The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights in session in May 2016
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) has issued a new judgment, holding that Côte d’Ivoire violated various human rights obligations in establishing a partisan election monitoring body ahead of the 2015 national elections, the first held since Alassane Ouattara succeeded Laurent Gbagbo in the presidency following an end to the country’s civil war. See AfCHPR, Actions Pour la Protection des Droits de l’Homme v. the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire, App. No. 001/2014, Judgment of 18 November 2016, para. 153. Gbagbo is currently facing trial at the International Criminal Court on crimes against humanity charges related to violence following his defeat in the 2010 election. In its November 18, 2016 judgment, the African Court held that Côte d’Ivoire’s electoral body lacked the necessary independence and impartiality, thereby violating citizens’ rights to political participation and equal protection, because the body was composed of eight representatives of the ruling party and only four representatives of the political opposition and made decisions by simple majority. See id. at paras. 130-31. The Court ordered the State to amend the relevant law to comply with its international obligations. See id. at para. 153.
This is the first time the Court has found violations of certain provisions of the African Charter on Democracy, Elections and Governance and ECOWAS Protocol on Democracy and Good Governance, which the Court determined are “human rights instruments” within its material jurisdiction. See id. at paras. 47-65. The Court has previously found a violation of the right to participate in government where independent candidates were effectively prevented from running for office. [IJRC] Read more
UN Special Rapporteur Maina Kiai
Credit: Guyinnairobi photos via Wikimedia Commons
United Nations human rights experts have recently denounced the suppression of the work of human rights defenders and civil society organizations in Egypt through the use of travel bans and restrictions on foreign funding for non-governmental organizations. In the last year, UN experts warn, Egypt has prevented human rights defenders from leaving the country and drafted a bill to limit civil society organizations’ ability to operate independently. [OHCHR Press Release: Defenders; OHCHR Press Release: Association]
The bill, which was approved by the State Council on November 28, is expected to arrive soon on the desk of Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who will decide whether or not to sign it into law. The bill requires that an organization apply for permission to receive foreign funding; keep all work aligned with “the state’s plan, development needs and priorities;” and refrain from certain conduct, such as work “of a political nature.” [Human Rights Watch: Bill] The Special Rapporteurs on the situation of human rights defenders and on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and association have condemned Egypt’s recent actions, stating that the country is likely in violation of its international human rights obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. [OHCHR Press Release: Defenders; OHCHR Press Release: Association] Read more
The International Justice Resource Center is thrilled to announce the launch of our latest publication, Advocacy before the African Human Rights System: A Manual for Attorneys and Advocates. This manual, which is part of our publication series Preventing and Remedying Human Rights Violations through the International Framework, is the result of several years’ work and benefits from the research and review of numerous colleagues. We are grateful for the input and feedback provided by partner organizations with extensive experience engaging in advocacy before the African Commission and Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Read more
The United Nations General Assembly
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
In the month of December, various universal and regional bodies will be in session. Three United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to torture, racial discrimination, and enforced disappearances. Seven UN special rapporteurs and one working group will conduct country visits, and three working groups will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to people of African descent, the use of mercenaries, and activities of private military and security companies. The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly continues in New York this month, as well.
Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR), will hold sessions or case hearings this month. The Inter-American Commission will conduct thematic hearings on a variety of topics including indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of extractive industries, among others, and the Inter-American Court will consider cases covering a variety of issues, including forced sterilization and fair trial guarantees.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the Inter-American Commission, Inter-American Court, and African Court may be watched via UN Web TV, 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
The European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons
On November 22, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that Turkey’s seizure of all copies of a particular issue of a gay and lesbian non-governmental group’s magazine that contained sexually explicit images amounted to a violation of the right to freedom of expression. See ECtHR, Kaos GL v. Turkey, no. 4982/07, Judgement of 22 November 2016, para. 63 (French version). Ultimately, the ECtHR found the interference with the exercise of freedom of expression was disproportionate to the legitimate aim of protecting public morals and not “necessary in a democratic society” within the meaning of Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR). See id. Turkey, the Court noted, did not attempt to implement a less burdensome preventive measure than the seizure of all of the copies in question, such as restricting sales to persons 18 years of age and above. See id. at paras. 60-61. Commentary on the case has noted that the holding establishes that a State cannot use the ‘protection of public morals’ argument to place blanket restrictions on the exercise of freedom of expression. [ILGA-Europe] Another case pending before the European Court challenges a Russian law that prohibits distribution of “homosexual propaganda” to minors, which the applicants allege constitutes “a blanket ban on the mere mention of homosexuality.” See ECtHR, Bayev v. Russia, no. 67667/09, Communicated Case. Read more
Coordination Committee of Special Procedures with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton
The United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) recently released 21 opinions adopted during its August 2016 session, relating to 58 individuals in detention in 17 countries. [OHCHR Press Release] The opinions covered several topics within the WGAD’s mandate, including the treatment of minors in detention, the right to a fair trial, the rights to freedom of expression and opinion, the right to freedom of association, torture, preventive detention, discrimination, the right to freedom of movement, unlawful arrest, reprisals, and the right to dignity in relation to health-care services in detention. Some involve human rights defenders, such as Bahraini activist Zainab Al-Khawaja. Despite the fact that the WGAD did not receive many government responses to the allegations, it rendered its numerous opinions on the basis of the available information, in conformity with its working methods. See WGAD, Methods of work of the Working Group on Arbitrary Detention, UN Doc. A/HRC/33/66, 12 July, 2016, para. 15. Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds a thematic hearing on the situation of migrant and refugee children and families in the United States
On November 4, 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) published a report that seeks to address the practical realities of those in the context of human mobility and lay out the legal standards that should govern Member States’ policies concerning migrants, asylum seekers, refugees, persons in need of complimentary protection, stateless persons, victims of human trafficking, and internally displaced persons. [IACHR Press Release] The report, Human Rights of Migrants, Refugees, Stateless Persons, Victims of Human Trafficking and Internally Displaced Person: Norms and Standards of the Inter-American Human Rights System, outlines standards that the IACHR and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights have developed through reports on petitions and cases, judgments, advisory opinions, precautionary measures, provisional measures and country and thematic reports. [IACHR: Press Release] The major areas of focus in the report are: servitude and human trafficking, freedom of movement and residence, due process in immigration and extradition proceedings, family life, the right not to be subjected to cruel or inhuman treatment as a result of deportation, immigration detention, the right to seek and receive asylum, non-refoulement, the right to a nationality, and property rights. Read more