Category Archives: regional human rights protection

European Court of Human Rights Finds Medical Students’ Observation Violated Patient’s Right to Privacy, in Konovalova v. Russia

European Court of Human RightsCredit: Council of Europe
European Court of Human RightsCredit: Council of Europe

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Council of Europe

In a new judgment, the European Court of Human Rights has addressed a novel issue in human rights law: whether allowing medical students to observe a childbirth without the mother’s explicit consent violated her right to privacy. [ECtHR Press Release] The applicant, Ms. Yevgeniya Konovalova, argued that the unauthorized presence of medical students during her childbirth unlawfully interfered with her privacy rights and was neither necessary nor proportionate to the needs of a democratic society. The Court unanimously held that Russia violated Article 8 (right to respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, and ordered the State to pay Ms. Konovalova 3,000 euros in non-pecuniary damages and 200 euros for costs and expenses. ECtHR, Konovalova v. Russia, no. 37873/04, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 9 October 2014. Read more

IACtHR Concludes 105th Ordinary Session, Orders Provisional Measures, Holds Public Hearing, and Delivers Judgments Involving Forced Disappearance, Indigenous Rights, and Arbitrary Killings

The Inter-American Court holds a hearing in Canales Huapaya et al. v. PeruCredit: IACtHR
The Inter-American Court holds a hearing in Canales Huapaya et al. v. PeruCredit: IACtHR

The Inter-American Court holds a hearing in Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru
Credit: IACtHR

From October 8 to 17, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights held its 105th Regular Session at its headquarters in San José, Costa Rica. [IACtHR] During this session, the Court handed down three judgments, which will be publicized soon, concerning forced disappearance, indigenous land rights, and arbitrary killings. The Court also issued orders regarding provisional measures in three cases. On October 17, the Court held a public hearing on a pending case, Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru, involving the right to a fair trial and judicial protection. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

The Court adopted its judgments in the following cases: Rochac Hernández et al. v. El Salvador, Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandi and Embera Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members v. Panama, and Tarazona Arrieta et al. v. Peru. The Court held public hearings in the first two of these cases in April of this year at its 50th Special Session. [IJRC] At its most recent session, the also Court adopted orders regarding provisional measures in Meléndez Quijano et al. v. El Salvador, Ibsen Cárdenas e Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia, and Garífuna Punta Piedra Community and its Members v. Honduras. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

Rochac Hernández et al. v. El Salvador

Rochac Hernández et al. v. El Salvador concerns the alleged forced disappearance of four children between 1980 and 1982 in the context of an armed conflict; the children were allegedly last seen with members of the armed forces. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights found that the State’s failure to diligently investigate the disappearances within a reasonable time violated the “right to recognition of juridical personality, to life, to humane treatment, to personal liberty, to family, to special protection for children, and to judicial guarantees and judicial protection” under the American Convention on Human Rights. See, IACHR, Report No. 90/06, Petition 731-03, Rochac Hernández (El Salvador) 21 October 2006; IACHR, Report No. 75/12, Cases 12.577, 12.646, 12.647, 12.667, Rochac Hernández (El Salvador), 7 November 2012, paras. 4, 219–229. 

Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandi and Embera Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members v. Panama

The petitioners, indigenous communities, asserted that the State forced them to abandon their ancestral land from 1972 to 1976 so that non-indigenous third parties could construct a hydroelectric dam. The Commission found that the State had violated the petitioners’ rights to property, judicial protection, a fair trial, and equal protection, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See IACHR, Report No. 125/12, Kuna Indigenous People of Madungandi and Embera Indigenous People of Bayano and their Members, 13 November 2012, para. 2. The petitioners also alleged that the State had failed to provide them with economic compensation, failed to protect against invasions of settlers and illegal logging, and failed to recognize, award title for, and demarcate the territory, instead granting property title to non-indigenous third parties. See id. at paras. 2, 236.

Tarazona Arrieta et al. v. Peru

In 1994, a member of the army allegedly killed two people and injured a third who were travelling in a public transportation vehicle, when the soldier shot at the vehicle in an attempt to stop it. The Commission held that the State had violated the three victims’ right to humane treatment and was responsible for arbitrarily depriving the two victims of their lives. [IACHR Press Release] The Commission submitted the case to the Court in June 2013 because Peru indicated that it could not comply with the Commission’s recommendation to make amends for the violation of judicial guarantees and judicial protections under the American Convention on Human Rights. [IACHR Press Release]

Meléndez Quijano et al. v. El Salvador

In 2007, the Court ordered El Salvador to adopt provisional measures to “protect the life and personal integrity” of Major Adrián Meléndez Quijano. Meléndez Quijano was the Chief of the Department of Human Rights of the National Defense Ministry, and had reported several human rights violations that the Salvadoran Army had allegedly committed. I/A Court H.R., Matter of Meléndez Quijano et al. regarding El Salvador. Provisional Measures. Order of May 12, 2007, paras. 1–2. Consequently, he and his family received death threats and were searched by high-ranking Army officials, arrested, and stabbed. See id. The Commission first ordered precautionary measures in October 2006, and submitted its request to the Court in 2007 after El Salvador had failed to implement the Commission’s requests. See id. at para. 3. The Court’s order for provisional measures has been renewed multiple times throughout the years. See, e.g., I/A Court H.R., Matter of Meléndez Quijano et al. regarding El Salvador. Provisional Measures. Order of August 21, 2013. At its most recent session, the Inter-American Court again determined whether to extend these measures; its decision has not yet been published. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

Ibsen Cárdenas and Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia

In 2010, the Court held that Bolivia was responsible for the detention and forced disappearance of Rainer Isben Cárdenas in 1971 and the arrest and forced disappearance of José Luis Isben Peña in 1973. I/A Court H.R., Ibsen Cárdenas and Ibsen Peña v. Bolivia. Merits, Reparation, and Costs. Judgment of September 1, 2010. Series C No. 217, paras. 103, 119. The Court found that the State had also failed to comply with its duty to investigate the human rights violations it committed. See id. at para. 163. The Court held that Bolivia violated its obligations under the Inter-American Convention on Forced Disappearance of Persons, along with the right to personal liberty, humane treatment, right to juridical personality, and the right to life, as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See id. at para. 122. The Court considered a request for precautionary measures related to this case at its 105th Session, and will publish its decision shortly. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

Garífuna Community of Triunfo de la Cruz and its Members v. Honduras

The petitioners, the Garífuna Community of Triunfo de la Cruz, alleged that Honduras failed to protect their ancestral lands when it made decisions to develop tourism projects on the land without consulting the community. [IACHR Press Release] The Commission found that the petitioners did not have effective access to justice regarding the sale of their land, and that the State did not adequately protect community leaders from harassment and ongoing violence caused by third parties. [IACHR Press Release] The Commission held that Honduras violated its obligations under the American Convention on Human Rights by violating the right to property; failing to include the indigenous community in decision-making; failing to recognize, award title for, and demarcate the territory; and failing to conduct a serious investigation into alleged human rights violations. See IACHR, Report No. 76/12. Case No. 12.548, Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its Members (Honduras), 7 November 2012, para. 294. The Commission submitted the case to the Court in 2013, because the State failed to inform the Commission of the measures it had taken to implement the recommendations. [IACHR Press Release]

In 2006, the Commission granted precautionary measure to the Garífuna community of Trifuno de la Cruz, requesting the State to protect the indigenous community’s ownership of their ancestral land and to prevent implementation of decrees that would affect ownership interests. See IACHR, Precautionary Measures 2006, para. 33. The Inter-American Court has adopted its resolution concerning the request for provisional measures, now that the case is pending before it, and its decision will be published soon. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]

Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru

On October 17, the Court held a public hearing on Canales Huapaya et al. v. Peru, a case in which the Commission found that the State had violated the right to a fair trial and to judicial protection by failing to have an adequate and effective judicial response to the dismissal of three employees of the Peruvian Congress in 1998. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish); IACHR Press Release] The Commission recommended that the State remedy its violations of the American Convention on Human Rights by complying with the reparations set forth in a similar case addressing Peru’s dismissal of Congressional employees. See I/A Court H.R., Case of the “Dismissed Congressional Employees” (Aguado-Alfaro et al.) v. Peru. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of November 24, 2006. Series C No. 158, paras. 148–151. [IACHR Press Release] On December 5, 2013, the Commission submitted this case to the Court because Peru had not provided the Commission with information regarding its implementation of the recommendation. [IACHR Press Release]

Additional Information

For additional information on the Inter-American human rights system, see IJRC’s Online Resource Hub.

In Baytar v. Turkey, European Court of Human Rights Holds Criminal Defendants Have the Right to an Interpreter during Investigatory Proceedings

European Court of Human RightsCredit: CherryX per Wikimedia Commons
European Court of Human RightsCredit: CherryX per Wikimedia Commons

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX per Wikimedia Commons

Earlier this week, the European Court of Human Rights unanimously held that a criminal defendant has the right to free assistance from a translator during criminal investigatory proceedings if language barriers prevent the accused from having a full understanding of the consequences of waiving his or her rights to keep silent and to legal assistance. See ECtHR, Baytar v. Turkey, no. 45440/04, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 14 October 2014 (French only). The applicant, Ms. Baytar, was questioned in police custody without the assistance of an interpreter, and argued that this violated her right to a fair hearing and to the assistance of an interpreter under Article 6 of the European Convention of Human Rights. [ECtHR Press Release] The Court held that when criminal arrestees do not have a command of the language, States have the obligation to provide free translation assistance at the beginning of the investigation proceedings. [ECtHR Press Release] The Court ordered the State to pay Ms. Baytar 1,500 euros for non-pecuniary damages and 1,300 euros for costs and expenses. [ECtHR Press Release] Read more

New Advisory Opinion and Country Visit by the Inter-American Human Rights Bodies Clarify the Rights of Migrant Children

IACHR visits the U.S. southern borderCredit: Daniel Cima / IACHR
IACHR visits the U.S. southern borderCredit: Daniel Cima / IACHR

IACHR visits the U.S. southern border
Credit: Daniel Cima / IACHR

Last month, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights released an Advisory Opinion defining the scope of States’ obligations to protect the rights of migrant children and families. See I/A Court H.R., Rights and Guarantees of Children in the Context of Migration and/or in Need of International Protection, Advisory Opinion OC-21/14, 19 August 2014. State Parties to the American Convention on Human Rights and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man must take this Advisory Opinion into consideration when “designing, adopting, implementing, and applying their immigration policies.” See id.at para. 50. Relatedly, from September 29 to October 2, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights conducted a country visit to the United States, examining the treatment of unaccompanied migrant children who had crossed the southern border into the United States. [IACHR Press Release] The Inter-American bodies’ focus on migrants’ rights comes at a point in time when the United States and Mexico, in particular, are facing scrutiny for their treatment of undocumented migrants – including an influx of children – from Central America. Read more

In Karimov v. Azerbaijan, European Court of Human Rights Holds Special Polling Stations for Military Personnel Violate the Right to Free Elections

Azerbaijan flag

Azerbaijan flagLast week, the European Court of Human Rights held that the establishment of military polling stations, in contravention of the Azerbaijani Electoral Code, violated the right to free elections under the First Protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights. ECtHR, Karimov v. Azerbaijan, no. 12535/06, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 25 September 2014, para. 52. The applicant, Mr. Hasan Huseyn oglu Karimov, who was the unsuccessful opposition candidate in Azerbaijan’s November 2005 parliamentary elections, argued that his electoral rights were violated when State agents interfered with his electoral campaign by specially setting up unlawful military polling stations, where military personnel and detainees allegedly voted under coercion and in conditions lacking transparency. See id. at paras. 1–11, 24. He also alleged, but failed to convince the European Court, that the State had violated Article 6 (right to a fair trial), Article 13 (right to an effective remedy), and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The Court unanimously held that Azerbaijan violated Article 3 of the First Protocol to the Convention, and ordered the State to pay Mr. Karimov 7,500 euros for non-pecuniary damages and 2,544 euros for costs and expenses. See id. at paras. 56, 67, 75. Read more

In Hassan v. United Kingdom, the European Court of Human Rights Finds Extra-territorial Jurisdiction over Iraqi Detainee and Examines Interplay between Geneva Conventions and European Human Rights Obligations

The European Court of Human Rights holds a hearing in Hassan v. UK in December 2013Credit: ECtHR
The European Court of Human Rights holds a hearing in Hassan v. UK in December 2013Credit: ECtHR

The European Court of Human Rights holds a hearing in Hassan v. UK in December 2013
Credit: ECtHR

On September 16, the European Court of Human Rights delivered its Grand Chamber judgment in Hassan v. United Kingdom, which involved the detention of an Iraqi national, Tarek Hassan, by the British army in Iraq in 2003. The applicant alleged that the United Kingdom was responsible for Tarek’s unlawful detention, ill-treatment, and death. The key issues before the Court were whether the British army’s actions were brought within the Court’s jurisdiction through extra-territorial application of the European Convention on Human Rights and to what extent the surrounding context of international armed conflict modified the State’s human rights obligations. [ECtHR Press Release]

The Court held that there was no violation of the European Convention on Human Rights because, although Tarek was within the UK’s extra-territorial jurisdiction pursuant to Article 1 of the Convention, the Court interpreted Article 5 of the European Convention to allow for the otherwise unauthorized detention of suspected combatants, in keeping with the Geneva Conventions, in the context of international armed conflict. Because it found that Tarek’s detention complied with international humanitarian law and there was insufficient evidence linking his ill-treatment and death to the actions of the British forces, the Court rejected the applicant’s claims. See ECtHR, Hassan v. United Kingdom, [GC], no. 29750/09, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 16 September 2014, paras. 62–64, 80, 108–111. Read more

On 4th International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, Advocacy and Monitoring Continue on Behalf of Victims and Families

Remembrance, Truth and Justice.Credit: Lisa Reinsberg

On August 30th, the international community will commemorate the International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, honoring those who have been forcibly disappeared, while encouraging States to cease this practice and remedy the damage it has caused. Enforced disappearance is defined as arrest, detention, abduction, or other deprivation of a person’s liberty by agents of the State, combined with the “refusal to acknowledge the deprivation of liberty or by concealment of the fate or whereabouts of the disappeared person.” See International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance, art. 2. In honor of this year’s International Day of the Victims of Enforced Disappearances, United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon stated that enforced disappearance “is a practice that cannot be tolerated in the twenty-first century,” urging States to “provide full information about the whereabouts of persons who have been disappeared [and to] effectively implement the right to the truth, justice and reparation for all victims and their families.” [UN]

Remembrance, Truth and Justice.<br>Credit: Lisa Reinsberg

A mural urges remembrance, truth, and justice.
Credit: Lisa Reinsberg

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