On October 5, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously ruled that Norway violated a journalist’s rights under Article 10 (right to freedom of expression) of the European Convention of Human Rights (ECHR) because the Supreme Court of Norway imposed a fine on her for refusal to testify on her source, who had already made himself known. See ECtHR, Becker v. Norway, no. 21272/12, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 5 October 2017. The Court’s decision turned on the fact that it was not necessary to the case to retrieve the journalist’s testimony, since the individual suspected of criminal activity was charged and convicted without her statement. See id. at para. 78. This case goes beyond the ECtHR’s existing jurisprudence on the application of the right to freedom of expression to the protection of journalists’ sources. Prior to this case, the ECtHR had yet to address the question of whether a court may compel testimony when the source’s identity has already been revealed by the source’s own admission. See id. at paras. 73-74. The ECtHR decided that a source’s own disclosure is not decisive of whether a journalist should be compelled to disclose the source in his or her own testimony. See id. at para. 75. Read more
Category Archives: international human rights
The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently announced the publication of the Standards of Conduct for Business to fight discrimination against lesbian, gay, bi, trans, and intersex (LGBTI) persons. [OHCHR Press Release] The Standards of Conduct for Business build upon the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and the UN Global Compact – which collectively contain UN standards directed at businesses to respect and protect human rights, and remedy rights violations – to offer guidance to companies on how businesses should treat LGBTI people in the workplace and how businesses can promote LGBTI rights in the marketplace and in the community. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business (2017), 1, 5-6. Several businesses, including Accenture, Baker McKenzie, BNP Paribas, The Coca-Cola Company, Deutsche Bank, EDF, EY, Gap Inc., Godrej, IKEA Group, Microsoft, Oath, Orange, SAP, and Spotify, have already shown public support for the Standards of Conduct for Business. [OHCHR Press Release] The commentary from the OHCHR accompanying the Standards of Conduct for Business explains that domestic legal reforms alone are not enough to create inclusive communities, and, therefore, the OHCHR notes that the corporate sector not only has an obligation to respect human rights but also holds significant influence in curbing human rights abuses. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Tackling Discrimination against Lesbian, Gay, Bi, Trans, & Intersex People: Standards of Conduct for Business, 15. The standards also bring together two areas in human rights protection that the international community is increasingly recognizing – businesses’ responsibility to respect, protect, and remedy human rights and violations thereof, and the human rights of LGBTI persons. [IJRC: SOGI; IJRC: Forum] Read more
In a recent opinion, the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) held that Tanzania’s failure to protect an individual with albinism from violence and discrimination constitutes a violation of the country’s obligations under the International Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ICRPD). [OHCHR Press Release] See Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, Mr. X v. Tanzania, Communication No. 22/2014, Views of 31 August 2017, UN Doc. CRPD/C/18/D/22/2014, paras. 8.1-8.7. The case concerned a man who was attacked and dismembered by men who targeted him due to his albinism. [OHCHR Press Release] Although the victim claimed to know the identity of the perpetrators, Tanzanian prosecutors dropped his case and failed to continue their investigation. [OHCHR Press Release] See CRPD, Mr. X v. Tanzania, para. 2.2. In its August 31, 2017 communication, the CRPD held that failing to investigate and prosecute an attack resulting in dismemberment as the result of the victim’s albinism constitutes discrimination based on a disability in violation of the ICRPD. See id. at paras. 8.1-8.4. In addition to a violation of the right to non-discrimination under Article 5 of the ICRPD, the Committee also held that Tanzania violated the rights to prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment, and to personal integrity under articles 15 and 17 of the Convention, respectively. See id. at paras. 8.5-8.7. Tanzania has one of the highest rates of albinism in the world, and people with albinism in the country frequently face various forms of violence and discrimination, both of which are often conducted with impunity. See Human Rights Council, Resolution 28/75, Report of the Human Rights Council Advisory Committee on the study on the situation of human rights of persons living with albinism, UN Doc. A/HRC/28/75, 10 February 2015, paras. 18, 26-34. Read more
In October, 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, interactive dialogues, country visits, seminars, and hearings. Five UN treaty bodies will meet throughout October to assess States’ compliance with their treaty obligations related to civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; elimination of discrimination against women; the prevention of torture; and the rights of the child. The Social Forum of the UN Human Rights Council will be in session, and the UN Human Rights Council will also host thematic panel discussions, seminars, and working group discussions on climate change, migrants, and persons displaced across international borders; transnational corporations and other business enterprises with respect to human rights; and the implementation of effective safeguards to prevent torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment during police custody. One working group will be in session on the issue of discrimination against women in law and practice, and eight other special procedures mandate holders will conduct country visits. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the European Committee on Social Rights (ECSR), and the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will be in session.
The UN Human Rights Council’s and UN treaty bodies’ sessions can be watched via UN Web TV. The IACHR’s session can be watched on its YouTube channel, and the IACtHR’s session may be viewed on its website or Vimeo page. The ECtHR hearings can be viewed on its webcast.
At the end of August, the Supreme Court of India unanimously held that the Constitution of India specifically protects the right to privacy, which it concluded is inherent to constitutional guarantees of life and liberty pursuant to its Article 21 and, therefore, already exists as a fundamental freedom enshrined in the Constitution. See Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs. Union of India, (2017) (India) (opinion of Chandrachud, J.), at 110, 254, 257, 262. The decision arose from a case challenging the constitutionality of the country’s system of using biometrics to identify individuals. For the case to move forward, the nine judges of the Supreme Court of India had to first determine whether the Constitution of India protects the right to privacy. See id. at 7. Affirming the right, the court’s decision was in accordance with international standards on privacy; the court confirmed that individuals have a zone of privacy limited by others’ rights and that the State may interfere with the right to privacy only through established law in pursuit of a legitimate aim and when necessary in a democratic society. See id. at 180-91, 242-46. The constitutional challenge to the biometric identification system will now resume, taking into account the privacy framework decided by the court.
According to Human Rights Watch (HRW) the ruling in the present case will not only have an impact on national policies concerning mandatory identification programs, but also other domestic issues, such as sexual orientation; the opinion explicitly states that sexual orientation is essential to privacy and identity, and discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation is counter to dignity. A challenge to India’s law criminalizing same-sex relations is also currently pending in court. [HRW] See id. at 124. The decision already overruled two prior domestic cases that held the right to privacy is not specifically protected under the Constitution of India. See Justice K.S. Puttaswamy (Retd) vs. Union of India, (opinion of Chandrachud, J.), at 5. Read more
On September 5, 2017, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that a private company’s decision to dismiss an employee, after monitoring and accessing his instant messages sent from the workplace, violated the employee’s right to respect for private and family life, enshrined in Article 8 of the European Convention on Human Rights. See ECtHR, Bărbulescu v. Romania [GC], no. 61496/08, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 5 September 2017, para. 141. The ECtHR held that Romanian authorities did not protect Bogdan Mihai Bărbulescu’s right to private life because the Romanian courts did not adequately balance Bărbulescu’s interest in privacy and the employer’s interest in monitoring communications sent from the workplace. The national courts, the European Court found, did not sufficiently assess the relevant factors of whether the employer gave prior notice to the employee that communications may be monitored; whether there was a reasonable justification for monitoring the employee’s communications; whether there were less intrusive measures available to the employer to achieve the same end; and the necessity of the disciplinary action taken against the employee. See id. at para. 124, 133, 139-41. This case adds to the ECtHR’s developing jurisprudence on the balance between the competing interests of an employee’s right to privacy and a private employer’s right to monitor communications; two previous cases determined that the State has a positive obligation to protect the employee’s right to privacy of telephone communications, email, and internet use that originates at work. See ECtHR, Halford v. the United Kingdom, no. 20605/92, ECHR 1997, Judgment of 25 June 1997; ECtHR, Copland v. the United Kingdom, no. 62617/00, ECHR 2007, Judgment of 3 April 20017. Read more
On August 29, Guatemala’s Constitutional Court issued a temporary injunction to block President Jimmy Morales’ expulsion order against Iván Velásquez, head of a United Nations anticorruption panel, who just days earlier announced his intent to investigate Morales for alleged campaign finance violations in 2015. [Al Jazeera; New York Times] The UN International Committee against Impunity in Guatemala (known by its Spanish acronym CICIG) was formed 10 years ago to address the pervasive corruption problems in Guatemala. [Al Jazeera] In furtherance of its mission, CICIG currently seeks to strip Morales of his official immunity so that he may face a campaign finance investigation. [Washington Post] Morales announced his decision to expel Velásquez on August 27, citing “the interests of the Guatemalan people” and his aim to “strengthen . . . the rule of law and our institutions.” [Al Jazeera] The expulsion order sparked protests in defense of Velásquez and continues to draw international criticism. [New York Times] Representatives from the United Nations, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the European Union (EU) have condemned Morales’ actions as beyond the scope of his authority and an unjustified interference with the work of CICIG. [UN News Centre; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release (in Spanish); EU Press Release] 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]
In the month of September, several regional bodies and universal bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, holding hearings, and reviewing individual complaints. Five United Nations treaty bodies will meet throughout September to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to persons with disabilities; migrants and their families; enforced disappearances; children; and economic, social, and cultural rights. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to unilateral coercive measures, the integration of the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system, the human rights of indigenous peoples, and the impact of intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls. Four UN special rapporteurs will conduct country visits and one working group will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to enforced disappearances. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The African Court sessions may be watched on its YouTube channel, and the IACHR sessions may also be viewed on its YouTube channel. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
- Protesters in Hong Kong demonstrated last weekend to call for the release of three pro-democracy activists who were imprisoned last week. [Guardian]
- Maina Kiai, a former United Nations Special Rapporteur and a human rights activist, was detained at the Nairobi airport for two hours before allowed to leave the country last Sunday. [Guardian]
- A Chinese human rights lawyer plead guilty on Tuesday to charges of inciting subversion of state power, but civil society is calling the trial a sham and believe he was forced to confess. [VOA]
Activities of Human Rights Bodies & Experts and Intergovernmental Bodies
- The United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination issued a decision through its early warning and urgent action procedure that calls on authorities in the United States to denounce racist hate speech and crimes and address the root causes of both. [OHCHR Press Release]
- The United Nations International Labour Organization has created the Global Commission on the Future of Work, which will study the challenges that prevent the creation of decent and sustainable jobs, and the relationship between social justice and work. [UN News Centre]
- The UN Assistance Mission to Iraq released a report this week that calls on the government of Iraq to ensure that women and girls who have survived sexual violence at the hands of ISIL receive care and protection. [OHCHR Press Release]
- India’s Supreme Court ruled this week that the right to privacy is a fundamental right; the ruling also states that sexual orientation is protected by the right to privacy. [Asian Correspondent]
- North Korea indicated this week that the country is building solid-fuel missiles, which can be launched faster and are easier to move. [New York Times]
- A candidate for president in Liberia promised this week that he would establish a war crimes tribunal. [Africa News]
- Last week, torture victims and the psychologists who helped create the United States Central Intelligence Agency’s interrogation program reached a settlement agreement in a lawsuit filed in 2015. [New York Times]