Category Archives: Inter-American System

Refugee Crisis Reaches New Peak amid Ongoing Conflicts, Islamophobic Policies

Syrian refugees arrive in Greece
Credit: Ggia via Wikimedia Commons

In 2016, more than 65 million people were estimated to be refugees or internally displaced persons  – the highest number in history. [World Economic Forum] Many of the migrants who are fleeing their countries are unable to permanently resettle for a number of reasons, including the global underfunding of refugee support programs and national policies motivated by Islamophobia or isolationism. See Amnesty International, Refugees & Asylum. [Slate] Migrants face dangerous conditions and human rights abuses both during travel and once they reach host countries. Thousands of migrants have drowned while attempting to reach Europe by sea and the conditions of detention in more common refugee destinations may include overcrowding and a failure to provide basic necessities. [Independent; Human Rights Watch; Amnesty International]

Moreover, recent measures enacted by some governments are perpetuating Islamophobia and complicating travel or resettlement for those from Muslim-majority countries. [New York Times: Muslim; IJRC: Protests] An executive order recently implemented in the United States specifically targets migrants and refugees from certain Muslim-majority countries, temporarily prohibiting their entry into the United States. [IJRC: Protests]  The International Justice Resource Center, together with the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) and with the support of dozens of other organizations, yesterday submitted a letter to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights asking it to review this order in a public hearing. Migrants and refugees are protected against discrimination, among other human rights violations, under international law. Read more

Inter-American Commission Finds Undocumented Migrants Entitled to Workplace Protections

The petitioners’ representatives at the Inter-American Commission
Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently released a decision vindicating the rights of two undocumented workers in the United States whose employers denied them medical benefits and wage replacement after they were injured on the job, in a context of domestic jurisprudence and policy limiting labor protections for undocumented migrants. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 50/16, Case 12.834, Undocumented Workers (United States of America), 30 November 2016. The IACHR ultimately found that the U.S. violated the workers’ rights to equality before the law and social security benefits enshrined in the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man (American Declaration). See id. This significant decision is the first to address the employment rights of undocumented migrants in the Americas and builds on the IACHR’s doctrine related to discrimination on the basis of immigration status. It includes a list of recommendations to the U.S. to ensure policies and practices that promote equal treatment and due process for undocumented workers. See id. Read more

IACtHR Holds Bolivia Responsible for Forced Sterilization in Landmark Judgment

The Inter-American Court hears from the parties in I.V. v. Bolivia
Credit: IACtHR

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) examined for the first time the issue of informed consent to medical treatment and forced sterilization, in its judgment in I.V. v. Bolivia, released last week. [IACtHR Press Release (in Spanish)] The case involves a Peruvian refugee who was sterilized by a tubal ligation performed without her informed consent in a Bolivian public hospital in 2000, resulting in permanent loss of her ability to conceive a child. See I/A Court H.R., I.V. v. Bolivia. Preliminary Objections, Merits, Reparations and Costs. Judgment of 30 November 2016. Series C No. 329, paras. 64-65 (in Spanish). I.V. had been admitted to a public hospital to give birth and was sterilized, immediately after doctors performed a Caesarean section, purportedly to prevent potential complications if I.V. were to become pregnant again in the future. See id. at paras. 63-64.

The IACtHR’s judgment expands the Court’s jurisprudence on the principle of informed consent, the (infrequently cited) right to dignity under the American Convention on Human Rights, and a State’s obligation to ensure adequate training for medical professionals. The IACtHR affirmed that informed consent is an essential precondition to medical treatment that is based on respect for individuals’ autonomy, dignity, and freedom to make their own decisions. See id. at para. 159. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC), together with the International Human Rights Clinic at Santa Clara University, submitted an amicus curiae brief to the Court which provided supplementary analysis on these concepts and the human rights implicated by forced sterilization of women, a practice that is regrettably common in the Americas and throughout the world. Read more

Experts Convene for Symposium on Torture Victims’ Right to Rehabilitation

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Italia Mendez and Norma Jimenez speak at the IRCT symposium on the right to rehabilitation

The International Rehabilitation Council for Torture Victims (IRCT) held a symposium in Mexico City last week entitled Delivering on the Promise of the Right to Rehabilitation that brought together over 300 people, including clinical professionals, lawyers, researchers, and policymakers, from around the world to discuss rehabilitation of torture survivors. [IRCT Press Release] The IRCT is a membership-based organization consisting of more than 150 organizations and is focused on ensuring rehabilitation services are available for torture victims and on defining what those services should entail. See IRCT, About the IRCT. To this end, the IRCT aims to hold symposiums every three years so that those working on rehabilitation may share their developments and together create new ideas. [IRCT Press Release] Under Article 14 of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, victims of torture have a right to “as full rehabilitation as possible.”

The symposium lasted three days in Mexico City with plenary sessions each day, as well as concurrent breakout sessions on particular topics in the morning and afternoon. The subjects addressed ranged from dance and movement therapy to the use of evidence and support to victims in trials. This post will discuss select conversations in both the plenary and breakout sessions. Throughout the symposium, speakers and attendees focused on the need for agreed-upon global standards on rehabilitation and the need to put the survivors at the center of any approach. At the General Assembly following the symposium, IRCT members adopted the “Mexico Consensus,” a set of standards intended to guide States in providing rehabilitation services.

The agenda can be viewed on the symposium’s webpage, and the recordings of each session should be posted on IRCT’s YouTube channel. Read more

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