Category Archives: health

CEDAW Committee Recommends a Gender-Based Approach to Environmental Disasters

Dalia Leinarte, Chair of the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW Committee) recently published a general recommendation on the adoption of a gender-based approach on the prevention of and response to climate change and environmental disasters. See Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women, General Recommendation No. 37: Gender-related dimensions of disaster-risk reduction in the context of climate change, UN Doc. CEDAW/C/GC/37, 9 February 2018. The General Recommendation provides guidance to States on fully implementing the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) in the context of climate change and disasters; under the Convention, States parties have both general obligations to ensure gender equality as well as specific obligations to guarantee rights that may be negatively affected by climate change and natural disasters. See id. at para. 10. The General Recommendation warns that pre-existing gender inequalities are aggravated following a disaster and women become more susceptible to gender-based violence, but States parties must still guarantee the rights enumerated in the Convention. See id. at paras. 3, 10. The General Recommendation is one of several recent developments on international standards at the intersection of human rights and the environment; notably the Special Rapporteur on the issue of human rights obligations related to the enjoyment of a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment recently called for the recognition of the right to a healthy environment at the universal level, and published guidance on children’s rights and the environment. [OHCHR Press Release] Read more

Lack of Psychiatric Services in Language Detainee Understands Violates Rights

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held last week that Belgium violated the rights of Rene Rooman – a prisoner with mental health problems who only speaks German – because the State failed to provide access to a psychologist who could also speak German. See ECtHR, Rooman v. Belgium, no. 18052/11, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 18 July 2017 (in French). Following a criminal conviction in 1997, Rooman, a Belgian and German national, was put in detention and later placed in a psychiatric institution in Paifve. [ECtHR: Press Release] Rooman’s application before the ECtHR alleged violations of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to liberty and security enshrined in articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (European Convention), respectively. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR took into account prior efforts made by mental health bodies in the Paifve institution, but found that the national authorities’ failure to provide him with a psychologist who could speak German, one of three official languages in Belgium, was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention because it caused Rooman distress that exceeded the unavoidable level of suffering that is inherent in detention. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR also considered whether there had been a violation of Article 5 (the right to liberty) but did not find a violation because Rooman was held in a facility appropriate for a person with a mental health disability. [ECtHR: Press Release] The European Court has previously held that when a State detains someone with a mental health disability and does not provide adequate medical care to the detriment of the detainee’s health, the State has violated the right to prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. See, e.g., ECtHR, Claes v. Belgium, no. 43418/09, ECHR 2013, Judgment of 10 January 2013. Read more

UN Reports Civilian Casualties, Rights Abuses Remain High in Afghanistan

Tadamichi Yamamoto, head of UNAMA, at the UN Security Council
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

On July 17, 2017, the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released its mid-year report on the situation of civilians in Afghanistan, revealing that the level of civilian casualties remains high. [UNAMA Press Release] UNAMA confirmed a total of 5,243 civilian casualties (1,662 deaths and 3,581 injured) from January 1 to June 30, 2017, which represents a decrease of less than one percent from the same period in 2016, but reported an increase in deaths. See UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Mid-Year Report 2017 (2017), at 3. The number of women and children killed and injured has increased this year, despite a decline in women and children casualties in 2016. [UNAMA Press Release] Civilian casualties in the first half of the year were primarily the result of anti-government forces’ use of improvised explosive devices (IEDs), such as suicide bombs, in civilian-populated areas. See UNAMA, Afghanistan Protection of Civilians in Armed Conflict: Mid-Year Report 2017, at 3–4. Medical facilities and schools continue to be targeted, impeding Afghans’ access to health care and education. See id. at 13, 17–19.

In consideration of its findings, UNAMA recommends that anti-government forces stop targeting civilians, that government forces stop using weapons such as mortars and rockets that can have devastating effects in civilian areas, and that international militaries support and train Afghanistan’s national army, among other recommendations. [UNAMA Press Release] In a statement recognizing the high rates of death and injury recorded in the report, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights noted that the statistics on casualties do not depict the full extent of the loss and suffering, such as psychological trauma and displacement. [OHCHR Press Release] Afghanistan is a State party to the Rome Statute, Geneva Conventions, and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and, therefore, the State must refrain from targeting civilians during non-international armed conflict and respect and protect the right to life.

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