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
A general view of participantsl during of the 32nd session of the Human Right Council. 1 July 2016. UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferré
In the month of February 2017, various universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through interactive dialogues, the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, and the review of individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will meet this month to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to economic, social, and cultural rights; the rights of women; the rights of the child; and prevention of torture and ill treatment. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to persons with leprosy, unaccompanied migrant children, persons with disabilities, the democracy, and repatriation of illicit funds. Two UN special procedure mandate holders will conduct country visits, and two working groups will hold sessions to discuss involuntary disappearances and transnational corporations. Regionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights will be in session, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear one case concerning domestic criminal proceedings in which the applicant was not allowed to represent himself.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court may be watched via UN Web TV and the European Court’s website, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. To learn more about each human rights body, visit IJRC’s Online Resource Hub. Read more
The petitioners’ representatives at the Inter-American Commission
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
The Inter-American Court hears from the parties in I.V. v. Bolivia
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
The UN holds an event on the International Day of Older Persons
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton
The Inter-American human rights system will soon welcome the entry into force of the world’s first binding convention on the rights of older persons. Costa Rica deposited its ratification of the Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons on December 12, 2016. [OAS Press Release; IACHR Press Release] Costa Rica is the second OAS Member State—following Uruguay—to ratify the Convention, which allows it to enter into force thirty days after Costa Rica’s deposit of ratification. See OAS, A-70 Signatories and Ratifications. While various non-binding principles and monitoring bodies address the human rights of older persons at the regional and universal levels, the Convention is the first treaty to expressly and exclusively protect this population.
The purpose of the Convention is to recognize, promote, and protect the rights of older persons, generally defined as people aged 60 or older, and establishes that as people age they should continue to enjoy and exercise all human rights and fundamental freedoms on an equal basis with other segments of society. To this end, the Convention draws on existing principles established in nonbinding, or soft law, instruments to enumerate 26 protected rights and also establishes a follow-up mechanism to monitor the implementation of the commitments under the Convention, which includes a reporting procedure and the ability of individuals to submit petitions alleging violations of the Convention to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR). See Inter-American Convention on Protecting the Human Rights of Older Persons (adopted 15 June 2015, will enter into force January 2017), A-70. Read more
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
The United Nations General Assembly
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
In the month of December, various universal and regional bodies will be in session. Three United Nations treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to torture, racial discrimination, and enforced disappearances. Seven UN special rapporteurs and one working group will conduct country visits, and three working groups will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to people of African descent, the use of mercenaries, and activities of private military and security companies. The 71st regular session of the United Nations General Assembly continues in New York this month, as well.
Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), the African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ESCR), will hold sessions or case hearings this month. The Inter-American Commission will conduct thematic hearings on a variety of topics including indigenous peoples’ rights in the context of extractive industries, among others, and the Inter-American Court will consider cases covering a variety of issues, including forced sterilization and fair trial guarantees.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the Inter-American Commission, Inter-American Court, and African Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the Inter-American Commission’s website, Vimeo, and YouTube, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more