OAS General Assembly Elects Three New IACHR Commissioners

The current composition of the seven Commissioners on the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
Credit: CIDH

Joel Hernández García (Mexico), Antonia Urrejola Noguera (Chile), and Flávia Cristina Piovesan (Brazil) were elected to join the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) at the 47th Regular Session of the Organization of American States (OAS) General Assembly held in Cancun, Mexico between June 19 and June 21, 2017. See OAS, 47th Regular Session. They will join four other IACHR Commissioners next calendar year to complete the seven-member IACHR, and replace outgoing IACHR Commissioners James Cavallaro (United States), Paulo Vannuchi (Brazil), and Jose de Jesus Orozco Henriquez (Mexico). The three new Commissioners were among a group of six candidates competing for the three vacant positions. Following criticism over lack of transparency and civil society involvement in the selection and election of new Commissioners to the IACHR, this election involved an independent panel organized by civil society to assess the qualifications of each of the candidates. [Open Society Foundations Press Release] The panel was convened by the Center for Justice and Law (CEJIL), the Due Process of Law Foundation (DPLF), and the Open Society Justice Initiative with the support of other civil society organizations, universities, and bar associations. [CEJIL: SIAHRS] Read more

India, Thailand Ratify Fundamental International Labour Organization Conventions

High level event on “Partnerships to End Forced Labour in Global Chains,” co-organized by the ILO
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Last week following the World Day against Child Labor, India ratified two International Labour Organization (ILO) Conventions that seek to eliminate child labor, and Thailand ratified one ILO Convention that prohibits labor discrimination. [ILO Press Release: India; ILO Press Release: Thailand; UN News Centre] The first convention India ratified, the ILO Minimum Age Convention, 1973 (No. 138), requires that States parties set a minimum age for children to work in any occupation and provides particular requirements for hazardous work. The second convention India ratified, the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, 1999 (No. 182), requires that States parties take concrete steps to prevent child participation in the most harmful categories of labor, including slavery, forced labor, trafficking, child prostitution, and particularly hazardous work, among others. Thailand ratified the Discrimination (Employment and Occupation) Convention, 1958 (No. 111) (Employment Discrimination Convention), which requires States parties to develop, promote, and practice national policies that ensure equal opportunity and treatment in employment.

All three conventions are included in the ILO’s eight fundamental conventions, which the ILO believes provide a framework for striving for the remaining rights at work. The ILO aims to achieve universal ratification of the fundamental conventions, and according to the ILO, only 129 ratifications are left to achieve that goal. See ILO, Conventions and Recommendations. Only six States have yet to ratify the Worst Forms of Child Labour Convention, which has accumulated ratifications at a rate faster than any other ILO Convention. [ILO Press Release: India] India has now ratified four of the eight fundamental conventions, and Thailand has ratified five of eight. See ILO, Ratifications of fundamental Conventions by country. Read more

News Clips- June 16, 2017

The United Nations Security Council discusses the situation in Somalia
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton

Civil Society

  • On Monday, courts in Russia began sentencing anti-corruption demonstrators arrested during protests led by an opposition leader. [Guardian]
  • On Tuesday, the parliament of Hungary approved regulations requiring certain foreign-funded civil society groups to register with the government. [Al Jazeera]

International Criminal Law

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Wednesday, 23 people were detained during an overnight raid in Venezuela for their alleged involvement in attacks against officers. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, 31 people died during a siege of a restaurant in Mogadishu, Somalia, which was orchestrated by al-Shabab. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Friday, 14 people were killed in clashes over food aid in Somalia. [Washington Post]

Migrants, Asylum Seekers, & Refugees

  • On Thursday, an aid organization rescued 420 migrants off the coast of Libya. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, authorities in Niger estimated that in the past week they rescued more than 100 migrants abandoned by traffickers. [Reuters]

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts

UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Killings: Gender-Based Killings Are Arbitrary

Agnes Callamard participates in an event addressing radicalization, violent extremism, and atrocity crimes
Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

The newly appointed United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Agnes Callamard, presented her first report at the 35th regular session of the Human Rights Council in which she addressed the key elements of a gender-sensitive approach to the right to life, concluding that gender-based killings may constitute arbitrary execution and that systemic discrimination based on sex, gender identity, or sexual orientation that denies basic conditions guaranteeing life – like access to food, water, health care, and housing – may violate the right to life. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions (Gender-sensitive approach to arbitrary killings), UN Doc. A/HRC/35/23, 6 June 2017. Callamard recommended that States eliminate laws that support patriarchal oppression, decriminalize same-sex relationships, support the recognition of gender identity, and publish data on femicides, among other recommendations. See id. at paras. 101-114. Read more

Despite Venice Commission Review, Hungary Passes Foreign-Funded NGO Law

Council of Europe
Credit: High Contrast via Wikimedia Commons

On June 2, upon the request of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE), the European Commission for Democracy through Law (Venice Commission) issued a preliminary opinion on Hungary’s draft law regarding foreign-funded non-governmental organizations (NGOs), concluding that while the law serves the legitimate aim of achieving transparency within civil society, its requirements and penalties are too strict. [Venice Commission Press Release] While the Hungarian government subsequently announced that it planned to submit a revised version of the law, on June 13 Hungary’s parliament passed an amended version that reportedly does not accommodate for all of the Venice Commission’s recommendations. [Washington Post; New York Times] The law, as presented to the Venice Commission, requires organizations receiving at least 7.2 million forints (approximately 24,000 Euros or 26,000 USD) to register as organizations “receiving support from abroad” and provides for the possible dissolution of an organization as a penalty for non-compliance ­– an option the Venice Commission would like to see stricken. The law presented to the Venice Commission also requires civil society organizations to abstain from receiving foreign funding for a period of three years prior to beginning the deregistration process ­– an obligation the Venice Commission finds excessive and believes should be replaced with a one-year period. The Venice Commission also suggested that the rationale behind the exclusion of several types of organizations, including sports and religious establishments, be clarified, among other recommendations. See European Commission for Democracy Through Law, Draft Law on the Transparency of Organisations Receiving Support from Abroad (Hungary), Opinion 889/2017, CDL-PI(2017)002, Preliminary Opinion of 2 June 2017. Reports indicate that the amended law as passed still allows for dissolution of organizations not in compliance but now only requires organizations to refrain from receiving foreign funding for two years before entering the process to deregister, a standard that fails to meet the Venice Commission’s recommendation of one year. [Washington Post; Politico] International experts and bodies as well as civil society members have expressed concern over the law as well, particularly as it appears to reflect a trend in the region to restrict civil society organizations and a trend to, according to the Council of Europe’s (COE) Commissioner of Human Rights, backslide on the right to freedom of association. [COE Press Release; HRW; IndependentRead more

News Clips- June 9, 2017

European Court of Human Rights
Credit: Cherry X via Wikimedia Commons

Activities of International Human Rights Bodies and Experts


  • After the United States President announced last week that the State will leave the Paris Climate Agreement, cities and states in the country announced that they will still comply with the Paris Agreement. [Guardian; Voice of America]
  • This week, the opposition party in Lesotho won a majority of parliamentary seats during a snap election. [Al Jazeera]
  • Last Friday, the Prime Minister of Cambodia announced that opposition parties in the State should not attempt to challenge recent local elections or they could be dissolved. [Washington Post]
  • The United States warned again this week that it may pull out of the United Nations Human Rights Council unless the UN body reconsiders how States, particularly those with negative human rights records, become members of the Council. [Washington Post]

Civil Society

  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein last Friday called for an investigation into the deaths of five protesters in Bahrain. [OHCHR Press Release]
  • After five farmers died at a rally in India, protesters demonstrated on Wednesday, prompting the deployment of troops on Thursday. [Washington Post; ABC News]
  • Detainees in Venezuela, including protesters detained for demonstrating, claim they are being beaten and tortured while in custody. [Miami Herald]

Office of High Commissioner Launches Revised Guidelines for Investigating Unlawful Killings

The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré

At the end of May, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announced the launch of the revised Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016) – an update to the original Minnesota Protocol, which was launched in 1991. [OHCHR Press Release] While the Minnesota Protocol is not a binding legal document, it seeks to guide State actors in fulfilling the State’s international legal obligation to undergo investigations of potentially unlawful deaths, which arises from States’ positive obligations under the right to life. See UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, The Minnesota Protocol on the Investigation of Potentially Unlawful Death (2016), UN Doc. HR/PUB/17/4, 24 May 2017, at paras 8-9. The Protocol serves as a guide for law enforcement officers, medical practitioners, attorneys, judicial actors, non-governmental organizations, and others as they undertake investigations of potentially unlawful killings (and suspected enforced disappearances). [OHCHR Press Release] The revised Protocol differs from the original in that it takes into account recent developments in international law as well as the advancement of forensic science in the past 25 years. [Just SecurityRead more

Canada Violated ICCPR in Denying Salvadorian Asylum on Gang-Related Claim

The president of Honduras, president of El Salvador, and former president of Guatemala meet with the former Secretary General of the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

The United Nations Human Rights Committee recently found that Canada must consider the evidence on widespread gang violence, including the targeting of witnesses, in El Salvador when considering a man’s claim that his removal from Canada to El Salvador would expose him to gang violence and irreparable harm; the Committee concluded that the State violated the rights to life and prohibition of torture and inhuman or degrading treatment in the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) by ordering the man removed after it failed to consider the totality of evidence. See See Human Rights Committee, Jose Henry Monge Contreras v. Canada, Communication No. 2613/2015, Views of 12 May 2017, UN Doc. CCPR/C/119/D/2613/2015, paras. 8.2, 8.7-8.11. The complainant, Jose Henry Monge Contreras, alleged that he became a target of the gang Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) after witnessing the murder of his brother and later participating in an investigation that resulted in the arrest and imprisonment of three MS-13 members. See id. at para. 8.2.

While gangs contribute to high murder rates in Central America, forcing many to leave the region to escape death threats and harassment by gang members, data from the office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees indicates that only a small percentage of people are granted asylum after fleeing their countries. See Center for Gender & Refugee Studies, Gang-Related Violence. As of 2015 there were over 109,800 asylum cases pending in Mexico and the United States, most of which were attributed to increasing violence in El Salvador, Guatemala, and Honduras. See UNHCR, Global Trends 2015. While the Human Rights Committee’s opinion directly addresses Canada’s actions, it also has implications for other countries in the Americas who regularly review gang-related asylum claims, particularly the United States and Mexico. Read more

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