UN Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Mr. Ben Emmerson, speaks as a third party intervenor in the cases before the European Court of Human Rights.
In its first judgment concerning the human rights of current Guantánamo detainees, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Poland failed to uphold its international obligations by allowing the secret detention, torture, and extraordinary rendition of a Saudi Arabian national and a stateless Palestinian, both suspected of terrorist acts. See ECtHR, Al Nashiri v. Poland, no. 28761/11, Judgment of 24 July 2014; ECtHR, Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v. Poland, no. 7511/13, Judgment of 24 July 2014. In both cases, the Court found Poland had violated the applicants’ rights under the European Convention on Human Rights by: enabling the United States to secretly detain and torture the applicants on Polish soil, conducting an inadequate investigation into the acts of torture and ill treatment committed in Poland, and allowing the applicants’ transfer to Guantánamo despite the real risk they would be tortured and could be subjected to unfair trials and the death penalty by the United States. The Court held that these failures constituted violations of the applicants’ rights to humane treatment, liberty and security, respect for private and family life, an effective remedy, and a fair trial. The tribunal also held that Poland had failed to comply with its Article 38 obligation to cooperate with the European Court’s investigation in the cases.
Staff and Judges of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
The Assembly of the African Union appointed four judges to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) during its 25th Session in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea. Three of the judges, Mrs. Solomy Balungi Bossa (Uganda), Mr. Rafaa Ben Achour (Tunisia), and Mr. Angelo Vasco Matusse (Mozambique), are new to the AfCHPR and the fourth, Justice Sylvain Oré (Côte d’Ivoire), was re-elected to serve a second term. [AfCHPR: New Judges] The swearing-in ceremony will be held on September 8, 2014 in Arusha, Tanzania during a public session of the Court. Read more
Ms. Hämäläinen and her counsel before the Grand Chamber
In a high profile new ruling, the European Court of Human Rights has held that requiring a transsexual woman to convert her marriage into a civil partnership in order to gain full legal recognition of her gender identity does not violate the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention). ECtHR, Hämäläinen v. Finland [GC], no. 37359/09, ECHR 2014, Judgment of 16 July 2014.
The case, Hämäläinen v. Finland, challenged a Finnish law that required married trans individuals to divorce or transform their marriages into civil partnerships before they could change their identity documents to reflect their new gender. By fourteen votes to three, the Grand Chamber of the Court held that the requirement did not violate the Convention. [ECtHR Press Release] The dissenting judges took issue with the the majority’s characterization of the nature of the State’s obligation (negative versus positive), its reliance on consensus among European States to determine Finland’s margin of appreciation, and the lack of weight given to the applicant’s religious beliefs. Read more
Special Meeting of the AICHR on the Review of the Terms of Reference
Earlier this year, the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) began a series of regional consultations with governments and civil society on the revision of its Terms of Reference (TOR), one of the commission’s principal governing documents. The AICHR, which began operating in 2009, has been criticized as insufficiently committed to human rights accountability and lacking in independence and transparency.
These consultations are part of a required five-year review of the TOR, but also reflect an interest in reconciling opposing views of the AICHR’s role in regional human rights protection. Civil society, in particular, is advocating for the AICHR to adopt the characteristics of its counterparts in Africa, the Americas, and Europe by expanding its mandate to include country visits, inquiries, and a complaints mechanism, and by ensuring adequate independence and staffing support for its members. [Human Rights in ASEAN] In August 2014, the AICHR will recommend changes to its TOR at the 47th Meeting of the ASEAN Foreign Ministers, but the actual adoption of any changes may not occur until 2016. [Myanmar Times] Read more
Grand Chamber hearing in S.A.S. v. France
Earlier this month, the European Court of Human Rights published its Grand Chamber decision in the case of S.A.S. v. France, which challenged the French “burqa ban” on wearing face coverings in public spaces. ECtHR, S.A.S. v. France [GC], no. 43835/11, Judgment of 1 July 2014. The Grand Chamber held that prohibiting the concealment of a person’s face in public did not violate the European Convention on Human Rights (Convention).
This post examines the Grand Chamber’s judgment and reviews how the decision aligns with human rights doctrine concerning restrictions on religious wear. Read more
In a new report, the regional human rights expert on freedom of expression in the Americas identifies principles and standards to guide States in their regulation of online communication. On June 27, 2014, the Office of the Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) released the report, Freedom of Expression and the Internet, specifically addressing the challenges of protecting the right to freedom of expression in a digital world. [IACHR Press Release] Notably, the report draws on the standards and doctrine of the United Nations, African, and European human rights systems, in addition to those of the Inter-American system. The publication is a useful tool for activists, human rights advocates, civil society organizations, judges, regulators, and others who encounter challenges related to the intersections of online communication and fundamental rights.
23rd African Union Summit
In a controversial decision, the African Union has decided to specifically exempt senior government officials from prosecution by a proposed regional human rights court, which will otherwise be authorized to try individuals accused of crimes against humanity and other serious international crimes. At its 23rd Ordinary Session in Malabo, Equatorial Guinea last week, the Assembly of the African Union (AU) adopted an amendment to the Protocol on the Statute of the African Court of Justice and Human Rights to immunize African leaders accused of committing serious human rights violations from criminal prosecution before the proposed African Court of Justice and Human Rights. [African Union] While it is hoped that the amendment will foster greater cooperation and compliance with the future Court, the limitation on its mandate has been the subject of intense criticism by civil society groups. Read more
On Friday, June 20th the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and nations around the world marked World Refugee Day with diverse tributes and activities. In its efforts to raise awareness about the struggles faced by refugees, UNHCR emphasized that the number of displaced persons in 2013 was the highest in the post-World War II era. [UNHCR: World Refugee Day] Read more
European Court of Human Rights Grand Chamber Hearing
The European Court of Human Rights has released six new factsheets summarizing its jurisprudence on the topics of: hunger strikes in detention, migrants in detention, domestic violence, elderly persons, persons with disabilities, and political parties and associations. The factsheets provide valuable insights into the kinds of issues being raised before the Court, direct practitioners to key cases and decisions, and help them identify the articles of the European Convention on Human Rights most implicated by particular types of human rights violations.
The factsheets, organized by subject area and comprising both pending and final decisions, address some of the issues most prominently and frequently brought before the European Court. In addition to those recently released, the Court has published several dozen others factsheets on topics related to children and parents, criminal law, data, discrimination, the European Union, expulsion, health, life, opinions and information, prison, work and business, and aspects of the Court’s jurisdiction. The factsheets are a practical entry point for practitioners to familiarize themselves with important case law, follow the differing lines of reasoning within a debated topic, and understand recent developments and major shifts in the Court’s jurisprudence. Read more
ACHPR 55th Ordinary Session
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights adopted a landmark resolution (Resolution 275) condemning acts of violence, discrimination and other human rights violations against persons on the basis of their sexual orientation and/or gender identity during its 55th Ordinary Session held from April 28 to May 12, 2014 in Luanda, Angola. See ACommHPR, Res. 275: Protection Against Violence and other Human Rights Violations Against Persons on the Basis of their Real or Imputed Sexual Orientation or Gender Identity, 55th Session, 28 April-12 May 2014. Particularly in light of ongoing controversies concerning LGBTI rights in a number of African countries, the adoption of Resolution 275 by the principle human rights body in Africa is an important step towards the equal recognition of the rights for all persons regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Read more