [COE Press Release] Previously, Turkey’s first monitoring procedure was closed in 2004 when the Assembly was satisfied that the State was meeting its obligations. See Parliamentary Assembly, The Monitoring Procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly. Turkey is obligated to guarantee the rights to life, liberty, and freedom of expression as a State party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Read more
Press briefing on the Secretary General’s report
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
United Nations Secretary General António Guterres released a report on February 28 detailing his strategy to prevent and respond to sexual exploitation and abuse perpetrated by UN peacekeepers against vulnerable communities. See UN Secretary General, Special measures for protection from sexual exploitation and abuse: a new approach, UN Doc. A/71/818, 28 February 2017. The report comes less than three months after Guterres’ remarks to the UN General Assembly prior to taking the oath of office, during which he announced his intention to address such crimes. His strategy identifies four primary areas of action: prioritizing victims, ending impunity, engaging civil society and other partners, and improving strategic communications to aid in education and transparency. See id. at para. 13. The report also identifies best practices for Member States, discusses previous initiatives on the matter, and provides data regarding the nature of these allegations and the state of their investigations in 2016. See id. at Annexes, II, III, IV. In recent years, the United Nations has been plagued with allegations that UN peacekeepers have sexually abused women and children in multiple countries, where they have been stationed to assist disadvantaged communities. [IJRC: Recommendations; Bloomberg; CNN] Moreover, the United Nations has been accused of mishandling those allegations and failing to hold perpetrators accountable for their crimes. See Marie Deschamps et al., Taking Action on Sexual Exploitation and Abuse by Peacekeepers (2015). The former Secretary General Ban Ki-moon also announced recommendations to address this issue in March 2016, but the new action items are broader in scope. [IJRC: Recommendations]