Category Archives: torture

African Commission Declaration Recommends Expanded Protections for Human Rights Defenders

Reine Alapini-Gansou, the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, (right) sits with other ACHPR Commissioners
Credit: ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPRrecently published the Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa that recommends repealing harmful and discriminatory laws, ensuring compliance with existing international standards that impact human rights defenders, and developing standards on women human rights defenders, among other recommendations. Adopted earlier this year during the 2nd International Symposium on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa held from March 27 to April 1, 2017, in Cotonou, Benin, civil society, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), and States in the region developed the Declaration. See ACommHPR, Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa (adopted on 1 April 2017). The Commission’s Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Madame Reine Alapini-Gansou, organized the colloquium with the goal of strengthening the protection of human rights defenders in the pan-African region through an assessment of the progress made, and the development of new strategies capable of responding to the current needs of human right defenders. See ACommHPR, 60th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Intersession Activity Report (2017), para. 35. The Declaration identifies the abuse of counter-terrorism laws, undue restrictions on the right to freedom of association, violence and threats of violence against defenders and their families, reprisals, and the targeting of certain groups of defenders, among others, as challenges to the protection of human rights defenders, and recommends, in part, raising awareness through the documentation of violations and publication of reports. See Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa (2017). This Declaration is one of seven declarations adopted by the ACHPR since its founding, and while the ACHPR has adopted resolutions on human rights defenders, the existing treaties, declarations, and general comments in the pan-African Human Rights System do not address human rights defenders specifically.

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July 2017: United Nations and Regional Human Rights Bodies in Session

Palais des Nations in Geneva, Switzerland
Credit: Risuciu via Wikimedia Commons

In the month of July, various universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, and reviewing individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to the rights of women, civil and political rights, torture, and racial discrimination. A working group will meet to discuss complaints submitted to the Human Rights Council, an expert mechanism will meet to discuss the rights of indigenous peoples, and two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights and the European Committee of Social Rights will be in session. Additionally, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case concerning the right to a fair trial in Croatia.

The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court and Inter-American Commission, may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit IJRC’s Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

News Clips- June 9, 2017

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Cherry X via Wikimedia Commons

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts

Politics

  • After the United States President announced last week that the State will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states in the country announced that they will still comply with the Paris Agreement. [Guardian; Voice of America]
  • This week, the opposition party in Lesotho won a majority of parliamentary seats during a snap election. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced that opposition parties in the State should not attempt to challenge recent local elections or they could be dissolved. [Washington Post]
  • The United States warned again this week that it may pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the UN body reconsiders how States, particularly those with negative human rights records, become members of the Council. [Washington Post]

Civil Society

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of five protesters in Bahrain. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • After five farmers died at a rally in India, protesters demonstrated on Wednesday, prompting the deployment of troops on Thursday. [Washington Post; ABC News]
  • Detainees in Venezuela, including protesters detained for demonstrating, claim they are being beaten and tortured while in custody. [Miami Herald]

African Commission Launches General Comment on Torture Victims’ Right to Redress

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during the 21st Extraordinary Session
Credit: ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) recently launched General Comment No. 4 on the right to redress for victims of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading punishment or treatment, which was previously adopted during the 21st Extra-Ordinary Session of the ACHPR. See ACommHPR, General Comment No. 4 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment (Article 5), (adopted at the Commission’s 21st Extra-Ordinary Session, held from February 23 to March 4, 2017). Launched on May 8, the General Comment provides an authoritative interpretation of the scope of the right to redress, and States parties obligations, under Article 5 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). The General Comment addresses the obligations to provide prompt, full, and effective redress; to ensure rehabilitation; to protect against intimidation and reprisals; and to provide redress for collective harms. See id. [IRCT Press Release] Additionally, the General Comment offers guidance on the right to redress within the contexts of sexual and gender-based violence, armed conflict, transitional justice processes, and violence carried out by non-State actors. See General Comment No. 4 on the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights: The Right to Redress for Victims of Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Punishment or Treatment (Article 5)(adopted at the Commission’s 21st Extra-Ordinary Session, held from February 23 to March 4, 2017). According to the International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) – a global civil society organization dedicated to the rehabilitation of torture survivors – this General Comment takes a significant step towards achieving protections for victims of torture and other ill-treatment in the region due to its victim-centered approach to rehabilitation and to its acknowledgement that redress should be provided to  victimized communities in addition to individual victims. [IRCT Press Release] Read more

Tunisia Allows Individuals and NGOs Direct Access to African Court

The President of Tunisia speaks at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Tunisia formally agreed last week to allow individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to directly access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) with complaints of human rights violations against Tunisia. Tunisia joins seven other countries that also currently grant the Court the same jurisdiction. [AfCHPR Press Release] The government of Tunisia hosted a delegation of the AfCHPR in the capital city of Tunis on April 13 at which time Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi praised the Court’s work in protecting human rights. [AfCHPR Press Release] AfCHPR President Justice Sylvain Oré commended Tunisia’s decision and encouraged other African countries to follow suit. [AfCHPR Press Release] Tunisia’s acceptance of this jurisdiction comes one month after Rwanda officially withdrew from it. [AfCHPR Press Release] Additionally, in the years following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, some human rights experts have praised its commitment to human rights and others condemned its rights abuses, particularly those linked to its extended state of emergency, such as the use of torture and restrictions to freedom of movement. [Amnesty International; OHCHR Press Release: Zeid; OHCHR Press Release: Terrorism]

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UN Finds Libyan Trial Violated Rights of Gaddafi Regime Members

The United Nations Mission in Libya hosts an international meeting in London, U.K.
Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Wikimedia Commons

In a report published on February 21, the United Nations Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) and the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) concluded that the trial of 37 former members of the Gaddafi regime, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, failed to meet international due process standards. See UNSMIL & OHCHR, Report on the Trial of 37 Former Members of the Qadhafi Regime (Case 630/2012) (2017), at 1–5. Conducted by the Tripoli Court of Assize from March 2014 to July 2015, the trial resulted in the convictions of 32 officials from the Gaddafi regime for offenses related to the 2011 Libyan uprising, including war crimes and crimes against humanity. See id. at 1, 6, 19. Despite being “so far the most prominent effort” of Libyan authorities to seek justice for these human rights violations, according to the report, the defendants lacked sufficient opportunity to consult with their attorneys, allegations of torture went uninvestigated, and the prosecution failed to call any witnesses in court. [OHCHR Press Release] UNSMIL and OHCHR have urged the Court of Cassation, which will be reviewing the case, to consider these due process violations and, in response to these deficiencies, have encouraged Libya to review and reform its domestic laws to ensure the protection of the right to a fair trial. [OHCHR Press Release] Regional and universal human rights bodies have already highlighted violations of the rights to liberty and fair trial in the context of the defendants’ detention, including Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s secret incommunicado detention. See Report on the Trial of 37 Former Members of the Qadhafi Regime (Case 630/2012), at 52. [IJRC] Read more

European Court: Syrian Migrant Faces Threat to Life Upon Return

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons

The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a unanimous decision on Tuesday, February 14 preventing Russian authorities from removing a Syrian national to his home country because the security and humanitarian situation in Syria poses a threat to the rights to life and prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment. [ECtHR: Press Release] In addition to finding violations of the rights to life and prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment, the ECtHR held that the applicant’s detention and order for removal were also in violation of the rights to an effective remedy and to liberty under the European Convention on Human Rights. [ECtHR: Press Release] In its analysis, the ECtHR emphasized the obligation to consider available reports on the situation in Syria during removal proceedings of Syrian nationals. The Court considered documentation of indiscriminate attacks on schools and other civilian areas that have resulted in civilian harm and civilian deaths, and it reiterated its position that a general situation of violence in a country of destination may be so intense that removal to that country would entail a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention (prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment). See ECtHR, S.K. v. Russia, no. 52722/15, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 14 February 2017, paras. 45-47. The European Court’s decision that civilians in Syria face a real risk of violations to the right to life and prohibition of inhuman treatment affects all States parties in Europe assessing asylum applications; almost 900,000 Syrians applied for asylum in Europe between April 2011 and October 2016. See UNHCR, Syria Regional Refugee Response. Read more

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