Category Archives: Inter-American System

Human Rights Bodies Address Homophobia, Gun Violence after Orlando Attack

The_Stonewall_Inn_Vigil_(27558753192)
The_Stonewall_Inn_Vigil_(27558753192)

Vigil for Orlando victims outside Stonewall Inn in New York City
Credit: Elisa S

The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), UN Security Council, and Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) have urged States to address homophobia, gun violence, and terrorism in the wake of the recent nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida. [OHCHR Press Release; UN Press Release; IACHR Press Release] Early Sunday morning on June 12, 2016 Omar Mateen entered Pulse, a gay nightclub in Orlando, and began shooting at the estimated 200 club-goers present for the “Hispanic party” hosted by the club that night. [CNN; IACHR Press Release] Mateen, who claimed allegiance to ISIS during the rampage, killed 49 people and wounded 53 more before being killed by police. [CNN] The Inter-American Commission and the OHCHR made recommendations to the United States to put in place measures to ensure non-discrimination and the elimination of violent attacks against lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, and intersex (LGBTI) persons and called for more robust gun regulation in response to the shooter’s use of quick-reload weapons that he purchased legally. [USA Today; OHCHR Press Release; IACHR Press Release]

The recommendations were made in view of human rights bodies’ determination that sexual orientation and gender identity are included in non-discrimination provisions of human rights treaties, and the OHCHR’s recent conclusion that without adequate regulation, civilian gun use has a negative impact on the realization of many human rights. See Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, General Comment No. 20, Non-Discrimination in Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, UN Doc. E/C.12/GC/20, 10 June 2009, para. 32; UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Human rights and the regulation of civil acquisition, possession and use of firearms, UN Doc. A/HRC/32/21, 15 April 2016. In related news, the European Court of Human Rights has again concluded that its Member States are not required to ensure marriage equality, or equal access to partner benefits, for same-sex couples. Read more

Argentine Court Convicts Former Dictator for Conspiracy in Operation Condor

Néstor_Kirchner-Retiro_Retrato_Bignone-Buenos_Aires-Marzo_2004
Néstor_Kirchner-Retiro_Retrato_Bignone-Buenos_Aires-Marzo_2004

Former President Néstor Kirchner watches the retirement of Bignone’s portrait at Colegio Militar de la Nación
Credit: Presidency of Argentina

An Argentine court has convicted and sentenced former dictator Reynaldo Bignone and 14 other former Argentine military officers of crimes against humanity for their roles in Operation Condor, a transnational conspiracy behind the kidnapping, torture, killing, and forced disappearance of hundreds of political dissidents during the 1970s and 1980s. [NYT; CIJ] Bignone was convicted of participating in an illicit association, kidnapping, and the forced disappearance of over 100 people. [Telegraph: Operation Condor] The ruling is the first time a court in the region has publicly determined that dictators in Argentina, Bolivia, Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and Paraguay collaborated in the cross-border conspiracy to eliminate leftist dissidents, some of whom had previously evaded their reach by fleeing to neighboring countries. [NYT] Additionally, the case is a rare example of a domestic court’s prosecution of a former head of state for transnational crimes, and is also noteworthy because the defendants were convicted on the basis of their participation in the international conspiracy rather than on individual criminal charges. [NPR] Read more

Inter-American Rights Body Suspends Hearings, Cuts Staff amid Financial Crisis

CIDH en crisis photo
CIDH en crisis photo

Credit: Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Citing a severe financial crisis, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced on May 23, 2016 that it is suspending regular sessions and scheduled country visits effective immediately, and is set to lose 40 percent of its personnel when their contracts expire in July. In announcing the imminent cuts, the IACHR stated that the current budget shortfall highlights an ongoing lack of adequate funding for the regional human rights body by the Member States of the Organization of American States (OAS), undermining its ability to monitor, protect, and promote human rights in the hemisphere. In recent days, civil society and United Nations experts have joined the Commission in urging States and potential donors to address the immediate crisis and calling upon Member States to develop and secure a sustainable budget for the IACHR. [IACHR Press Release; UN News Centre; CEJIL; openDemocracy] During a meeting on May 25th, the Permanent Council of the OAS heard from IACHR representatives on the financial crisis and the issue is expected to be discussed further during an upcoming OAS General Assembly session in June. [IntLawGrrls] 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

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

April 2016: African, Inter-American, and Universal Human Rights Sessions

Flags of the 193 UN Member States outside the Palais des NationsCredit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
Flags of the 193 UN Member States outside the Palais des NationsCredit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré

Flags of the 193 UN Member States outside the Palais des Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

During the month of April 2016, six supranational human rights bodies will be in session. These include three regional human rights monitoring bodies: the Inter-American Court on Human Rights (IACtHR), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR). Each will consider pending cases and human rights topics of concern in their respective regions, including through public discussions or hearings. Additionally, four United Nations mechanisms will meet in Geneva, Switzerland: the Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), the Committee on Migrant Workers (CMW), the Committee Against Torture (CAT), and the Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD). The UN treaty bodies in session will review States’ implementation of the respective treaties, consider individual complaints, and discuss best practices. Video of the public portions of these sessions is available on UN Treaty Body Webcast or UN Web TV. In addition, four experts appointed by the UN Human Rights Council will carry out country visits to assess the human rights situation relevant to children, housing, persons with disabilities, and health in Georgia, India, Zambia, and Algeria, respectively. Read more

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