The Inter-American Court in session.
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) convened its 107th regular session from January 26 to February 6, 2015 in San Jose, Costa Rica. The Court held hearings concerning five pending cases, provisional measures regarding Venezuelan prisons, and States’ compliance with four previous judgments. [IACtHR Press Release (Spanish)]
Public hearings were held on the following pending cases: Rural Community of Santa Barbara v. Peru, Galindo Cárdenas v. Peru, López Lone et al. v. Honduras, Kaliña and Lokono Peoples v. Suriname, and García Ibarra and Family v. Ecuador. These cases involve allegations of forced disappearance and arbitrary detention during Peru’s internal armed conflict, administrative punishment of judges who questioned the legality of the coup d’état in Honduras, indigenous land rights in Suriname, and the killing of an unarmed teenager by police in Ecuador, respectively. Read more
European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Council of Europe
On January 27, 2015, the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in Paradiso and Campanelli v. Italy, reaffirming the State obligation to prioritize the best interest of the child when determining guardianship arrangements. See ECtHR, Paradiso and Campanelli v. Italy, no. 25358/12, Judgment of 27 January 2015 (French only). The Court held that the State had violated Article 8 (respect for private and family life) of the European Convention on Human Rights, reasoning that the State had not duly considered the nine-month-old child’s best interest when it placed him in a children’s home. The European Court stated that the removal of a child from his or her family setting is an “extreme measure” that would only be justified if the child were in immediate danger, and that public policy considerations did not adequately justify removal. The Court ordered the State to pay the applicants 20,000 euros for non-pecuniary damages and 10,000 euros for costs and expenses. [ECtHR Press Release] Read more
The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
For the first time in its eight-year tenure, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Court) has directly considered the right to freedom of expression, and the validity of legislation that criminalizes defamation. The case, Lohé Issa Konaté v. Burkina Faso, involved a journalist’s conviction, imprisonment, and substantial fine in connection with his reporting. [AfCHPR Press Release] In its decision, the African Court unanimously found that Burkina Faso violated Article 9 (freedom of expression) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter), Article 19 (freedom of expression) of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), and Article 66(2) (the press) of the Revised Treaty of the Economic Community of West African States (Revised ECOWAS Treaty) by imposing a sentence that was disproportionate to the purpose of the State’s national laws. AfCHPR, Lohé Issa Konaté v. Burkina Faso, App. No. 004/2013, Judgment of 5 December 2014. Read more
IACHR visit to Canada in 2013.
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
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
Court of Justice of the European Union
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
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
African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights during its 54th Session
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
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights hears the case of Zulema Tarazona Arrieta and Others v. Peru on May 22, 2014.
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