President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski
Credit: Cobot156 via Wikimedia Commons
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), two United Nations special rapporteurs, and one UN working group recently condemned Peruvian President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski’s decision to issue a humanitarian pardon on December 24, 2017 to former President Alberto Fujimori, who was convicted and sentenced in 2009 to 25 years in prison for murder, kidnapping, and crimes against humanity during his presidency; the IACHR and the UN human rights experts question whether the decision meets international human rights legal requirements, and asserts that it undermines the efforts of victims and witnesses who brought Fujimori to justice. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release; HRW: Pardon] See Resolución Suprema No. 281-2017-JUS (2017) [Spanish Only]. The pardon, issued officially for humanitarian reasons due to Fujimori’s health, absolves Fujimori of his convictions and releases him from his sentence. [IACHR Press Release] Peru is obligated under international human rights law to investigate alleged rights violations and punish perpetrators, and not to implement pardons or amnesty laws that undermine the rights to a fair trial and to judicial protection. [IACHR Press Release; OHCHR Press Release]
Some Peruvians and UN experts believe that the pardon was politically motivated because of a potential connection between Fujimori’s pardon and the cancelled impeachment proceedings against President Kuczynski; the impeachment proceedings were dropped just three days after the impeachment hearing of President Kuczynski, who survived a removal vote with the help of a 10-person coalition that crossed party lines to abstain from the removal vote, led by Fujimori’s son Kenji Fujimori. Seven of the 10 lawmakers communicated with Fujimori leading up to the vote. [Reuters; HRW: Pardon; OHCHR Press Release] President Kuczynski’s decision triggered street protests and unrest in Peru. [OHCHR Press Release; Guardian: Pardon] Read more
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights holds a thematic hearing
In the month of September, several regional bodies and universal bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by engaging in interactive dialogues, considering State and civil society reports, conducting country visits, holding hearings, and reviewing individual complaints. Five United Nations treaty bodies will meet throughout September to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to persons with disabilities; migrants and their families; enforced disappearances; children; and economic, social, and cultural rights. The UN Human Rights Council will be in session and will host panel discussions and forums related to unilateral coercive measures, the integration of the human rights of women throughout the United Nations system, the human rights of indigenous peoples, and the impact of intersecting forms of discrimination against women and girls. Four UN special rapporteurs will conduct country visits and one working group will meet in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to enforced disappearances. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session.
The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The African Court sessions may be watched on its YouTube channel, and the IACHR sessions may also be viewed on its YouTube channel. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
Reine Alapini-Gansou, the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, (right) sits with other ACHPR Commissioners
The African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) recently published the Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa that recommends repealing harmful and discriminatory laws, ensuring compliance with existing international standards that impact human rights defenders, and developing standards on women human rights defenders, among other recommendations. Adopted earlier this year during the 2nd International Symposium on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders in Africa held from March 27 to April 1, 2017, in Cotonou, Benin, civil society, national human rights institutions (NHRIs), and States in the region developed the Declaration. See ACommHPR, Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa (adopted on 1 April 2017). The Commission’s Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders, Madame Reine Alapini-Gansou, organized the colloquium with the goal of strengthening the protection of human rights defenders in the pan-African region through an assessment of the progress made, and the development of new strategies capable of responding to the current needs of human right defenders. See ACommHPR, 60th Ordinary Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights Intersession Activity Report (2017), para. 35. The Declaration identifies the abuse of counter-terrorism laws, undue restrictions on the right to freedom of association, violence and threats of violence against defenders and their families, reprisals, and the targeting of certain groups of defenders, among others, as challenges to the protection of human rights defenders, and recommends, in part, raising awareness through the documentation of violations and publication of reports. See Cotonou Declaration on strengthening and expanding the protection of all Human Rights Defenders in Africa (2017). This Declaration is one of seven declarations adopted by the ACHPR since its founding, and while the ACHPR has adopted resolutions on human rights defenders, the existing treaties, declarations, and general comments in the pan-African Human Rights System do not address human rights defenders specifically.
Rohingya in Rakhine state in Myanmar
Credit: Foreign and Commonwealth Office via Wikimedia Commons
The Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) recently published its findings from over 200 interviews with Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh that described severe human rights violations against Rohingya in Myanmar since an October 9, 2016 attack on the police in Myanmar’s Rakhine state. See OHCHR, Report of the OHCHR mission to Bangladesh: Interviews with Rohingyas fleeing from Myanmar since 9 October 2016 (2017), at 3. The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, has expressed deep concerns about the unprecedented violence against the Rohingya Muslims as the interviews demonstrated the grave extent of human rights violations taking place in the region, including killings, beatings, the destruction of property, rape and sexual violence, and enforced disappearances, among others. According to the report, the systematic abuses perpetrated by the State may amount to crimes against humanity. See id. at 9, 42. [OHCHR Press Release]
This latest report complements earlier reports that confirmed human rights abuses against Rohingya in Myanmar, including discrimination based on religion, deprivation of liberty, violations of the rights to health and education, and trafficking, among other abuses. The OHCHR had previously recommended preventative measures to the State as well as conducting thorough investigations of alleged human rights abuses. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, UN Doc. A/HRC/32/18, 29 June 2016. 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
UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the State of Eritrea
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
The United Nations Commission of Inquiry on Human Rights in Eritrea has again called on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Eritrea to the International Criminal Court (ICC) for adjudication of possible crimes against humanity committed by State officials since 1991. Speaking on behalf of the former three-member commission, whose mandate ended in June 2016, Sheila Keetharuth announced to the UN General Assembly on October 28 that the Commission found significant human rights violations intended to maintain the political leaders’ power, no rule of law, a decimated civil society, and a lack of accountability for abuses. [OHCHR Press Release] Among other recommendations, the Commission of Inquiry urged the African Union to create a mechanism for accountability and encouraged UN Member States to accept Eritrean migrants, emphasizing that returning to Eritrea could result in the detention and torture of those individuals. [OHCHR Press Release]
Colombian Peace Agreement Ceremony
Credit: UN Photo/Rick Bajornas
On Sunday, October 2, 2016 Colombians headed to the polls to vote on a peace agreement to end the 52-year war with the Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia (FARC) guerillas. [The Guardian: Voters] Contrary to what the polls had predicted, the peace deal referendum was rejected by a 0.4 percent margin. [The Guardian: Voters] The deal was the result of four years of negotiations between the government, led by President Juan Manuel Santos, and the FARC. The agreement instituted a ceasfire and initiated the demobilization of fighters through a process that will continue to be overseen by the United Nations. [UN News Centre] It also included provisions that would have cut off FARC’s ties to the drug trade, required FARC guerillas to turn in their weapons and transition to a political movement that would allow FARC leaders to participate in government, and permit rebel leaders to confess and avoid jail time through special tribunal proceedings, while granting amnesty to fighters. [The Guardian: Brexit]
The peace deal, while criticized for compounding impunity for war crimes and crimes against humanity, was largely seen as an opportunity to move towards peace. [Amnesty International: No Vote] With the no vote and the remaining uncertainty over the future of Colombia and FARC’s activities, officials have re-entered negotiations. [The Guardian: Brexit] Meanwhile, the Norwegian Nobel Committee recognized President Santos’ efforts, awarding him the Nobel Peace Prize this past week. [Nobel Prize] Read more
The United Nations Human Rights Council
Credit: UN Photo / Jean-Marc Ferre
During the month of October 2016, numerous universal and regional human rights bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations, visit countries, and hold hearings on individual complaints. Five UN treaty bodies meeting this month will engage in dialogues with States regarding their implementation of treaty obligations related to civil and political rights; economic, social, and cultural rights; the rights of children; the rights of women; and enforced disappearances. The UN Human Rights Council will host a Universal Periodic Review Working Group session along with its annual Social Forum, a space reserved for progressive communication among various actors in the international sphere. Five UN special procedures will carry out country visits and a sixth will hold a session in Geneva, where two Human Rights Council working groups, on racism and transnational corporations, will also meet this month.
At the regional level, the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and the African Committee of Experts on the Rights and Welfare of the Child will each hold sessions and examine State compliance with regional human rights standards. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to a fair trial, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will hold both a special session and a regular session and will hear three cases, and the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will hold a regular session. The UN treaty body sessions may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court hearings may be watched on their website, Inter-American Court proceedings may be viewed via Vimeo, and the recordings of AfCHPR’s hearings will be available on youtube. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more
The United Nations Security Council adopts a resolution to send UN police to Burundi
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
In response to the ongoing crisis in Burundi, the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) presented its final report to the Human Rights Council on September 27, 2016, which documented evidence of gross human rights abuses perpetrated by the government and its affiliates. [OHCHR Press Release] UNIIB was formed in light of increasing instability in Burundi, which was prompted by the decision of the President to gain a third term in office and the resulting protests and coup attempt. In the course of investigation, UNIIB uncovered evidence of widespread and patterned violations of human rights including arbitrary deprivation of life, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual and gender-based violence, unlawful arrests, arbitrary detention, ethnically charged language, and improper restrictions to freedom of expression and of association, among others. UNIIB experts suggested that these crimes may amount to crimes against humanity, and warned against the danger of genocide in the region. See Report of the United Nations Independent Investigation on Burundi (UNIIB) established pursuant to Human Rights Council resolution S-24/1, UN Doc. A/HRC/33/37, 20 September 2016. UNIIB recommended that the government strengthen domestic accountability mechanisms and increase its engagement with international human rights systems, and called on the international community to establish a commission of inquiry and to consider intervening pursuant to Chapter VII of the UN Charter. See id. at paras. 138, 146, 163. Within a week of the report’s publication, government officials, lawmakers, and citizens protested the report outside UN offices in Burundi. [Washington Post] Read more