Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, addresses the UN Security Council
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
First the first time in nearly 10 years, a United Nations independent expert visited Cuba on an official country visit when the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, toured the country from April 10 to 14, 2017. The purpose of the Special Rapporteur’s visit was to assess the situation of victims of human trafficking, in particular for sexual and labor exploitation, and to assess measures that protect and provide victims with effective remedies. [OHCHR Press Release] Her visit concluded with a press conference in which she set forth criteria to combat human trafficking, including the establishment of awareness-raising programs regarding the perception of risk, and praised Cuba for its political will to combat human trafficking and its free healthcare, education, and social security systems, which help reduce vulnerabilities that can lead to trafficking. [Reuters; Cuba Debate (in Spanish)] The findings made during this visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018. The last official visit to Cuba by a UN independent expert was conducted between October 28 and November 6, 2007, by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, UN Doc. A/HRC/7/5/Add.3, 3 March 2008. Read more
European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons
On April 6, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that France’s requirement that two transgender applicants first undergo an irreversible identity change through an operation or sterilizing treatment in order to correct their “sex” designation on their birth certificates violated Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR determined that such a requirement impermissibly conditioned the recognition of the right to respect for private life on forgoing the right to respect for one’s physical integrity. See ECtHR, AP., Garçon and Nicot v. France, Nos. 79885/12, 5247/13, 52596/13, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 6 April 2017, para. 131 (French version). The ECtHR found no violation of Article 8, however, where French law required an applicant to prove that they suffered from gender identity disorder before the State would grant a change to their birth certificate under the category of “sex.” See id. at para. 139. Similarly, the ECtHR held there was no violation of Article 8 where an applicant was ordered by a French court to undergo a medical examination to confirm the applicant’s sex reassignment surgery. See id. at para. 150-152.
The Court did note the expansion of transgender rights at the national and international levels, including in France where since the applicants submitted their claims, the law has changed so that corrections to official sex designations are no longer conditioned upon irreversible medical procedures or sterilization treatments, but rather require publicly presenting oneself as the claimed sex; being recognized by family, friends, and colleagues as their claimed sex; and evidence that their name has been changed to correspond with their claimed sex. The Council of Europe has called for an end to the practice of conditioning the recognition of an individual’s chosen gender identity in official documents on medical procedures and treatment. See id. at paras. 68-69, 75-77. Read more
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton
Recently, Venezuela’s Supreme Court made strides towards consolidating authority by claiming legislative power, prompting Venezuelans to protest and regional and universal stakeholders to condemn the actions of the Venezuelan government and offer their visions for response efforts. The Chief Justice later announced that the Supreme Court’s initial March 29, 2017 decision does not strip the legislature – which is seen as the last branch of government independent from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s power – of its powers, but the Supreme Court still claims authority to exercise legislative power because, it claims, the legislature is unable to effectively do so at this time. [New York Times] The recent events add to the existing social unrest due to an ongoing economic crisis in the country, which has led to insufficient supplies of food and medicine and the violent suppression of protests. [IJRC; New York Times; Huffington Post; Amnesty International] The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, criticized the Supreme Court’s recent decision, calling separation of powers “essential” to the proper functioning of a democracy. [OHCHR Press Release] The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, denounced the Venezuelan government’s attempted coup, and the OAS adopted a resolution calling for Venezuela to restore democracy. [OAS Press Release: Coup; OAS Press Release: Repression; VOA News] Additionally, addressing the fallout of recent events and the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) encouraged States in the region to implement measures to assist Venezuelan migrants, as many attempt to flee. [IACHR Press Release] As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Venezuela is obligated to uphold and protect the human rights to life, freedom of peaceful assembly, due process, and participation in public affairs, among others. Read more
María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the former Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, speaks at a press conference
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
On March 23, 2017, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Finland did not violate the rights of a Finnish national with an intellectual disability, A.-M.V., when the domestic court refused to replace his mentor who would not allow him to move to his choice of residence. A.-M.V. desired to live in a village far from his hometown because his foster family had moved there, but his mentor denied his wishes, finding it best that he remain where his biological family resides. Before the ECtHR, he alleged violations of Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention (the right to freedom of movement). See ECtHR, A.-M.V. v. Finland, no. 53251/13, Judgment of 23 March 2017. The Court found that there had been an interference to A.-M.V.’s right to respect for private and family life, but that given the facts of this case, the interference was justified as it balanced A.-M.V.’s will and preferences with “the need to protect his interests.” See id. at paras. 91-94.
The ECtHR took into account Article 12 of the United Nations International Covenant on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ICRPD), noting that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – the treaty body that monitors compliance with the ICRPD and interprets its provisions – requires States to replace substitute decision-making models, often found in guardianship laws, with a supported decision-making model. The latter, according to the Committee, takes into account the person’s will and preferences while the former does not. See id. at paras. 42-45. The Court also acknowledged a third party submission elaborating on supported decision-making models, which, the third party explained, guards against overriding the preferences of the person with a disability. See id. at paras. 66-68. Read more
Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin
In the month of April, various universal bodies 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. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations pertaining to the rights of persons with disabilities, the rights of migrants, torture, and racial discrimination. Four UN Special Rapporteurs will conduct country visits, and four Working Groups will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to people of African descent, the right to development, arbitrary detention, and the use of mercenaries.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more