Category Archives: European System

News Clips- June 16, 2017

The United Nations Security Council discusses the situation in Somalia
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Civil Society

  • On Monday, courts in Russia began sentencing anti-corruption demonstrators arrested during protests led by an opposition leader. [Guardian]
  • On Tuesday, the parliament of Hungary approved regulations requiring certain foreign-funded civil society groups to register with the government. [Al Jazeera]

International Criminal Law

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Wednesday, 23 people were detained during an overnight raid in Venezuela for their alleged involvement in attacks against officers. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, 31 people died during a siege of a restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, which was orchestrated by al-Shabab. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Friday, 14 people were killed in clashes over food aid in Somalia. [Washington Post]

Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees

  • On Thursday, an aid organization rescued 420 migrants off the coast of Libya. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, authorities in Niger estimated that in the past week they rescued more than 100 migrants abandoned by traffickers. [Reuters]

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts

Despite Venice Commission Review, Hungary Passes Foreign-Funded NGO Law

Council of Europe
Credit: High Contrast via Wikimedia Commons

On June 2, upon the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) issued a preliminary opinion on Hungary’s draft law regarding foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), concluding that while the law serves the legitimate aim of achieving transparency within civil society, its requirements and penalties are too strict. [Venice Commission Press Release] While the Hungarian government subsequently announced that it planned to submit a revised version of the law, on June 13 Hungary’s parliament passed an amended version that reportedly does not accommodate for all of the Venice Commission’s recommendations. [Washington Post; New York Times] The law, as presented to the Venice Commission, requires organizations receiving at least 7.2 million forints (approximately 24,000 Euros or 26,000 USD) to register as organizations “receiving support from abroad” and provides for the possible dissolution of an organization as a penalty for non-compliance ­– an option the Venice Commission would like to see stricken. The law presented to the Venice Commission also requires civil society organizations to abstain from receiving foreign funding for a period of three years prior to beginning the deregistration process ­– an obligation the Venice Commission finds excessive and believes should be replaced with a one-year period. The Venice Commission also suggested that the rationale behind the exclusion of several types of organizations, including sports and religious establishments, be clarified, among other recommendations. See European Commission for Democracy Through Law, Draft Law on the Transparency of Organisations Receiving Support from Abroad (Hungary), Opinion 889/2017, CDL-PI(2017)002, Preliminary Opinion of 2 June 2017. Reports indicate that the amended law as passed still allows for dissolution of organizations not in compliance but now only requires organizations to refrain from receiving foreign funding for two years before entering the process to deregister, a standard that fails to meet the Venice Commission’s recommendation of one year. [Washington Post; Politico] International experts and bodies as well as civil society members have expressed concern over the law as well, particularly as it appears to reflect a trend in the region to restrict civil society organizations and a trend to, according to the Council of Europe’s (COE) Commissioner of Human Rights, backslide on the right to freedom of association. [COE Press Release; HRW; IndependentRead more

News Clips- June 9, 2017

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Cherry X via Wikimedia Commons

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts

Politics

  • After the United States President announced last week that the State will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states in the country announced that they will still comply with the Paris Agreement. [Guardian; Voice of America]
  • This week, the opposition party in Lesotho won a majority of parliamentary seats during a snap election. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced that opposition parties in the State should not attempt to challenge recent local elections or they could be dissolved. [Washington Post]
  • The United States warned again this week that it may pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the UN body reconsiders how States, particularly those with negative human rights records, become members of the Council. [Washington Post]

Civil Society

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of five protesters in Bahrain. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • After five farmers died at a rally in India, protesters demonstrated on Wednesday, prompting the deployment of troops on Thursday. [Washington Post; ABC News]
  • Detainees in Venezuela, including protesters detained for demonstrating, claim they are being beaten and tortured while in custody. [Miami Herald]

Council of Europe Body to Monitor Turkey on Human Rights, Rule of Law

The Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly
Credit: Council of Europe

Due to “serious concerns” about Turkey’s compliance with its human rights obligations and the erosion of democratic institutions and functions, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) decided in a resolution issued last week to reinstate Turkey into its monitoring procedure, a process by which PACE ensures Council of Europe Member States are in compliance with their human rights obligations. [COE Press Release; Guardian: Pressure] While under monitoring, human rights officials will repeatedly visit the country and a progress report will be presented to PACE in 2018. [Guardian: Pressure] See Parliamentary Assembly, Resolution 2156, The functioning of democratic institutions in Turkey, 25 April 2017, para. 39. The resolution expresses PACE’s concerns about the Turkish government’s respect for “human rights, democracy and the rule of law,” particularly the actions taken under the ongoing state of emergency in the country, which PACE states has gone beyond “what is necessary and proportionate,” and the more recent steps towards consolidation of executive power through a constitutional amendment. [New York Times; COE Press Release; Guardian: Coup] The Assembly calls upon the State to lift its state of emergency, discontinue the improper use of emergency decree laws, release those who have been detained, and restore freedom of expression, among other requests. [COE Press Release] Previously, Turkey’s first monitoring procedure was closed in 2004 when the Assembly was satisfied that the State was meeting its obligations. See Parliamentary Assembly, The Monitoring Procedure of the Parliamentary Assembly. Turkey is obligated to guarantee the rights to life, liberty, and freedom of expression as a State party to the European Convention on Human Rights and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Read more

News Clips- April 28, 2017

The Foreign Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden at a United Nations event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Civil Society

  • On Thursday, Palestinians organized a strike, which closed down schools, institutions, and transportation, to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Thursday, 30 people in Turkey were detained and charged with membership in an armed terror organization as a result of their ties to a newspaper that was run by a woman accused of leading a coup attempt in the country. [Washington Post]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Tuesday, the United Nations and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland held a one-day conference in Geneva, Switzerland focused on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. [UN News Centre]
  • On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that detention conditions in Romanian prisons violated the right to the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. [Council of Europe]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • On Monday, a migrant boat traveling between Greece and Turkey sunk, killing 16 people. [Washington Post]
  • According to European Union (EU) officials, 23,000 unaccompanied children in Greek and Italian refugee camps are at risk of child abuse, rape, and smuggling. [Guardian]
  • This week, 25,000 people were displaced due to a violent offensive in the Kodok region of South Sudan. [Washington Post]

International Criminal Law

  • On Thursday, an appeals court in Senegal upheld former Chad dictator Hissene Habre’s life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed the warrant of arrest for alleged war criminal Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled for crimes committed in Libya in 2011. [ICC Press Release]

Politics

  • On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Maduro announced Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS) amid ongoing violent protests in the country. [BBC News]
  • On Monday, Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee approved a law that prohibits discrimination against, and expands protections for, individuals with HIV and AIDS. [Jurist]

Requiring Operation to Correct Sex on Birth Certificate Violates Rights

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

News Clips – April 14, 2017

Russia blocks the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • This week, Thai authorities warned that the online dissemination of information from two academics and a journalist critical of the government could violate Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. [Guardian]
  • On Wednesday, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced a human rights lawyer to ten years in prison for using Facebook to “harm national unity.” [Washington Post]
  • Last week, a TV reporter in Uganda was kidnapped, threatened, and beaten in relation to her coverage of the president of Uganda’s family. [Reporters Without Borders]
  • Last week, law enforcement officials opened fire on protesters, killing six, as thousands demonstrated at polling stations near Srinagar, India. [Guardian]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russian officials failed to act sufficiently in response to an impending terrorist attack in 2004, which resulted in more than 330 deaths. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, Russia vetoed the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for an investigation. [UN News Centre]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • Four days of violence in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon resulted in six dead and 35 injured. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Sunday, Egypt declared a state of emergency in response to two attacks, claimed by ISIS, targeting Egypt’s Christian minority; the attacks caused at least 44 deaths and 100 injuries. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, a large-scale fire broke out across the Dunkirk camp in France leaving 900 refugees and migrants displaced. [Guardian]

European Union

  • On Wednesday, the European Union warned it will take legal action if Poland and Hungary do not receive asylum seekers according to the region’s migration scheme. [Reuters]
  • This week, the European Union extended sanctions, initially applied in 2011, against Iran as a result of alleged human rights violations in the country. [Washington Post]

Trafficking in Persons

ECtHR: Refusing Man with Intellectual Disability Choice of Residence Justified

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

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