The President of Tunisia speaks at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Tunisia formally agreed last week to allow individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to directly access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) with complaints of human rights violations against Tunisia. Tunisia joins seven other countries that also currently grant the Court the same jurisdiction. [AfCHPR Press Release] The government of Tunisia hosted a delegation of the AfCHPR in the capital city of Tunis on April 13 at which time Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi praised the Court’s work in protecting human rights. [AfCHPR Press Release] AfCHPR President Justice Sylvain Oré commended Tunisia’s decision and encouraged other African countries to follow suit. [AfCHPR Press Release] Tunisia’s acceptance of this jurisdiction comes one month after Rwanda officially withdrew from it. [AfCHPR Press Release] Additionally, in the years following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, some human rights experts have praised its commitment to human rights and others condemned its rights abuses, particularly those linked to its extended state of emergency, such as the use of torture and restrictions to freedom of movement. [Amnesty International; OHCHR Press Release: Zeid; OHCHR Press Release: Terrorism]
European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons
On April 6, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that France’s requirement that two transgender applicants first undergo an irreversible identity change through an operation or sterilizing treatment in order to correct their “sex” designation on their birth certificates violated Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR determined that such a requirement impermissibly conditioned the recognition of the right to respect for private life on forgoing the right to respect for one’s physical integrity. See ECtHR, AP., Garçon and Nicot v. France, Nos. 79885/12, 5247/13, 52596/13, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 6 April 2017, para. 131 (French version). The ECtHR found no violation of Article 8, however, where French law required an applicant to prove that they suffered from gender identity disorder before the State would grant a change to their birth certificate under the category of “sex.” See id. at para. 139. Similarly, the ECtHR held there was no violation of Article 8 where an applicant was ordered by a French court to undergo a medical examination to confirm the applicant’s sex reassignment surgery. See id. at para. 150-152.
The Court did note the expansion of transgender rights at the national and international levels, including in France where since the applicants submitted their claims, the law has changed so that corrections to official sex designations are no longer conditioned upon irreversible medical procedures or sterilization treatments, but rather require publicly presenting oneself as the claimed sex; being recognized by family, friends, and colleagues as their claimed sex; and evidence that their name has been changed to correspond with their claimed sex. The Council of Europe has called for an end to the practice of conditioning the recognition of an individual’s chosen gender identity in official documents on medical procedures and treatment. See id. at paras. 68-69, 75-77. Read more
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton
Recently, Venezuela’s Supreme Court made strides towards consolidating authority by claiming legislative power, prompting Venezuelans to protest and regional and universal stakeholders to condemn the actions of the Venezuelan government and offer their visions for response efforts. The Chief Justice later announced that the Supreme Court’s initial March 29, 2017 decision does not strip the legislature – which is seen as the last branch of government independent from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s power – of its powers, but the Supreme Court still claims authority to exercise legislative power because, it claims, the legislature is unable to effectively do so at this time. [New York Times] The recent events add to the existing social unrest due to an ongoing economic crisis in the country, which has led to insufficient supplies of food and medicine and the violent suppression of protests. [IJRC; New York Times; Huffington Post; Amnesty International] The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, criticized the Supreme Court’s recent decision, calling separation of powers “essential” to the proper functioning of a democracy. [OHCHR Press Release] The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, denounced the Venezuelan government’s attempted coup, and the OAS adopted a resolution calling for Venezuela to restore democracy. [OAS Press Release: Coup; OAS Press Release: Repression; VOA News] Additionally, addressing the fallout of recent events and the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) encouraged States in the region to implement measures to assist Venezuelan migrants, as many attempt to flee. [IACHR Press Release] As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Venezuela is obligated to uphold and protect the human rights to life, freedom of peaceful assembly, due process, and participation in public affairs, among others. Read more
María Soledad Cisternas Reyes, the former Chairperson of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities, speaks at a press conference
Credit: UN Photo/Loey Felipe
On March 23, 2017, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that Finland did not violate the rights of a Finnish national with an intellectual disability, A.-M.V., when the domestic court refused to replace his mentor who would not allow him to move to his choice of residence. A.-M.V. desired to live in a village far from his hometown because his foster family had moved there, but his mentor denied his wishes, finding it best that he remain where his biological family resides. Before the ECtHR, he alleged violations of Article 8 (the right to respect for private and family) of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) and Article 2 of Protocol No. 4 to the European Convention (the right to freedom of movement). See ECtHR, A.-M.V. v. Finland, no. 53251/13, Judgment of 23 March 2017. The Court found that there had been an interference to A.-M.V.’s right to respect for private and family life, but that given the facts of this case, the interference was justified as it balanced A.-M.V.’s will and preferences with “the need to protect his interests.” See id. at paras. 91-94.
The ECtHR took into account Article 12 of the United Nations International Covenant on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (ICRPD), noting that the UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD) – the treaty body that monitors compliance with the ICRPD and interprets its provisions – requires States to replace substitute decision-making models, often found in guardianship laws, with a supported decision-making model. The latter, according to the Committee, takes into account the person’s will and preferences while the former does not. See id. at paras. 42-45. The Court also acknowledged a third party submission elaborating on supported decision-making models, which, the third party explained, guards against overriding the preferences of the person with a disability. See id. at paras. 66-68. Read more
Lisa Reinsberg of the International Justice Resource Center speaks before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights.
On March 21st, the International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) was among the civil society organizations that appeared before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) in Washington, D.C. to address the “travel ban” and two other United States executive orders in a hearing held at the IACHR’s own initiative. In a remarkable departure from recent administrations’ engagement with the region’s human rights monitoring body, the U.S. failed to participate in the hearing.
Last month, in a joint letter submitted by IJRC and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), several dozen organizations urged the IACHR to examine alleged human rights violations resulting from U.S. President Trump’s executive order restricting the travel of individuals from seven Muslim-majority countries and the resettlement of refugees. The IACHR called for an expanded hearing to also include two other executive orders, one concerning the construction of a wall along the U.S. border with Mexico and for increased immigration detention and enforcement, and another that expedites environmental assessments of infrastructure projects such as oil pipelines.
The organizations presented specific requests that the IACHR could pursue to monitor the human rights situation, including conducting on-site visits to relevant areas, issuing press releases, and following up on the implementation of its prior recommendations to the United States, among others.
The webcast of the hearing is available on the Commission’s YouTube channel and on IJRC’s website, which also has additional information on the hearing, including civil society submissions to the IACHR. Read more