Category Archives: international human rights

WHO Issues Guidelines on Rights-Based Treatment of FGM Survivors

“Mobilizing to Achieve the Global Goals through Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030”
“Mobilizing to Achieve the Global Goals through Elimination of Female Genital Mutilation by 2030”

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon speaks during a special event on international day of zero tolerance for female genital mutilation
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas

The World Health Organization (WHO) has released a new report to help medical practitioners engage in a human-rights-based approach toward managing and treating health complications associated with or caused by female genital mutilation (FGM). See World Health Organization, WHO Guidelines on the Management of Health Complications from Female Genital Mutilation (2016). The guidelines identify the human rights implications of FGM, including on the right to the attainment of the highest standard of health. See id. at 5. Recognizing that an estimated 200 million women worldwide have undergone FGM and citing a lack of awareness of its negative health consequences by the international medical community, the guidelines provide recommendations on methods for treating the negative health impacts of FGM and address best practices for avoiding further human rights violations in those treatments.

With this report, the WHO highlights the important role of trained health professionals in mitigating and remedying violations of international human rights standards that result from FGM and in guaranteeing the protection of the right to health, which includes providing adequate health care services to victims of human rights abuses. See id. 7. The report, therefore, seeks to establish standards to be used by the international medical community to ensure that efforts to eradicate the practice, particularly the elimination of the performance of FGM by medical practitioners, and to provide care for women living with FGM are carried out with consideration for women’s human rights at their core. See id. at viii. Read more

ECSR: Ireland’s Inadequate Traveller Accommodations Violate European Social Charter


The European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: Council of Europe

In a case concerning the right of Traveller families to adequate housing and caravan sites, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) held that Ireland violated their right to social, legal, and economic protection under Article 16 of the Revised European Social Charter because of the de facto insufficiency of accommodations for Travellers, inadequate conditions in the existing Traveller accommodations, and the legislative framework and practice of evictions. See ECSR, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Ireland, Complaint No. 100/2013, Merits, 1 December 2015. In its decision, published earlier this month, the ECSR declined to find Ireland in violation of Article E’s non-discrimination provisions or to find a violation of Article 30, which protects the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, noting that the Irish government has made substantial progress in the past few years and demonstrated an effort to accommodate the Traveller community. Id. at paras. 71 and 191.

The decision reinforces an earlier ruling from the ECSR on Roma communities in Greece, in which it found the same violations under Article 16. See ECSR, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Greece, Complaint No. 15/2003, Merits, 8 December 2004. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has also held in past cases that evictions of and insufficient accommodations for Roma communities violate the right to family life. See ECtHR, Connors v. United Kingdom, no. 66746/01, ECHR 2004, Judgment of 27 May 2004. ECtHR, Winterstein and Others v. France, no. 27013/07, Judgment of 17 October 2013.

According to census data, at least 30,000 Traveller families live in Ireland. See European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Ireland, 1 December 2015, para. 30. Irish media have recently reported on homelessness and evictions of Travellers in the country, where one-fifth of Travellers do not have access to appropriate accommodation. Read more

Inter-American Commission Refers Colombian “False Positives” Killings to Court

Date: March 26, 2012
Place: Washington, DC
Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS
Date: March 26, 2012 Place: Washington, DC Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

The Inter-American Commission holds a hearing in the case Wilfredo Quiñonez Bárcenas et al.
Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

On April 14, 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted an application to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), referring several cases that involve the extrajudicial killings by Colombian security agents. [IACHR Press Release] The victims were killed between 1992 and 1997 and were six of several thousand “falsos positivos,” a term used to refer to ordinary civilians detained and killed by Colombian soldiers who then falsely reported that the deceased were unlawful guerillas killed in military operations. [IACHR Press Release] In its merits reports, the Commission established that these six deaths fit this pattern and had been inadequately investigated, in violation of the rights to honor and dignity, personal integrity, and liberty. [IACHR Press Release]

The Commission referred the joined cases to the Court after Colombia failed to comply with the recommendations in its merits report, which included determining responsibility for the killings, moving the investigations out of the military justice system, and implementing guarantees of non-repetition. [IACHR Press Release] In the ongoing negotiations between the government and FARC rebels, accountability for the “false positives” remains controversial. [HRW] Read more

Documentation, Local Prosecutions Advance Accountability for War Crimes in Syria

The UN Security Council meets on the situation in SyriaCredit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
The UN Security Council meets on the situation in SyriaCredit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

The UN Security Council meets on the situation in Syria
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe

Germany recently began its first prosecution for alleged war crimes in Syria, joining the several States and private actors seeking accountability for atrocities committed in the ongoing conflict in Syria. [The New Arab] Despite the lack of a final peace agreement, human rights experts are encouraging State governments to take steps to bring to justice those responsible for war crimes and crimes against humanity through domestic trials, such as the one that just commenced in Germany, or before an international court, such as the International Criminal Court or a special tribunal. [BBC; Reuters] Additionally, other entities have been actively collecting evidence of international crimes for any future trials that may take place, which may prove helpful to local prosecutors taking on cases such as the one in Germany. [New Yorker; Fox News] While political and practical challenges could continue to impede a referral to the ICC or creation of a special tribunal, these trials and documentation efforts demonstrate progress towards accountability. Read more

ECtHR: Failure to Provide Psychiatric Treatment Rendered Life Sentence Irreducible


European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk

On April 26, 2016, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that a life sentence was de facto irreducible because the applicant was denied medical treatment that could have positively affected his pardon requests and, consequently, held that the Netherlands violated the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), See ECtHR, Murray v. the Netherlands [GC], no. 10511/10 ECHR 2016, Judgment of 26 April 2016, para. 127. The applicant was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1979. Id. at para. 15. The judgment of the domestic court of first instance included a psychiatrist report which stated that, while he was criminally liable for the act, he suffered from a “pathological disturbance” and advised that he undergo treatment to avoid relapsing and committing further crimes. Id. at para. 12. Before the European Court, he argued that because he never received such treatment, the life sentence was irreducible and he was denied any hope of release. Id. at para. 87. In its 2013 judgment, a chamber of the ECtHR found no violation of Article 3 because the applicant’s case had been reviewed, providing a prospect of release, and the State may refuse to pardon a prisoner where that person poses a danger to society. See ECtHR, Murray v. the Netherlands, no. 10511/10, Judgment of 10 December 2013, at paras. 54-59.

The Court’s decision expands on the precedent of Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom, in which it held that whole-life sentences without possibility of review violate Article 3, to consider the duty to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation in the context of a prisoner in need of treatment for mental health problems. See ECtHR, Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC] nos. 66069/09, 130/10 and 3896/10, Judgment of 9 July 2013. The decision in Vinter, among others, has given rise to tensions in the United Kingdom, with some politicians calling for measures to limit the ECtHR’s authority in the country’s legal system. [BBC] Read more

UN Committee Finds Denial of Accommodation for Jury Duty Discriminatory

Disabilities: 5th session of Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities starts today
Disabilities: 5th session of Conference of the States Parties to the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities starts today

State Parties to the ICPRD hold a convention at the UN on best practices and challenges
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider

The United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) recently found that Australia violated the rights of two deaf people who were called up for jury service but told that they could not participate because sign language or real-time steno-captioning could not be provided. See CRPD, Gemma Beasley v. Australia, Communication No. 11/2013, Views of 25 April 2016; CRPD, Michael Lockrey v. Australia, Communication No. 13/2013, Views of 25 April 2016. In two separate opinions, the CRPD found that Australia violated both individuals’ rights to equality and non-discrimination, accessibility, access to justice, and freedom of expression and access to information as guaranteed under the Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ICRPD). See CRPD, Gemma Beasley v. Australia; CRPD, Michael Lockrey v. Australia.

While the CRPD has discussed the right of accessibility previously, these two cases are the first instance of the CRPD finding a violation of accessibility in the context of jury duty and in the context of the need for sign language or real-time steno-captioning accommodations. However, these cases build off of the CRPD’s past comments on accessibility as one of the main principles of the ICRPD that should be viewed in relation to equality and nondiscrimination. States must provide reasonable accommodation, the CRPD has commented, when a person with a disability needs it in a particular situation in order to enjoy rights on an equal basis with other members of society. See CRPD, General Comment No. 2 (2014) Article 9: Accessibility, UN Doc. CRPD/C/GC/2, 22 May 2014, paras. 4, 26. Read more

Gambia Criticized for Most Recent Detentions, Mistreatment of Protesters


President Jammeh
Credit: Jagga

Human rights monitors have criticized Gambian authorities’ detention and alleged torture of political protesters, including the reported death in custody of a political opposition leader, as the international community pays closer attention to a government known to carry out extrajudicial killings, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary arrests. [okayafrica; HRW] The Gambian government has charged protestors associated with the opposition party with rioting, illegal protest, and incitement to violence following demonstrations for electoral reforms and subsequent protests of the death in custody of United Democratic Party (UDP) official Solo Sandeng, who was reportedly tortured to death in State custody earlier this month. [News24]

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), and several non-governmental organizations, including Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International, and ARTICLE 19 have condemned the alleged actions, which potentially implicate the rights to life, free expression, free assembly, and the prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, and urged Gambia to investigate Sandeng’s death and release the detained protestors. [ACHPR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release; HRW] These recent repressive movements are part of a larger pattern of silencing opposition voices in Gambia that has characterized President Jammeh’s rule for more than a decade. See Human Rights Watch, State of Fear (2015). Read more

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