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
The ECtHR Grand Chamber hears Jaloud v. the Netherlands
On November 20, 2014, the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in the case of Jaloud v. the Netherlands, concerning the shooting death of an Iraqi national, Azhar Sabah Jaloud, at a military checkpoint overseen by Dutch troops serving as part of the Stabilisation Force in Iraq (SFIR) in April 2004. [ECtHR] The case is significant because it expands on the Court’s previous jurisprudence concerning the application of extraterritorial jurisdiction in armed conflict situations.
In his application to the Court, the applicant, Jaloud’s father, alleged that the Netherlands had violated the procedural aspects of Article 2 (right to life) of the European Convention on Human Rights by failing to carry out an adequate investigation into the circumstances of his son’s death. [ECtHR] Holding that a State has jurisdiction over the acts of its military service personnel operating abroad under the State’s “exclusive direction or control,” the Court determined that the Netherlands’ exercise of “authority and control over persons passing through the checkpoint” indicated that it had jurisdiction over the shooting death of Jaloud within the meaning of Article 1 (obligation to respect human rights) of the European Convention. ECtHR, Jaloud v. the Netherlands [GC], no. 47708/08, Judgment of 20 November 2014, paras. 151-53.
As such, the Netherlands was under an obligation to conduct an effective investigation into Jaloud’s death. The Court found the Dutch investigation to be inadequate because it failed to preserve certain evidence, to ensure a suitable autopsy, to prevent potential suspects from colluding with key witnesses, and to provide critical reports to the reviewing court. Thus, the Court found that the Netherlands breached the procedural obligations of Article 2 of the European Convention. Id. at paras. 227-28. Read more
The IACHR, Mexico, and families’ representatives sign the agreement.
In response to the disappearance of 43 student protesters in the Mexican state of Guerrero, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has signed a tripartite agreement with the government of Mexico and a group of nongovernmental organizations representing the student victims and their families to provide technical assistance with the search for the students, the investigation and subsequent actions regarding their disappearance, and support for the families of the victims. [IACHR: Official Agreement] The students have been missing since September 26 after a shooting incident with police that left six people dead and 17 injured. Although the students are believed to be dead, their whereabouts are yet to be discovered, fueling complaints of gang-related violence, impunity, and State corruption in the country. [Al Jazeera: Protests rage]
IACHR Chair, Tracy Robinson, stated:
For the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights this historic agreement is of fundamental importance in the sense that it represents a key opportunity to advance in solving a structural issue that Mexico has been experi[enc]ing for years: forced disappearances … The main objective is to solve the underlying structural problems to these disappearances, not only the cases involving the 43 students from Ayotzinapa, but other cases, which unfortunately are many.
[IACHR: Official Agreement] Read more
Credit: African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights
From November 24 to December 5, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights will hold its 35th Ordinary Session. The session will feature two public hearings in the cases of African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights v. Kenya, concerning indigenous rights, and Thomas v. Tanzania, regarding the right to fair trial and due process. The first case will be heard on November 27 and 28, and the second will be heard on December 4 and 5. [AfCHPR Press Release]
The session will be held at the African Union’s headquarters in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The public is welcome to attend the hearings, which will take place at the Nelson Mandela Conference Hall. Each person wishing to attend must send his or her name to one of the following individuals before November 24: Mrs. Eliane Adote Berthe at Eliane.Egue@african-court.org, Mrs. Ingrid Kanyamuneza at Ingrid.Kanyamuenza@african-court.org, or Mrs. Netsanet Haile at firstname.lastname@example.org. [AfCHPR Press Release] Video of the hearings may be available on the African Court’s Livestream channel. Read more
On October 30, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released its report, Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure, elucidating the history, mechanics, and emblematic results of the friendly settlement mechanism, which allows petitioners and States to resolve disputes concerning human rights violations without obtaining a decision or judgment from an Inter-American human rights body. See IACHR, Impact of the Friendly Settlement Procedure (2013).
The Commission prepared this report after studying 106 friendly settlement reports approved between 1985 and 2012; establishing a working group on human rights and alternative dispute resolution; and issuing a special questionnaire requesting feedback from States, civil society organizations, and experts on alternative dispute resolution. See id. at paras. 11–15. The report is intended to strengthen the friendly settlement mechanism by increasing understanding of how the mechanism works and serving as a guide for how to use the procedure effectively. See id. The first section of the report discusses the evolution of the procedure, and the second section covers the impacts of friendly settlement agreements’ implementation. [IACHR Press Release] Read more
November 2, 2014 marked the first International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists, established by the United Nations General Assembly to draw attention to “attacks and violence against journalists,” which it unequivocally condemned. See UN General Assembly, Resolution 68/163, The safety of journalists and the issue of impunity, UN Doc. A/RES/68/163, 18 December 2013, para. 2. The General Assembly also called on States to “do their utmost to prevent violence against journalists” and urged governments to “ensure accountability” by investigating and punishing those responsible for such violence. See UN General Assembly, Resolution 68/163, paras. 5, 6.
The date of November 2nd was selected for this new International Day in remembrance of two French journalists killed in Mali in 2013. See UNESCO, International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists.
Several events were held on November 3 and 4 in honor of the International Day to End Impunity for Crimes against Journalists. On November 3, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO ) held a high-level panel discussion on “Ending Impunity: Upholding the Rule of Law.” On November 4, the third UN Inter-agency Meeting on the Safety of Journalists and the Issue of Impunity convened in Strasbourg, France. Read more
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights hears the Gudiel Ramos case.
Last week, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights handed down its judgment in Case of Human Rights Defender et al. v. Guatemala, concerning the State’s failure to adequately investigate and address the 2004 killing of human rights defender Florentín Gudiel Ramos. See I/A Court H.R., Case of Human Rights Defender et al. v. Guatemala. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of August 28, 2014. Series C No. 283, para. 288 (Spanish only).
The Court held Guatemala internationally responsible for violations of the rights to: humane treatment, freedom of movement and residence, participate in government (as applied to Mr. Gudiel’s daughter), judicial protection, judicial guarantees, and the rights of the child (with regard to the children in the family), as set forth in the American Convention on Human Rights. See id. at para. 288. The Court held, by three votes to two, that the petitioners did not sufficiently establish violations of Mr. Gudiel’s right to life or right to participate in government. See id. at paras. 144, 149, 189. Human rights defenders in Guatemala continue to face threats and violence, in a prevailing climate of impunity. See generally, Front Line Defenders, Guatemala. Read more