International election observers, civil society, and protesters have raised concerns over the fairness of Hungary’s April 8 parliamentary elections in which the incumbent prime minister, Viktor Orbán, and his Fidesz party secured a strong majority, winning 133 of 199 parliamentary seats; media bias and intimidation of independent journalists as well as xenophobic and intimidating rhetoric, civil society and election observers have noted, steered the election outcomes in favor of Fidesz. [Guardian: OSCE; HRW; Reuters: Protest] The Organisation for Security and Cooperation in Europe (OSCE), an intergovernmental body that monitors the elections of Member States, found that the incumbent Fidesz party exploited its current position in power to “[undermine] contestants’ ability to compete on an equal basis” through the use of intimidating rhetoric, media bias, and the government’s use of public money to support the campaign of the incumbent party to influence the voting public. See OSCE, Statement of Preliminary Findings and Conclusions (2018), 1. Echoing the OSCE, civil society organizations raised concerns over Fidesz’s practice of smearing journalists and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that oppose the party’s views, and over the government’s support, announced a day after the election, of a law that would limit the activities of civil society working with migrants and refugees. [HRW; HHC Press Release] Protesters gathered in Budapest over the weekend referring to the election as unfair and calling for a free media. [Reuters: Protest] Before the election, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights raised concerns over the “racist and xenophobic” rhetoric of Orbán and the undermining of the independence of the press and the judiciary. [OHCHR Press Release] Under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR), Hungary is obligated to ensure the rights to non-discrimination, to freedom of expression, to freedom of association, and to vote. Read more
Category Archives: thought, expression & association
In the month of April, several 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 throughout April to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations related to civil and political rights, economic and cultural rights, torture, racial discrimination, and migrant workers. One treaty body will meet as a pre-sessional working group to discuss economic, social, and cultural rights. Further, civil society can register this month to participate in the sessions of two treaty bodies that will meet in May on children’s rights and enforced disappearances, respectively. Eleven UN special procedures experts will conduct country visits focusing on minority issues, freedom of religion or belief, extreme poverty, torture and inhuman treatment, safe drinking water and sanitation, violence against women, the use of mercenaries, international solidarity, older persons, human rights defenders, and racial discrimination. Three working groups will hold sessions on the use of mercenaries, enforced disappearances, and arbitrary detention.
Regionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) and the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) will all be in session. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to liberty and security and the prohibition of cruel or inhuman treatment.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court and Inter-American Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, and the Inter-American Commission’s website or Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) recently published its merits report in a case concerning the 1988 extrajudicial killing of Colombian human rights defender Valentín Basto Calderón, which has gone unsolved. See IACHR, Merits Report No. 45/17, Case 10.455, Valentín Basto Calderón et al. (Colombia), 25 May 2017 (in Spanish). Bystanders Pedro Vicente Camargo, who was also killed, and his daughter Carmenza, who was injured, were also included as victims in the petition to the IACHR. At a time of armed conflict when State agents and paramilitaries frequently assassinated human rights defenders and community leaders, State agents had threatened Basto Calderón and harassed his family members. The State then failed to conduct a thorough and timely investigation of the events. See id. at para. 1. The International Justice Resource Center (IJRC) submitted an amicus curiae brief to the IACHR to provide supplementary analysis on this case, with a focus on Colombia’s obligations specific to human rights defenders. The Colombian Commission of Jurists represented the petitioners before the IACHR. In holding Colombia responsible for violations to the rights to life and humane treatment, among others, the IACHR took special note of the State’s specific obligations to protect and respect the rights of human rights defenders. Read more
In March 2018, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, interactive dialogues, and hearings on individual complaints. Four United Nations treaty bodies will be holding sessions throughout March on the rights of persons with disabilities; the rights of women; economic, social, and cultural rights; and civil and political rights. The UN Human Rights Council will continue its session from last month. Additionally, one UN rapporteur, two UN independent experts, and one UN working group will conduct country visits this month.
Regionally, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) will continue its session from last month, and will consider the admissibility and merits of pending complaints before the Court. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear arguments in three cases, two on the right to life and one on the right to property, and the European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will be in session. Additionally, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) and the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will be in session, and will hold public hearings during those sessions.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court, Inter-American Commission, and Inter-American Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, the Inter-American Commission’s website and Vimeo, respectively. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.
This month, the International Criminal Court (ICC), the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), and United Nations special procedures mandate holders all took steps to expose Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro’s regime’s responsibility for human rights violations and international crimes committed against the Venezuelan population. On February 8, the prosecutor of the ICC announced that she opened a preliminary examination into the situation in Venezuela. The preliminary examination will study, since April 2017, the use of excessive force by State security forces to disperse and end demonstrations and the arrest and detention of thousands of perceived members of the opposition, some of whom have allegedly been subjected to abuse and ill-treatment during their detention. [ICC Press Release] On February 12, the IACHR published and presented to the Organization of American States its report on the human rights situation in Venezuela in 2016 and 2017, noting the deterioration of human rights in Venezuela, and in particular the political, economic, and social crisis in the country. [IACHR Press Release] A group of independent experts at the UN consisting of the Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context; Special Rapporteur on the right to food; Special Rapporteur on the right of everyone to the enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of physical and mental health; and the Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights released a statement on February 9 that asserts that the degradation of human rights in Venezuela has led to the starvation, deprivation of necessary medicine, lack of necessary hygiene products, and deterioration of living conditions for a large number of Venezuelans. [OHCHR Press Release: Experts]
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) has called on the Tunisian government to respect demonstrators’ rights following the protests that began around January 8, continuing through January 14, and have resulted in almost 850 arrests. [UN News Centre; NY Times: Arrests; BBC: Gas] In addition to mass arrests, the police have responded to the protests with tear gas and violence, which the State claims is justified by some protesters’ vandalism, theft, and aggression, despite reports of these tactics also being used against peaceful protesters. [BBC: Gas; Amnesty International] January 14, 2018 marks the seventh anniversary of the 2011 protests that culminated in the ousting of Tunisian President Zine al-Abidine Ben Ali, following his 23 year-long rule. [BBC: Gas] While Tunisians gathered to commemorate this date, the demonstrators also protested the recent 2018 Finance Act, which took effect on January 1, 2018, and imposes austerity measures such as an increase in taxes on specific goods and services, including food and gas prices. [CNN; NY Times: Economic; Al Jazeera] As a party to several universal human rights treaties, and to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Tunisia is obligated to ensure the human rights to freedom from arbitrary arrest and detention, to freedom of peaceful assembly, and to freedom of expression, which the OHCHR has urged the government to abide by. [UN News Centre] See OHCHR, Ratification Status for Tunisia; African Union, List of countries which have signed, ratified/acceded to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. Read more
On November 24, 2017, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) held that Rwanda violated Victoire Ingabire Umuhoza’s right to freedom of opinion and expression, as well as her right to an adequate defense. See AfCHPR, Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza v. The Republic of Rwanda, App. No. 003/2014, Judgment of 24 November 2017, paras. 173(viii)-(ix). Specifically, the African Court held that Rwanda violated the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights (African Charter) and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) because the criminal conviction and sentence imposed on Ingabire for a speech that, the African Court found, did not minimize the genocide was a disproportional and unnecessary restriction on her freedom of speech; however, the Court further found that the law criminalizing the minimization of genocide may impose a legitimate restriction on the right to freedom of expression for purposes of preserving public order and national security. See id. at paras. 141, 161-163. The Court’s analysis on the right to freedom expression draws on the only other judgment from the Court to weigh on an alleged violation of that right and relies, as that previous judgment did, on comparative international human rights jurisprudence to develop the right to freedom of expression in its own case law, including to recognize that the right protects opinions that “offend, shock or disturb.” See id. at paras. 120-63; AfCHPR, Lohé Issa Konaté v. Burkina Faso, App. No. 004/2013, Judgment of 5 December 2014.
While Ingabire’s case was pending before the Court, Rwanda moved to withdrawal its declaration allowing individuals to appeal directly to the AfCHPR; while the withdrawal has gone into effect, it does not affect those cases that the Court already had jurisdiction over, including Ingabire’s case. [IJRC] See AfCHPR, Ingabire Victoire Umuhoza v. The Republic of Rwanda, App. No. 003/2014, Ruling on Jurisdiction, 5 September 2016. Read more
In December, several universal and regional human rights bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations through the consideration of State reports, country visits, and thematic and contentious hearings. Two United Nations treaty bodies will continue their sessions that began in November on issues concerning racial discrimination and torture. Ten United Nations special procedures mandate holders and groups of experts will conduct country visits across five continents in December, and one UN group of experts will hold sessions. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) will continue its session and hold thematic hearings on specific human rights issues in the United States and Canada. The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR) will hold sessions, and the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear two cases related to the right to assistance of counsel and the application of Islamic law in national courts, respectively.
In the last two months, the Organization of American States (OAS) held unprecedented hearings to gather witness testimony on the situation in Venezuela to determine whether to refer the State to the International Criminal Court (ICC). [OAS Press Release: First Session; OAS Press Release: Second Session] In the sessions of hearings held so far, the OAS has heard testimony from activists, former members of the Venezuelan government and judiciary, and former members of the Bolivian National Armed Forces, among others; their testimony has described arbitrary arrests and detention, extrajudicial killings, and cruel and degrading treatment. [Moreno Ocampo] Luis Moreno Ocampo, a former ICC prosecutor and current Special Adviser on Crimes against Humanity (Special Advisor) at the OAS, convened the two public sessions of hearings – one in September and one in October – at the OAS headquarters in Washington, D.C.; he may convene additional sessions in November. [OAS Press Release: Adviser; OAS Press Release: First Session; OAS Press Release: Second Session]
In July, the OAS Secretary General, Luis Almagro, designated Moreno Ocampo as Special Adviser, and as such, Moreno Ocampo is tasked with analyzing, studying, and debating the ongoing situation in Venezuela with interested parties to determine whether the State committed crimes against humanity and can be referred to the ICC. [OAS Press Release: Adviser] Accordingly, the sessions were held to examine whether the abuses by the Venezuelan government rise to the level of crimes against humanity and if they were committed in a widespread and systematic manner. [OAS Press Release: First Session; OAS Press Release: Second Session; Moreno Ocampo] The testimony gathered in the sessions will contribute to a final report, along with information submitted by additional organizations; the Independent Panel of International Experts, appointed by the OAS Secretary General in September, will review the report and recommend it to the Secretary General. [OAS Press Release: Independent Panel] This is the first time that the regional body has held sessions with the purpose of referring a Member State to the ICC. Read more
In November, several universal and regional bodies will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations, through the consideration of State and civil society reports, country visits, dialogues, and hearings on individual complaints. Six United Nations treaty bodies will be holding sessions in the month of November on issues related to civil and political rights, women, racial discrimination, and torture. The Universal Periodic Review Working Group will also be in session and will review nine State reports, holding interactive dialogues with those States’ representatives. Seven UN Special Rapporteurs and one working group expert will conduct country visits, and three working groups will be in session in Geneva, Switzerland. Regionally, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR), African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR), and African Court on Human and People’s Rights (AfCHPR) will all be in session. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) will hear three cases related to inhuman and degrading treatment in the context of the effectiveness of a criminal investigation, fair punishment in the context of suspension from public office as a penalty for conviction, and the legality of detention as a preventative measure.
The UN Human Rights Council’s and UN treaty bodies’ sessions may be watched via UN Web TV. The IACtHR’s session may be viewed on its website or Vimeo page, and the IACHR sessions may be viewed on its YouTube channel. The African Court sessions may be watched on its YouTube channel. The ECtHR hearings may be viewed on its webcast.
To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar.