The European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons
The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held last week that the United Kingdom did not violate the rights to access to counsel and to a fair trial when, without an attorney present, authorities questioned three men suspected of involvement in the July 21, 2005 London bombing attempt; the State did violate those rights, the ECtHR held, when questioning a fourth man who was initially brought in as a witness and was later convicted of assisting one of the bombers after the fact. See ECtHR, Ibrahim and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC], nos. 50541/08, 50571/08, 50573/08 and 40351/09, ECHR 2016, Judgment of 13 September 2016, para. 86. The decision partially reverses a Chamber decision of December 2014, which found no violations in any of the interviews or trials.
Within days of the attempted bombings, all four applicants were questioned by police. See id. at para. 17. The first three were arrested and questioned without an opportunity to consult a lawyer so the police could more readily elicit any relevant information regarding future attacks, a practice known as “safety interviews.” See id. at para. 64. The fourth applicant was interviewed as a witness and not in a safety interview, but became a suspect in the course of that interview. See id. at paras. 140, 300. The Grand Chamber held that there were not the same compelling reasons to delay his exercise of his rights and his witness statement should not have been used against him at trial. See id. at paras. 300, 310, 311. This is the first case before the ECtHR to address the right to legal assistance in the context of a safety interview, a technique allowed in the United Kingdom under its domestic terrorism legislation. Read more
The Palais des Nations
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
During the month of September 2016, several supranational bodies will review States’ implementation of their treaty obligations, regional judicial bodies will conduct hearings, and four UN special procedures mechanisms will conduct country visits.
Four United Nations treaty bodies will hold interactive dialogues with more than 20 States regarding their implementation of treaty obligations related to economic, social, and cultural rights and to the rights of persons with disabilities, children, and migrants and their families. The UN Human Rights Council and two working groups under it will conduct sessions as well. The UN General Assembly will host the UN Summit for Refugees and Migrants. In addition, UN independent experts will visit Israel and Palestine, Kuwait, Azerbaijan, and Mexico to assess the country situations with regard to violence against women, human trafficking, the intersection of human rights and business enterprises, and human rights defenders, respectively.
The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold a session on State compliance with employment related rights. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear a case on freedom of expression and the right to a fair trial, and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will complete its consideration of cases against Ecuador, Guatemala, and Colombia during its 55th Special Session. The African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will hold its third ordinary session of the year.
The treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
The 2015 ASEAN-United Nations Summit
Credit: UN Photo/Mark Garten
The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights (AICHR) published on August 1, 2016 its annual report on activities and progress for the period of July 2015 to July 2016, marking the first time an AICHR annual report was made public on its website. [AICHR Press Release] The AICHR, a regional human rights body founded in 2009 under the auspices of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN), is required under its Terms of Reference to write annual reports on its activities in promoting and protecting human rights in the region. The AICHR’s most recent report discusses the goals and vision for the AICHR’s future work in the areas of internal and external collaboration, the effectiveness of its activities, and the development of a framework for thematic studies, reflecting its stated goals in its recently adopted Five-Year Plan (2016-2020). The past year’s activities, which largely reflect the former Five-Year Plan (2010-2015), included internal meetings with other ASEAN bodies and an external dialogue with the European Union, implementation and dissemination of both the 2012 ASEAN Declaration on Human Rights (ADHR) and the accompanying Phnom Penh Statement on the Adoption of the AHRD, and the conferral of consultative status on 11 civil society organizations (CSOs). See AICHR, The ASEAN Intergovernmental Commission on Human Rights Annual Report 2016 (2016). Civil society is encouraged that the publication of this report marks a movement towards enhanced transparency, but the report has met criticism for not including recommendations on the AICHR’s growth and that it still reflects a low level of transparency around the Intergovernmental Commission’s work. [The Star] The AICHR first proposed publishing its annual reports online in its 2015 annual report, available elsewhere online. Read more