The President of Tunisia speaks at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias
Tunisia formally agreed last week to allow individuals and non-governmental organizations (NGOs) to directly access the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR) with complaints of human rights violations against Tunisia. Tunisia joins seven other countries that also currently grant the Court the same jurisdiction. [AfCHPR Press Release] The government of Tunisia hosted a delegation of the AfCHPR in the capital city of Tunis on April 13 at which time Tunisian President Beji Caid Essebsi praised the Court’s work in protecting human rights. [AfCHPR Press Release] AfCHPR President Justice Sylvain Oré commended Tunisia’s decision and encouraged other African countries to follow suit. [AfCHPR Press Release] Tunisia’s acceptance of this jurisdiction comes one month after Rwanda officially withdrew from it. [AfCHPR Press Release] Additionally, in the years following Tunisia’s 2011 revolution, some human rights experts have praised its commitment to human rights and others condemned its rights abuses, particularly those linked to its extended state of emergency, such as the use of torture and restrictions to freedom of movement. [Amnesty International; OHCHR Press Release: Zeid; OHCHR Press Release: Terrorism]
The UN Human Rights Council considers Universal Periodic Review reports
Credit: UN Photo/Jean-Marc Ferré
In May, various universal bodies and experts will assess States’ compliance with their human rights obligations by conducting country visits, engaging in interactive dialogues, and reviewing reports from States and civil society, and human rights bodies in the African, Inter-American, and European human rights systems will hold sessions or hearings on individual complaints. Four UN treaty bodies will meet to engage with States regarding their treaty obligations pertaining to torture; racial discrimination; the rights of the child; and economic, social, and cultural rights. Four UN special procedure mandate holders and two working groups will conduct country visits, and three working groups will hold sessions in Geneva, Switzerland to discuss issues pertaining to discrimination against women, transnational corporations, and enforced disappearances. The Universal Periodic Review (UPR) Working Group will also be in session and will conduct interactive dialogues with representatives from 14 States.
Regionally, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights, African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, Inter-American Court of Human Rights, and the European Committee of Social Rights will all be in session. Additionally, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights will hear a case concerning the right to fair trial, the right to private life, the right to property, and the right to an effective remedy.
The UN treaty body sessions and the public hearings of the European Court, Inter-American Commission, Inter-American Court, and African Court may be watched via UN Web TV, the European Court’s website, 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
Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, the United Nations Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, addresses the UN Security Council
Credit: UN Photo/Evan Schneider
First the first time in nearly 10 years, a United Nations independent expert visited Cuba on an official country visit when the UN Special Rapporteur on trafficking in persons, especially women and children, Maria Grazia Giammarinaro, toured the country from April 10 to 14, 2017. The purpose of the Special Rapporteur’s visit was to assess the situation of victims of human trafficking, in particular for sexual and labor exploitation, and to assess measures that protect and provide victims with effective remedies. [OHCHR Press Release] Her visit concluded with a press conference in which she set forth criteria to combat human trafficking, including the establishment of awareness-raising programs regarding the perception of risk, and praised Cuba for its political will to combat human trafficking and its free healthcare, education, and social security systems, which help reduce vulnerabilities that can lead to trafficking. [Reuters; Cuba Debate (in Spanish)] The findings made during this visit will be presented to the UN Human Rights Council in June 2018. The last official visit to Cuba by a UN independent expert was conducted between October 28 and November 6, 2007, by the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler. See Report of the Special Rapporteur on the right to food, Jean Ziegler, UN Doc. A/HRC/7/5/Add.3, 3 March 2008. Read more
European Court of Human Rights
Credit: CherryX via Wikimedia Commons
On April 6, 2017, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that France’s requirement that two transgender applicants first undergo an irreversible identity change through an operation or sterilizing treatment in order to correct their “sex” designation on their birth certificates violated Article 8 (right to respect for private life) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The ECtHR determined that such a requirement impermissibly conditioned the recognition of the right to respect for private life on forgoing the right to respect for one’s physical integrity. See ECtHR, AP., Garçon and Nicot v. France, Nos. 79885/12, 5247/13, 52596/13, ECHR 2017, Judgment of 6 April 2017, para. 131 (French version). The ECtHR found no violation of Article 8, however, where French law required an applicant to prove that they suffered from gender identity disorder before the State would grant a change to their birth certificate under the category of “sex.” See id. at para. 139. Similarly, the ECtHR held there was no violation of Article 8 where an applicant was ordered by a French court to undergo a medical examination to confirm the applicant’s sex reassignment surgery. See id. at para. 150-152.
The Court did note the expansion of transgender rights at the national and international levels, including in France where since the applicants submitted their claims, the law has changed so that corrections to official sex designations are no longer conditioned upon irreversible medical procedures or sterilization treatments, but rather require publicly presenting oneself as the claimed sex; being recognized by family, friends, and colleagues as their claimed sex; and evidence that their name has been changed to correspond with their claimed sex. The Council of Europe has called for an end to the practice of conditioning the recognition of an individual’s chosen gender identity in official documents on medical procedures and treatment. See id. at paras. 68-69, 75-77. Read more
Thai fishing boat
Credit: SeaDave via Wikimedia Commons
The International Labour Organization (ILO) recently issued recommendations to Thailand to bring it in line with anti-slavery and forced labor provisions in the ILO Forced Labour Convention in response to allegations on the use of forced labor in the fishing industry, which has also been the topic of a lawsuit in the United States and of international pressure. [Guardian: Lawsuit; Guardian: ILO] Specifically, the submission to the ILO – referred to as a representation – alleged the forced labor and trafficking in persons of migrant workers from Myanmar, Cambodia, and the Lao People’s Democratic Republic, and alleged that fishers are subject to 20-hour work days, non-payment of wages, debt bondage, physical abuse, and murder. See International Labour Office, Sixth Supplementary Report: Report of the Committee set up to examine the representation alleging non-observance by Thailand of the Forced Labour Convention, 1930 (No. 29), made under article 24 of the ILO Constitution by the International Trade Union Confederation (ITUC) and the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) (2017), paras. 1, 7, 10. Additionally, the representation argues that violations in Thailand are due to a “weak legislative framework, the lack of effective complaints mechanisms, and the ineffectiveness of law enforcement mechanisms.” See id. at para. 9. The ILO committee that was set up to examine the present representation recommended improving labor inspections and legal enforcement of existing legislation, preventing and punishing illegal recruitment processes, and addressing illegal employment practices. See id. at paras. 60-68, 71-77. The ILO Forced Labour Convention requires States parties to “undertake to suppress” forced labor and to enforce penalties for engaging in forced labor. Read more
Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro at the United Nations
Credit: UN Photo/Kim Haughton
Recently, Venezuela’s Supreme Court made strides towards consolidating authority by claiming legislative power, prompting Venezuelans to protest and regional and universal stakeholders to condemn the actions of the Venezuelan government and offer their visions for response efforts. The Chief Justice later announced that the Supreme Court’s initial March 29, 2017 decision does not strip the legislature – which is seen as the last branch of government independent from Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro’s power – of its powers, but the Supreme Court still claims authority to exercise legislative power because, it claims, the legislature is unable to effectively do so at this time. [New York Times] The recent events add to the existing social unrest due to an ongoing economic crisis in the country, which has led to insufficient supplies of food and medicine and the violent suppression of protests. [IJRC; New York Times; Huffington Post; Amnesty International] The United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, Zeid Ra’ad Al Hussein, criticized the Supreme Court’s recent decision, calling separation of powers “essential” to the proper functioning of a democracy. [OHCHR Press Release] The Secretary General of the Organization of American States (OAS), Luis Almagro, denounced the Venezuelan government’s attempted coup, and the OAS adopted a resolution calling for Venezuela to restore democracy. [OAS Press Release: Coup; OAS Press Release: Repression; VOA News] Additionally, addressing the fallout of recent events and the ongoing humanitarian crisis, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) encouraged States in the region to implement measures to assist Venezuelan migrants, as many attempt to flee. [IACHR Press Release] As a State party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, Venezuela is obligated to uphold and protect the human rights to life, freedom of peaceful assembly, due process, and participation in public affairs, among others. Read more