Francisco Rivera and Roxanna Altholz discuss advocacy before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
On September 23, 2016 more than 100 people gathered at University of California Hastings College of the Law in San Francisco for a training on the human rights of migrants hosted by the International Justice Resource Center and the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. The distinguished line-up of speakers included experts on international human rights advocacy and on migrants’ issues. The experts reviewed current challenges for migrants, including detention and raids, access to legal representation, asylum and protection, and migrant workers’ rights. The purpose of the training was to place these challenges in a broader international human rights context in order to guide lawyers and advocates in applying human rights norms and tools to their litigation and advocacy efforts in California. The training covered a range of issues, but one of the main topics during the day was that international human rights law and advocacy, when pursued, should be part of a larger and coordinated advocacy strategy.
See the agenda for additional details and visit the online supplementary materials folder to view selected reports, manuals, factsheets, and other documents related to migrants’ rights and the training. We anticipate posting the video recordings of each session later this week on IJRC’s trainings webpage. IJRC thanks the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies for co-hosting the event, and Public Counsel and the International Law & Practice Section of the Bar Association of San Francisco for their co-sponsorship of this program. Visit the IJRC website to keep informed of future IJRC trainings and events, or join our mailing list. Read more
The United Nations Security Council adopts a resolution to send UN police to Burundi
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
In response to the ongoing crisis in Burundi, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) presented its final report to the Human Rights Council on September 27, 2016, which documented evidence of gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the government and its affiliates. [OHCHR Press Release] UNIIB was formed in light of increasing instability in Burundi, which was prompted by the decision of the President to gain a third term in office and the resulting protests and coup attempt. In the course of investigation, UNIIB uncovered evidence of widespread and patterned violations of human rights including arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful arrests, arbitrary detention, ethnically charged language, and improper restrictions to freedom of expression and of association, among others. UNIIB experts suggested that these crimes may amount to crimes against humanity, and warned against the danger of genocide in the region. See Report of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-24/1, UN Doc. A/HRC/33/37, 20 September 2016. UNIIB recommended that the government strengthen domestic accountability mechanisms and increase its engagement with international human rights systems, and called on the international community to establish a commission of inquiry and to consider intervening pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter. See id. at paras. 138, 146, 163. Within a week of the report’s publication, government officials, lawmakers, and citizens protested the report outside UN offices in Burundi. [Washington Post] Read more
The European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held last week that the United Kingdom did not violate the rights to access to counsel and to a fair trial when, without an attorney present, authorities questioned three men suspected of involvement in the July 21, 2005 London bombing attempt; the State did violate those rights, the ECtHR held, when questioning a fourth man who was initially brought in as a witness and was later convicted of assisting one of the bombers after the fact. See ECtHR, Ibrahim and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], nos. 50541/08, 50571/08, 50573/08 and 40351/09, ECHR 2016, Judgment of 13 September 2016, para. 86. The decision partially reverses a Chamber decision of December 2014, which found no violations in any of the interviews or trials.
Within days of the attempted bombings, all four applicants were questioned by police. See id. at para. 17. The first three were arrested and questioned without an opportunity to consult a lawyer so the police could more readily elicit any relevant information regarding future attacks, a practice known as “safety interviews.” See id. at para. 64. The fourth applicant was interviewed as a witness and not in a safety interview, but became a suspect in the course of that interview. See id. at paras. 140, 300. The Grand Chamber held that there were not the same compelling reasons to delay his exercise of his rights and his witness statement should not have been used against him at trial. See id. at paras. 300, 310, 311. This is the first case before the ECtHR to address the right to legal assistance in the context of a safety interview, a technique allowed in the United Kingdom under its domestic terrorism legislation. Read more
The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights addresses the UN Human Rights Council
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, voiced clear dissatisfaction with Member States’ lack of cooperation with UN human rights monitors, in his recent address to the United Nations Human Rights Council, which begun its 33rd session on September 13, 2016. The High Commissioner directed the international community’s attention to the growing number of Member States that refuse to allow access to or to engage with human rights mechanisms. [OHCHR Press Release: States] In that same statement he also made reference to political figures who ignore international legal standards and are “xenophobes and bigots,” drawing on the same rhetoric he used in a speech a week earlier condemning politicians in the European Union and United States who gained prominence through manipulative tactics that are contrary to international legal standards for human rights. [OHCHR Press Release: States; OHCHR Press Release: Politicians] The High Commissioner implored the international community to continue to focus on collective action to realize all human rights. [OHCHR Press Release: States]
During the Human Rights Council’s general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms, States expressed varying views on the current functioning of the universal human rights system. While some asserted that the Council was overburdened and its human rights mechanisms were under resourced, others put the responsibility on their peers to make specific commitments to collaborating with the Council’s independent experts (“special procedures”) and with the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). [OHCHR Press Release: Debate] The debate was based, in part, on the UN Secretary General’s recent report on cooperation with UN human rights initiatives. See Human Rights Council, Cooperation with the United Nations, its representatives and mechanisms in the field of human rights: Report of the Secretary General, UN Doc. A/HRC/33/19, 16 August 2016. Civil society has also reminded States that cooperation and commitment to the human rights framework is particularly important in light of the upcoming elections for State membership on the Human Rights Council for the period 2017 to 2019. [ISHR: Elections; ISHR: Enhancing] Read more
Kara Tepe Refugee Camp on Lesbos Island, Greece
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
The United Nations General Assembly will host its first UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants (the Summit) on Monday September 19, 2016 at the UN Headquarters in New York to address one of the greatest current global challenges: the millions of refugees and migrants on the move. [UN News Centre] The Summit will bring together heads of state and government officials, UN agency leaders, members of the private sector, civil society organizations, and others with the goal of adopting a final outcome document aimed at strengthening international governance of international migration and at providing long-term and sustainable solutions to the increasing numbers of refugees and migrants on the move. The draft outcome document has drawn criticism from civil society, including regarding revisions won by States who objected to a prohibition on detaining child migrants and did not want to commit to resettling 10 percent of refugees annually. [New York Times: Summit] The Summit will be available via webcast at webtv.un.org.
Later this week, IJRC will host The Human Rights of Migrants, a seminar for advocates on the international protections and advocacy opportunities available to those working to protect the fundamental rights of migrants and asylum seekers in the United States. The training will take place on September 23 at UC Hastings in San Francisco and is co-sponsored by the Center for Gender & Refugee Studies. The training will be webcast live. Read more
The Palais des Nations
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
During the month of September 2016, several supranational bodies will review States’ implementation of their treaty obligations, regional judicial bodies will conduct hearings, and four UN special procedures mechanisms will conduct country visits.
Four United Nations treaty bodies will hold interactive dialogues with more than 20 States regarding their implementation of treaty obligations related to economic, social, and cultural rights and to the rights of persons with disabilities, children, and migrants and their families. The UN Human Rights Council and two working groups under it will conduct sessions as well. The UN General Assembly will host the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. In addition, UN independent experts will visit Israel and Palestine, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, and Mexico to assess the country situations with regard to violence against women, human trafficking, the intersection of human rights and business enterprises, and human rights defenders, respectively.
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold a session on State compliance with employment related rights. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear a case on freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will complete its consideration of cases against Ecuador, Guatemala, and Colombia during its 55th Special Session. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will hold its third ordinary session of the year.
The 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