The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) presented a report on December 5, 2017 that, for the first time in the region, details Member States’ human rights legal obligations to address the situation of poverty and extreme poverty in the Americas through a human rights perspective. See IACHR, Poverty and Human Rights in the Americas (2017), para. 18 (in Spanish only). The Commission’s report acknowledges that poverty is interrelated with certain rights, both civil and political and economic and social, such as the rights to work, education, health, and access to justice, and, therefore, recommends that States focus on ensuring rights for all, including groups in vulnerable situations, as a method for addressing poverty and extreme poverty. See id. at paras. 12, 98, 494. The report also highlights the disproportionate impact of poverty on groups in vulnerable situations; recognizes the barriers to access to justice that poverty presents; and makes recommendations to Member States, such as taking a human rights perspective over a welfare approach to addressing poverty, among others. See id. at paras. 34, 98. Additionally, the report recognizes different definitions of poverty and extreme poverty, although it does not explicitly decide on definitions for each, but the report does state that extreme poverty is a grave problem that impacts the exercise and enjoyment of all human rights. See id. at paras. 2, 18. This is the first report since the IACHR established the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Economic, Social, Cultural, and Environmental Rights. [IACHR Press Release: ESCER; IJRC] Read more
Category Archives: persons with disabilities
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.
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.
The African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (ACERWC) announced earlier this month that the African Union Assembly adopted the 2040 Agenda for Children, which lays out goals related to the rights of children set to be achieved across the continent by 2040. [ACERWC Press Release] The agenda was developed in consideration of conclusions drawn during a conference held in 2015 to evaluate the status of the rights of children in Africa 25 years after the adoption of the African Charter on the Rights and Welfare of the Child (Children’s Charter), which 48 of the 55 States on the continent have ratified. [ACERWC Press Release] The agenda, which draws on the Children’s Charter as well as other prominent legal and political documents, calls for an effective framework for the advancement of children’s rights, children’s access to nourishment and basic necessities, children’s ability to reap the benefits of education, the protection of children from abuse, and a child-sensitive criminal justice system, among other aspirations. [ACERWC Press Release] States will be responsible for reviewing their progress annually, and the ACERWC will facilitate more extensive reviews every five years. See ACERWC, Africa’s Agenda for Children 2040: Fostering an Africa Fit for Children (2016), at 34. Read more
Several universal bodies and experts and one regional court will review States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the review of State reports, debates, review of individual complaints, and country visits in the month of August. Three United Nations treaty bodies will meet throughout August to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to torture, racial discrimination, and persons with disabilities. The UN Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to persons with leprosy, unaccompanied migrant children, contribution of development to the enjoyment of human rights, effects of terrorism on human rights, activities of vulture funds, and regional arrangements on human rights. Four UN special rapporteurs will conduct country visits and one working group will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to arbitrary detention. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will be in session.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The IACtHR hearings may be watched on the Court’s website or on livestream. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. To learn more about each human rights body, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. Read more
The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held last week that Belgium violated the rights of Rene Rooman – a prisoner with mental health problems who only speaks German – because the State failed to provide access to a psychologist who could also speak German. See ECtHR, Rooman v. Belgium, no. 18052/11, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 18 July 2017 (in French). Following a criminal conviction in 1997, Rooman, a Belgian and German national, was put in detention and later placed in a psychiatric institution in Paifve. [ECtHR: Press Release] Rooman’s application before the ECtHR alleged violations of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment and the right to liberty and security enshrined in articles 3 and 5 of the European Convention on Human Rights (European Convention), respectively. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR took into account prior efforts made by mental health bodies in the Paifve institution, but found that the national authorities’ failure to provide him with a psychologist who could speak German, one of three official languages in Belgium, was a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention because it caused Rooman distress that exceeded the unavoidable level of suffering that is inherent in detention. [ECtHR: Press Release] The ECtHR also considered whether there had been a violation of Article 5 (the right to liberty) but did not find a violation because Rooman was held in a facility appropriate for a person with a mental health disability. [ECtHR: Press Release] The European Court has previously held that when a State detains someone with a mental health disability and does not provide adequate medical care to the detriment of the detainee’s health, the State has violated the right to prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. See, e.g., ECtHR, Claes v. Belgium, no. 43418/09, ECHR 2013, Judgment of 10 January 2013. Read more
In a recently released General Comment, the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR) stated that States parties have an obligation to protect, respect, and fulfill rights implicated by the activities of businesses based in their territory, even when those businesses are operating abroad, to stay in compliance with the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (ICESCR). See Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 24 on State Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Context of Business Activities, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/24, 23 June 2017. The General Comment, which was adopted by the Committee on June 23, 2017, includes guidance on States parties’ obligations to ensure that business activities do not violate the rights to food, housing, health, work, favorable conditions of work, form and join trade unions, and social security, both within State borders and extraterritorially, and finds that States parties may be held directly responsible for business activities that violate the Covenant in limited circumstances. See id. at paras. 2, 11. The Committee also concludes that States parties must address barriers to access remedies for violations committed by businesses, and must implement national action plans that specifically address the question of the role of business entities in the realization of ICESCR rights. See id. at paras. 38-59.
The General Comment contributes to a growing acknowledgement of the rights abuses that arise from business activities and the need to protect against those violations. The General Comment follows widespread attacks against human rights defenders working on issues arising from business activities, and the Panama Papers and the Bahamas Leaks that both revealed business practices potentially harmful to the realization of human rights. [OHCHR Press Release; ISHR] It also elaborates on earlier statements regarding States’ responsibility with regard to corporate entities and business activities, and on the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights. See General Comment No. 24 on State Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Context of Business Activities, 23 June 2017, at para. 2. Read more
The United Nations Human Rights Council created or extended 11 special procedure mandates during its 35th regular session through the adoption of resolutions, including one that created the Special Rapporteur on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members. During the session, held from June 6 to June 23, 2017 in Geneva, Switzerland, the Human Rights Council also extended the mandates of eight thematic and two country special procedure mandates. [OHCHR Press Release: 35th Session] The new mandate on the elimination of discrimination against persons affected by leprosy and their family members is established for a period of three years, with a mandate to monitor the progress of the implementation of the principles for the elimination of such discrimination; to identify and promote good practices; and to report on an annual basis to the Human Rights Council, a UN intergovernmental group that tracks human rights conditions in the UN Member States and is responsible for creating special procedures, or independent experts who report and give advice on particular human rights issues. [OHCHR Press Release: Leprosy] Read more
- On Wednesday, after eight weeks of protests, the death toll in Venezuela rose to 56 people. [LA Times]
- On Wednesday, anti-government protesters in Brazil set fire to a ministry building, and in response, President Michel Temer gave the army policing power to restore order. [Reuters]
Violence & Humanitarian Crises
- On Wednesday, a bombing in Somalia, claimed by al-Shabaab, killed five and injured six civilians. [Reuters]
- On Tuesday, two United Nations peacekeepers were killed in Mali. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, at least 22 people were killed in a suicide bombing at a concert in Manchester, Britain. [Guardian]
- On Friday, a United Nations report concluded that soldiers in South Sudan responsible for killing more than 100 civilians between July 2016 and January 2017 may be liable for war crimes or crimes against humanity. [Newsweek]
- On Wednesday, the Constitutional Court in Taiwan ruled in favor of same-sex marriage, allowing Taiwan’s legislature two years to amend its laws. [Washington Post]
- On Monday, 100 men were arrested in Indonesia in a raid on a gay sauna. [Guardian]
- On Friday, 27 men were arrested in Bangladesh based on suspicions that they are gay. [Washington Post]
Activities of International Bodies
- On Wednesday, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights created three new thematic units: the Unit on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities; Unit on Memory, Truth, and Justice; and Unit of the Rights of Older Persons. [IACHR Press Release]
- On Wednesday, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights launched guidelines for the proper investigation of unlawful killings. [OHCHR Press Release]
- This week, a panel supported by the United Nations publicly released a draft of a treaty that would ban the possession and use of all nuclear weapons. [Guardian]
- On Friday, the European Parliament passed a resolution requesting a United Nations-led investigation into the killing of protesters in Ethiopia. [HRW]