Category Archives: regional human rights protection

ECSR: Ireland’s Inadequate Traveller Accommodations Violate European Social Charter

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ECSR2

The European Committee of Social Rights
Credit: Council of Europe

In a case concerning the right of Traveller families to adequate housing and caravan sites, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) held that Ireland violated their right to social, legal, and economic protection under Article 16 of the Revised European Social Charter because of the de facto insufficiency of accommodations for Travellers, inadequate conditions in the existing Traveller accommodations, and the legislative framework and practice of evictions. See ECSR, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Ireland, Complaint No. 100/2013, Merits, 1 December 2015. In its decision, published earlier this month, the ECSR declined to find Ireland in violation of Article E’s non-discrimination provisions or to find a violation of Article 30, which protects the right to protection against poverty and social exclusion, noting that the Irish government has made substantial progress in the past few years and demonstrated an effort to accommodate the Traveller community. Id. at paras. 71 and 191.

The decision reinforces an earlier ruling from the ECSR on Roma communities in Greece, in which it found the same violations under Article 16. See ECSR, European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Greece, Complaint No. 15/2003, Merits, 8 December 2004. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has also held in past cases that evictions of and insufficient accommodations for Roma communities violate the right to family life. See ECtHR, Connors v. United Kingdom, no. 66746/01, ECHR 2004, Judgment of 27 May 2004. ECtHR, Winterstein and Others v. France, no. 27013/07, Judgment of 17 October 2013.

According to census data, at least 30,000 Traveller families live in Ireland. See European Roma Rights Centre (ERRC) v. Ireland, 1 December 2015, para. 30. Irish media have recently reported on homelessness and evictions of Travellers in the country, where one-fifth of Travellers do not have access to appropriate accommodation. Read more

Inter-American Commission Refers Colombian “False Positives” Killings to Court

Date: March 26, 2012
Place: Washington, DC
Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS
Date: March 26, 2012 Place: Washington, DC Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

The Inter-American Commission holds a hearing in the case Wilfredo Quiñonez Bárcenas et al.
Credit: Juan Manuel Herrera/OAS

On April 14, 2016, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted an application to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), referring several cases that involve the extrajudicial killings by Colombian security agents. [IACHR Press Release] The victims were killed between 1992 and 1997 and were six of several thousand “falsos positivos,” a term used to refer to ordinary civilians detained and killed by Colombian soldiers who then falsely reported that the deceased were unlawful guerillas killed in military operations. [IACHR Press Release] In its merits reports, the Commission established that these six deaths fit this pattern and had been inadequately investigated, in violation of the rights to honor and dignity, personal integrity, and liberty. [IACHR Press Release]

The Commission referred the joined cases to the Court after Colombia failed to comply with the recommendations in its merits report, which included determining responsibility for the killings, moving the investigations out of the military justice system, and implementing guarantees of non-repetition. [IACHR Press Release] In the ongoing negotiations between the government and FARC rebels, accountability for the “false positives” remains controversial. [HRW] Read more

East African Court: Community Must Investigate Tanzania’s Expulsion of Migrants

EACJ appellate judges in 2014 (Credit EACJ)
EACJ appellate judges in 2014 (Credit EACJ)

EACJ appellate judges
Credit: EACJ

The East African Court of Justice (EACJ) recently held that the East African Community (EAC) breached its duties to effectively investigate and redress possible violations of the principles in the EAC Treaty that arose from the allegedly illegal expulsion of Rwandan and Burundian immigrants from Tanzania in 2013. See East African Court of Justice, East African Law Society v. Secretary General of the EAC, Ref. No. 7 of 2014, Judgment of 22 March 2016, para. 75. The claim was brought to the EACJ by the East Africa Law Society, which alleged that the EAC had failed to take remedial actions to ensure that expulsions conformed to regional legal standards and principles. Id. at paras. 6, 7. The EAC argued that it had fulfilled its duties and the States involved are responsible for remedying the situation, which they failed to do. Id. at para. 53.

The judgment highlights the EAC Secretary General’s duty to both investigate possible violations of the EAC Treaty and to subsequently submit the findings of that investigation to the EAC Council of Ministers, the governing organ of the EAC. See id. at paras. 61, 66, 67, 75. The EACJ found that because the expulsion of citizens of one EAC State by another Member State posed a potential threat to principles enshrined in the EAC Treaty, the EAC Secretary General had an obligation under articles 29, 71(1)(d), and 71(1)(l) of the EAC Treaty to vigilantly investigate the situation, notify the Member State involved of its breach of the EAC Treaty, and take subsequent action following the investigation. See id. at paras. 60-62, 75(a). The decision elaborates on the 2007 EACJ ruling in Katabazi and 21 Others v. EAC and Uganda, in which the Court found that Article 29, which requires notification of a violation of the EAC Treaty to the Member State involved, implies that the Secretary General may investigate a possible violation. See East African Court of Justice, James Katabazi and 21 Others v. Secretary General of the EAC and the Attorney General of Uganda, Ref. No 1 of 2007, Judgment of 1 November 2007, paras. 24-26. Read more

ECtHR: Failure to Provide Psychiatric Treatment Rendered Life Sentence Irreducible

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Courtroom_European_Court_of_Human_Rights_02

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk

On April 26, 2016, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that a life sentence was de facto irreducible because the applicant was denied medical treatment that could have positively affected his pardon requests and, consequently, held that the Netherlands violated the prohibition of torture and cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment under Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR), See ECtHR, Murray v. the Netherlands [GC], no. 10511/10 ECHR 2016, Judgment of 26 April 2016, para. 127. The applicant was convicted of murder and sentenced to life imprisonment in 1979. Id. at para. 15. The judgment of the domestic court of first instance included a psychiatrist report which stated that, while he was criminally liable for the act, he suffered from a “pathological disturbance” and advised that he undergo treatment to avoid relapsing and committing further crimes. Id. at para. 12. Before the European Court, he argued that because he never received such treatment, the life sentence was irreducible and he was denied any hope of release. Id. at para. 87. In its 2013 judgment, a chamber of the ECtHR found no violation of Article 3 because the applicant’s case had been reviewed, providing a prospect of release, and the State may refuse to pardon a prisoner where that person poses a danger to society. See ECtHR, Murray v. the Netherlands, no. 10511/10, Judgment of 10 December 2013, at paras. 54-59.

The Court’s decision expands on the precedent of Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom, in which it held that whole-life sentences without possibility of review violate Article 3, to consider the duty to provide an opportunity for rehabilitation in the context of a prisoner in need of treatment for mental health problems. See ECtHR, Vinter and Others v. the United Kingdom [GC] nos. 66069/09, 130/10 and 3896/10, Judgment of 9 July 2013. The decision in Vinter, among others, has given rise to tensions in the United Kingdom, with some politicians calling for measures to limit the ECtHR’s authority in the country’s legal system. [BBC] Read more

Inter-American Court: Colombian Same-Sex Partners Entitled to Equal Social Benefits

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25150862565_ecf6f6f99d_o (1)

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in session
Credit: Inter-American Court of Human Rights

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights has condemned Columbia’s failure to provide a gay man with equal access to public benefits following the death of his partner, as prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation. See I/A Court H.R., Duque v. Colombia. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 26 February 2016. Series C No. 310 (Spanish only). This case involved a petitioner, Ángel Alberto Duque, who alleged that he was denied the right to a survivor’s pension due to his sexual orientation. [IACHR Press Release] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted the case to the Court’s jurisdiction on October 14, 2014 after Colombia failed to comply with its merits report recommendations. [IACHR Press Release] The Court held that Colombia had violated the petitioner’s right to equality and non-discrimination as provided for in the American Convention on Human Rights (American Convention). See Duque v. Colombia. Judgment of 26 February 2016. para. 62. Duque’s case is the first time the Court has ruled on the issues of discrimination and access to social rights as they pertain to same-sex couples. [IACHR Press Release] Read more

African Commission Adopts Draft Protocol on Persons with Disabilities’ Rights

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24782070629_c8c6f74151_o

The 19th Extraordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Credit: ACHPR

The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) has adopted a draft protocol on the rights of persons with disabilities, intended to complement the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and address continued exclusion, harmful practices, and discrimination affecting those with disabilities, especially women, children, and the elderly. The protocol, adopted during the ACHPR’s 19th Extraordinary Session, is the culmination of the African Union’s focus on the rights of persons with disabilities, which began in 1999 with the declaration of the African decade for persons with disabilities and the creation of a Working Group tasked with drafting this new instrument. The protocol guarantees equal protection of economic, social, cultural, civil, and political rights to individuals with “physical, mental, intellectual, developmental or sensory impairments” and will require States parties to implement affirmative actions to advance their equality. See Draft Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in Africa (adopted 25 February 2016), art. 1(g).

The intent in drafting the protocol was to lay out the rights of persons with disabilities in an continental context, drawing from the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities but also addressing additional issues specific to Africa. The draft protocol, accordingly, addresses issues faced by persons with disabilities in Africa, such as increased rates of poverty; systemic discrimination; and risk of violence and abuse, particularly for those with albinism and women and girls with disabilities. Id. at preamble. The protocol also seeks to provide a foundation from which Member States can formulate or adjust legislation impacting persons with disabilities. Id. The ACHPR has in the past found State law on persons with disabilities incompatible with international norms. See ACommHPR, Purohit and Moore v. Gambia, Communication No. 241/01, 33rd Ordinary Session, 29 May 2003. Read more

ECtHR: No Violation in Police Killing of London Bombing Suspect

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Courtroom_European_Court_of_Human_Rights_03

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Adrian Grycuk via Wikimedia Commons

On March 30, 2016 the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the United Kingdom had fulfilled its procedural obligations under Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) to conduct an effective investigation into the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes by government agents, who wrongly suspected him of terrorist activity. See ECtHR, Armani Da Silva v. the United Kingdom [GC], no. 5878/08, ECHR 2016, Judgment of 30 March 2016, paras. 16, 29-37, 286. The police officers were investigating the July 2005 suicide bombings in the London Underground when they mistook de Menezes for a known suspect because he used a doorway that also led to the apartment building where the suspect lived. Id. at paras. 29-30. None of the officers involved were prosecuted for the killing.

The procedural obligation under Article 2, which the Court held that the United Kingdom had met, requires an effective investigation that is sufficient to determine the factual circumstances around the incident, including whether the use of force was justified under those circumstances, and subsequent punishment of the agents responsible when appropriate. Id. at para. 286. The Court held, setting a precedent for future cases involving State authorities’ use of lethal force, that simply because it was State authorities that used lethal force does not require prosecution of those individuals if the evidence suggests that a conviction is unlikely. Id. at para. 272-73. Read more

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