The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently published its merits report in a case concerning the 1988 extrajudicial killing of Colombian human rights defender Valentín Basto Calderón, which has gone unsolved. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 45/17, Case 10.455, Valentín Basto Calderón et al. (Colombia), 25 May 2017 (in Spanish). Bystanders Pedro Vicente Camargo, who was also killed, and his daughter Carmenza, who was injured, were also included as victims in the petition to the IACHR. At a time of armed conflict when State agents and paramilitaries frequently assassinated human rights defenders and community leaders, State agents had threatened Basto Calderón and harassed his family members. The State then failed to conduct a thorough and timely investigation of the events. See id. at para. 1. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) submitted an amicus curiae brief to the IACHR to provide supplementary analysis on this case, with a focus on Colombia’s obligations specific to human rights defenders. The Colombian Commission of Jurists represented the petitioners before the IACHR. In holding Colombia responsible for violations to the rights to life and humane treatment, among others, the IACHR took special note of the State’s specific obligations to protect and respect the rights of human rights defenders. Read more
Category Archives: crime & impunity
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) recently published its holding that Mauritania violated the rights to protection from child labor and from child abuse, among other rights and obligations, established in the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (African Children’s Charter), due to the enslavement of two children. Two non-governmental organizations – Minority Rights Group International and SOS-Enclaves – submitted the complaint against Mauritania on behalf of two brothers, Said Ouid Salem, born in 2000, and Yarg Ould Salem, born in 2003, who alleged that they were victims of child slavery for 11 years. The Committee found that Mauritania failed to protect the applicants from slavery; to investigate, punish, and prosecute all the perpetrators responsible; and to provide a timely and adequate remedy for the applicants. Based in part on those findings, the ACERWC ultimately held that Mauritania violated its obligations under Article 1 (obligation to realize the rights in the Charter), Article 3 (right to non-discrimination), Article 4 (best interest of the child), Article 5 (obligation to ensure the survival and development), Article 11 (right to education), Article 12 (right to leisure, recreation, and cultural activities), Article 15 (right to protection from child labor), Article 16 (right to protection against child abuse and torture), and Article 21 (right to protection against harmful social and cultural practices) of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child. See ACERWC, Decision on the Communication Submitted by Minority Rights Group International and SOS-Enclaves on Behalf of Said Ould Salem and Yarg Ould Salem against the Government of the Republic of Mauritania, Communication No.003/Com/003/2015, Merits Decisions, 30th Ordinary Session (2017), para. 97. Read more
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.
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
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 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
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
- On Friday, the German government shut down a left-wing extremist website connected to violence at the Group of 20 summit meeting in July. [New York Times]
- On Wednesday, human rights groups called for the establishment of an independent inquiry into alleged abuses taking place in Yemen. [Guardian]
- On Sunday, the Constitutional Court in Guatemala issued a temporary injunction blocking President Jimmy Morales’ order to expel Iván Velásquez, the head of the United Nations International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala. [Al Jazeera]
- This week, it was reported that the government of Mexico has allegedly made ongoing attempts to silence a prominent advocate who has spoken against corruption and impunity. [New York Times]
Violence & Humanitarian Crises
- On Friday, violent clashes occurred in northern India in response to a spiritual leader’s conviction of rape; at least 30 people have been killed. [New York Times]
- On Friday, gunmen, claimed by ISIS, attacked a mosque in Kabul, Afghanistan killing at least 20 people. [New York Times]
- On Wednesday, the United Nations Security Council renewed the peacekeeping mission in Lebanon for one year in response to concerns about Hezbollah near Israel’s border. [New York Times]
- On Thursday, the Prime Minister of Iraq, Haider al-Abadi, announced that Tal Afar is free from ISIS after an 11-day battle. [New York Times]
Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers
- Last week, the International Organization for Migration condemned Facebook for failing to monitor traffickers using the site to broadcast abuse of migrants and using the videos to seek ransom from victims’ family members. [Reuters]
- On Thursday, the United Nations representatives reported that more than 27,400 Rohingya migrants have fled to Bangladesh from Myanmar since August 25. [Reuters]
- On Monday, leaders from France, Germany, Italy, Spain, Chad, and Niger agreed to work together on aid and border control to stem the influx of migrants. [Guardian]
- On Wednesday, after eight weeks of protests, the death toll in Venezuela rose to 56 people. [LA Times]
- On Wednesday, anti-government protesters in Brazil set fire to a ministry building, and in response, President Michel Temer gave the army policing power to restore order. [Reuters]
Violence & Humanitarian Crises
- On Wednesday, a bombing in Somalia, claimed by al-Shabaab, killed five and injured six civilians. [Reuters]
- On Tuesday, two United Nations peacekeepers were killed in Mali. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, Britain. [Guardian]
- On Friday, a United Nations report concluded that soldiers in South Sudan responsible for killing more than 100 civilians between July 2016 and January 2017 may be liable for war crimes or crimes against humanity. [Newsweek]
- On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Taiwan ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, allowing Taiwan’s legislature two years to amend its laws. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, 100 men were arrested in Indonesia in a raid on a gay sauna. [Guardian]
- On Friday, 27 men were arrested in Bangladesh based on suspicions that they are gay. [Washington Post]
Activities of International Bodies
- On Wednesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created three new thematic units: the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice; and Unit of the Rights of Older Persons. [IACHR Press Release]
- On Wednesday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched guidelines for the proper investigation of unlawful killings. [OHCHR Press Release]
- This week, a panel supported by the United Nations publicly released a draft of a treaty that would ban the possession and use of all nuclear weapons. [Guardian]
- On Friday, the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting a United Nations-led investigation into the killing of protesters in Ethiopia. [HRW]
Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees
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