Children in Zaatari refugee camp in Jordan
Credit: UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office
The ongoing civil war in Syria has uprooted more than in 4.2 million Syrian refugees and 7.6 million internally displaced persons, and these numbers are predicted to increase. [UNHCR Press Release] A survey of individuals at a UNHCR refugee camp in Turkey revealed that more than half of them left Syria because it is too dangerous to stay, often noting that government forces had destroyed their homes or threatened them with violence. [Washington Post] U.S. President Barack Obama stated that Syrian individuals seeking to enter the United States are “themselves victims of terrorism.” [International Business Times] Indeed, the numbers of registered refugees reported by UNHCR only include those fleeing Syria out of fear of persecution, and do not include economic migrants. See UNHCR, Refugees. Moreover, although coverage has focused heavily on the flows of people into Western Europe or across the Atlantic, nearly 90 percent of Syrian refugees have fled to neighboring countries, including Egypt, Iraq, Jordan, Lebanon, and Turkey. See UNHCR, Syria Regional Refugee Response.
However, in the aftermath of the recent terrorist attacks on Paris, some politicians in Europe and the United States have proposed limiting or stopping their countries’ acceptance of refugees and have encouraged public xenophobia. [NY Times: House Bill; Reuters: Europe; Spiegel] In response to the refugee crisis, human rights organizations such as Amnesty International have urged States to ratify the 1951 Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees (Refugee Convention) and the 1967 Protocol, establish fair asylum procedures, and ensure access to basic services, such as health and education. See Amnesty International, The Global Refugee Crisis: A Conspiracy of Neglect (2015).
Leaving aside arguments of morality and decency, this post reviews governmental reactions to this humanitarian crisis in view of their existing international legal obligations with regard to accepting and hosting refugees. Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently added a new section to its website concerning friendly settlements and published its Handbook on the Use of the Friendly Settlement Mechanism in the IACHR Petition and Case System (Handbook) to inform petitioners about the friendly settlement procedure and best practices. The friendly settlement process allows petitioners and States to engage in a dialogue to reach an agreement concerning reparations for the alleged victims in a non-contentious manner, and without obtaining a decision on the merits from the IACHR. As of July 2015, the IACHR has approved 121 friendly settlement agreements, in which the aggrieved parties have secured reparations including economic compensation, measures of restitution, measures of rehabilitation, measures of satisfaction, and guarantees of non-repetition. See IACHR, Friendly Settlements.
For more information about the impact of friendly settlement agreements, a catalog of agreements, and informational videos and graphics, visit the Commission’s new webpage dedicated to friendly settlement agreements. Read more
Working Group of the Protocol of San Salvador
Credit: GT PSS
Last month, the body established to monitor economic, social, and cultural rights in the Americas reviewed six States’ reports on their implementation of the rights to health, education, and social security. [IACHR Press Release] The Working Group of the Protocol of San Salvador concluded its second session during the week of October 17, 2015 at the Organization of American States (OAS) headquarters in Washington, DC. [OAS Press Release] The Working Group heard government presentations and analyzed the country reports of Colombia, Ecuador, Mexico, Paraguay, Bolivia and Uruguay. [OAS Press Release]
This was the first time the Working Group held public, interactive discussions with the reporting States parties, in accordance with its mandate. [IACHR Press Release] Rosa María Ortiz, an alternate member of the Working Group and a commissioner on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, applauded this as a sign that the Working Group is fully functioning and carrying out its mandate. [IACHR Press Release] The reports reviewed during this session will be published next year. [OAS Press Release] Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is holding its 156th session from October 17 to 28, 2015 in Washington, D.C. [IACHR Press Release] The IACHR will conduct public hearings in four cases on its docket, and receive information from States and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) on the 53 human rights issues, ranging from the human rights situation of LGBTI people, to the silencing of human rights defenders in Latin America, to the right to nationality in the Dominican Republic.
Live webcasts of the hearings are on the IACHR website. Video recordings and photographs of past hearings may be quickly accessed on the 156th Session webpage (in Spanish only), or via the hearing search page. Read more
A new campaign, GQUAL, aims to address the gender imbalance on international courts and human rights bodies, where women make up less than 25% of the existing membership. [GQUAL Press Release] The campaign will work to change the nomination and voting practices of States and the relevant institutions, to ensure that gender balance is a real consideration. Through its website, declaration, petition, events, and informational materials, the campaign is striving to raise awareness, engage civil society voices, and increase the transparency of election processes. Additionally, the GQUAL Jobs Board provides information on recent and upcoming elections for nearly all international tribunals and monitoring bodies. On September 17, 2015, the GQUAL (for “gender equal”) campaign formally launched at the United Nations (UN) Headquarters in New York. [GQUAL Press Release] Read more
The directors of Fundamedios, César Ricaurte and Mauricio Alarcón, during a press conference
Credit: Wikimedia Commons, Carlos Rodríguez
On September 8, 2015 the National Secretariat of Communications of Ecuador (SECOM) sent a letter of notification to La Fundación Andina para la Observación y Estudio de los Medios [The Andean Foundation for the Social Observation and Study of Media] (Fundamedios), a non-governmental organization (NGO) dedicated to promoting freedom of expression, that it was initiating an administrative process to dissolve the organization. [Committee to Protect Journalists] The SECOM order accuses Fundamedios of violating both its own founding statutes as well as Ecuadorian law governing the role of civic organizations by publishing messages, alerts, and essays with “political overtones.” [El Universo; OAS Press Release] As evidence of this, the annex to SECOM’s notice contains 57 tweets, many of which it claims contain links to opinion pieces or news articles that criticize the government. [Human Rights Watch] The organization was given 10 days since the receipt of this dissolution order to present evidence in its defense. [Freedom House]
The seminar that was held during the Court’s 53rd Extraordinary Session
The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) held its 53rd Extraordinary Session in Honduras, which began on August 24 and concluded on August 29, 2015. During this session the Court held public hearings in two cases: Quispialaya Vilcapoma v. Peru and Ángel Alberto Duque v. Colombia. The Court also held a private hearing concerning compliance on the part of Honduras with sentences in six cases: Juan Humberto Sánchez v. Honduras, López-Álvarez v. Honduras, Servellón-García and others v. Honduras, Kawas-Fernández v. Honduras, Pacheco Teruel and others v. Honduras, and Luna López v. Honduras. The Court prepared judgments in two cases: Gonzáles Lluy (TGGL) and family v. Ecuador and Galindo Cárdenas and others v. Peru. Additionally, the Court started proceedings in two cases: Garífuna Community of “Triunfo de la Cruz” and its members v. Honduras and Garífuna Community of Punta Piedra and its members v. Honduras. The Court also reviewed various pending cases and administrative issues.
The UN Office in Geneva
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
On August 3, 2015 the UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD) commenced its 87th session in Geneva, Switzerland. During this session, which will end on August 28, the Committee will review the State reports of Colombia, Costa Rica, the Czech Republic, Macedonia, the Netherlands, Niger, Norway, and Suriname. The Committee will also review reports submitted by civil society organizations and national human rights institutions (NHRIs) concerning the States’ implementation of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD) as well as follow-up information submitted by States parties.
The presentation of the prototype of the Individual Petition System Portal
On July 22, 2015, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) launched its Individual Petition System Portal (IPSP), which gives parties digital remote access to their petitions and cases. The IACHR is the first regional human rights body to provide parties with electronic access to this type of information. The creation of the portal is also part of a larger effort to increase access to information for people seeking remedies from the Inter-American human rights system. IACHR Chair and Commissioner, Rose Marie Belle Antoine stated that the portal’s launch is “a really historic moment that will radically change the processing of petitions, cases, and precautionary measures” and is a “major step forward in the use of new technologies to enable all users of the Inter-American human rights system to exercise the right of access to information.” [OAS Press Release]