Category Archives: regional human rights protection

Former Guatemalan Police Chief Convicted for Spanish Embassy Siege

Guatemala City
Guatemala City

Guatemala City
Credit: Rigostar

On January 19, a Guatemalan court found Pedro García Arredondo, a former police chief, guilty of murder and crimes against humanity for his role in authorities’ attack on the Spanish embassy in Guatemala City in 1980. In this attack, 37 protesters burned to death when the Spanish embassy building caught fire and García Arredondo ordered the building to be sealed and instructed officers, “No one gets out of there alive!” [Amnesty International: Conviction; BBC] Among those killed was the father of human rights advocate Rigoberta Menchú Tum. [Guardian] The Guatemalan court sentenced García Arredondo to a total of 90 years in prison: 40 years for murder and crimes against humanity in connection with the embassy attack, and 50 years for the murder of two students at the embassy victims’ funeral. [BBC; New York Times]

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IACHR Issues Report on Murdered and Missing Indigenous Women in Canada

IACHR visit to Canada in 2013.Credit: IACHR
IACHR visit to Canada in 2013.Credit: IACHR

IACHR visit to Canada in 2013.
Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has published a new report on missing and murdered indigenous women in British Columbia, Canada. The report, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada, examines the context and efficacy of Canada’s response to the pattern of violence and discrimination against indigenous women. The report also offers recommendations to assist the Canadian government in improving its efforts to protect and guarantee the rights of indigenous women. IACHR, Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women in British Columbia, Canada, OEA/Ser.L/V/II. Doc 30/14 (2014). Read more

Guatemalan Court Suspends Genocide Retrial of Former Dictator

A witness testifies during Rios Montt's first genocide trial.Credit: Elena Hermosa/Trocair
A witness testifies during Rios Montt's first genocide trial.<br>Credit: Elena Hermosa/Trocair

A witness testifies during Rios Montt’s first genocide trial.
Credit: Elena Hermosa/Trocair

The retrial of former Guatemalan dictator José Efraín Ríos Montt reopened on January 5, 2015, but was quickly suspended. [La Prensa; BBC] Charged with committing genocide and crimes against humanity against indigenous Ixil Maya of the Quiché region, the 88-year-old ex-army general is allegedly responsible for 15 massacres carried out against indigenous Mayans during his rule from 1982 to 1983, which resulted in 1,771 deaths, the displacement of 29,000, and the rape and torture of many others. [International Justice Monitor: Eighteen Months]. While the court rejected Ríos Montt’s attorneys’ argued that he was too ill to participate, the defense ultimately prevailed in recusing one of the members of the three-judge panel, resulting in a suspension of the trial while a new judge is selected or an appellate court examines the recusal issue. [International Justice Monitor: Eighteen Months] It is unclear how long this might take.

Ríos Montt’s previous conviction in May 2013, the first successful genocide prosecution of a former head of state in his home country, was annulled later that month due to procedural technicalities. [Huffington Post] Widely considered to be an historic ruling, the judgment’s annulment was criticized by some as a major setback. [Americas Society]

As the case draws increased attention and raises concerns about politically biased or corrupt judges, some fear this prosecution of Ríos Montt will end in a mistrial, if it ever begins. [Americas Quarterly] Read more

EU Court of Justice Ruling Blocks Uniform Human Rights Regime in Europe

CJEU full court
CJEU full court

Court of Justice of the European Union
Credit: CJEU

The Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled on December 18th that a draft agreement for the accession of the European Union (EU) to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) is incompatible with EU law. [CJEU Press Release] The decision halts, at least temporarily, progress in efforts to see the EU become a party to the ECHR and, therefore, subject to jurisdiction of the European Court of Human Rights. According to several human rights groups, including the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ), Amnesty International (AI), and the AIRE Centre, the opinion creates a serious setback for human rights in Europe. [ICJ] Read more

Human Rights Experts Call for Prosecution, Reparations in Wake of U.S. Torture Report

The U.S. appears before the Committee Against Torture
The U.S. appears before the Committee Against Torture

The U.S. appears before the Committee Against Torture
Credit: UN Treaty Body Webcast

On Tuesday, December 9, the United States Senate Select Committee on Intelligence (Intelligence Committee) published a report detailing the “abuses and countless mistakes” of the Central Intelligence Agency’s (CIA) detention and Interrogation program in the years after the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. See Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Committee Study of the Central Intelligence Agency’s Detention and Interrogation Program: Forward 2 (Intelligence Committee Report) (approved Dec. 13, 2012) (Declassification Revisions Dec. 3, 2014).

The release of the report was welcomed by human rights experts at the United Nations and the Inter-American Commission for Human Rights, but also prompted calls for the U.S. to prosecute and punish those responsible for the documented acts of torture, enforced disappearance, and illegal detention. Read more

Extraordinary Rendition Victim Seeks Reconsideration from ACHPR in Djibouti Complaint

African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights during its 54th SessionCredit: ACHPR
African Commission on Human and Peoples' Rights during its 54th SessionCredit: ACHPR

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during its 54th Session
Credit: ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights has rejected a complaint concerning Djibouti’s alleged involvement in the extraordinary rendition and mistreatment of a Yemeni national, in an inadmissibility decision released last month. The Commission held that evidence pointing to the wrongful detention of Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Al-Asad in a secret United States Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) prison in Djibouti was insufficient to find the communication admissible. The case against Djibouti was the first to challenge the cooperation of an African State in the CIA’s widely-condemned extraordinary rendition and secret detention program. [INTERIGHTS]

Among other controversial aspects of the decision was the Commission’s analysis of the evidence supporting its exercise of jurisdiction. Reflecting on the appropriate standards of proof to be applied at the admissibility stage, the African Commission held that territorial jurisdiction must be “conclusively substantiated” in order for the complaint to be admissible. The Commission found that the evidence provided – which included records of habeas corpus proceedings in Tanzania, descriptions of the people who interrogated and kept guard over Al-Asad, and his experience of an earthquake at around the same time that a 5.0-magnitude earthquake shook Djibouti – failed to “conclusively establish [his] presence in [Djibouti’s] territory or that he was otherwise under its effective control or authority.” Because it deemed that Al-Asad had failed to satisfy the territorial jurisdiction requirement, the Commission declared the communication inadmissible for being incompatible with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter). ACommHPR, Mohammed Abdullah Saleh Al-Asad v. Djibouti, Communication No. 383/2010, 55th Ordinary Session, 14 October 2014, paras. 146, 177, 183. Read more

New IACtHR Judgments Address Length of Criminal Proceedings and Forced Disappearances

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights hears the case of Zulema Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru on May 22, 2014.Credit: IACtHR
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights hears the case of Zulema Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru on May 22, 2014.Credit: IACtHR

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights hears the case of Zulema Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru on May 22, 2014.
Credit: IACtHR

Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights issued judgments in two cases, one of which concerned the duration of criminal proceedings against a Peruvian soldier responsible for two civilians’ deaths, and the other the forced disappearance of children during El Salvador’s internal armed conflict. [IACtHR Press Release: Tarazona Arrieta; IACtHR Press Release: Rochac Hernández] The judgments came as the Court finished its 106th Ordinary Period of Sessions, which were held from November 10 to 21 in San José, Costa Rica. [IACtHR Press Release: 106th Ordinary Period of Sessions]

In the case of Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru, the Court unanimously decided that Peru had violated its international obligations by allowing criminal proceedings against a soldier responsible for killing two civilians and injuring a third to continue for an unreasonable period of time. I/A Court H.R., Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 15 October 2014. Series C No. 286. In Rochac Hernández and Others v. El Salvador, the Court unanimously found that the forced disappearances of five children, aged nine months to 13 years, violated and continued to violate the human rights of the children and their families. I/A Court H.R., Rochac Hernández and Others v. El Salvador. Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 14 October 2014. Series C No. 285. Read more

ECtHR: Netherlands Responsible in Death at Military Checkpoint in Iraq

The ECtHR Grand Chamber hears Jaloud v. The NetherlandsCredit: ECtHR
The ECtHR Grand Chamber hears Jaloud v. The Netherlands<br>Credit: ECtHR

The ECtHR Grand Chamber hears Jaloud v. the Netherlands
Credit: ECtHR

On November 20, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in the case of Jaloud v. the Netherlands, concerning the shooting death of an Iraqi national, Azhar Sabah Jaloud, at a military checkpoint overseen by Dutch troops serving as part of the Stabilisation Force in Iraq (SFIR) in April 2004. [ECtHR] The case is significant because it expands on the Court’s previous jurisprudence concerning the application of extraterritorial jurisdiction in armed conflict situations.

In his application to the Court, the applicant, Jaloud’s father, alleged that the Netherlands had violated the procedural aspects of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to carry out an adequate investigation into the circumstances of his son’s death. [ECtHR] Holding that a State has jurisdiction over the acts of its military service personnel operating abroad under the State’s “exclusive direction or control,” the Court determined that the Netherlands’ exercise of “authority and control over persons passing through the checkpoint” indicated that it had jurisdiction over the shooting death of Jaloud within the meaning of Article 1 (obligation to respect human rights) of the European Convention. ECtHR, Jaloud v. the Netherlands [GC], no. 47708/08, Judgment of 20 November 2014, paras. 151-53.

As such, the Netherlands was under an obligation to conduct an effective investigation into Jaloud’s death. The Court found the Dutch investigation to be inadequate because it failed to preserve certain evidence, to ensure a suitable autopsy, to prevent potential suspects from colluding with key witnesses, and to provide critical reports to the reviewing court. Thus, the Court found that the Netherlands breached the procedural obligations of Article 2 of the European Convention. Id. at paras. 227-28. Read more

IACHR to Assist Mexico in Investigating 43 Students’ Disappearance

IACHR Mexico MOU
IACHR Mexico MOU

The IACHR, Mexico, and families’ representatives sign the agreement.
Credit: IACHR

In response to the disappearance of 43 student protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has signed a tripartite agreement with the government of Mexico and a group of nongovernmental organizations representing the student victims and their families to provide technical assistance with the search for the students, the investigation and subsequent actions regarding their disappearance, and support for the families of the victims. [IACHR: Official Agreement] The students have been missing since September 26 after a shooting incident with police that left six people dead and 17 injured. Although the students are believed to be dead, their whereabouts are yet to be discovered, fueling complaints of gang-related violence, impunity, and State corruption in the country. [Al Jazeera: Protests rage]

IACHR Chair, Tracy Robinson, stated:

For the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this historic agreement is of fundamental importance in the sense that it represents a key opportunity to advance in solving a structural issue that Mexico has been experi[enc]ing for years: forced disappearances … The main objective is to solve the underlying structural problems to these disappearances, not only the cases involving the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, but other cases, which unfortunately are many.

[IACHR: Official Agreement] Read more

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