News Clips- April 28, 2017

The Foreign Ministers of Switzerland and Sweden at a United Nations event on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen
Credit: UN Photo/Violaine Martin

Civil Society

  • On Thursday, Palestinians organized a strike, which closed down schools, institutions, and transportation, to demonstrate solidarity with Palestinian prisoners on hunger strikes in Israeli jails. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Thursday, 30 people in Turkey were detained and charged with membership in an armed terror organization as a result of their ties to a newspaper that was run by a woman accused of leading a coup attempt in the country. [Washington Post]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Tuesday, the United Nations and the governments of Sweden and Switzerland held a one-day conference in Geneva, Switzerland focused on the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. [UN News Centre]
  • On Tuesday, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that detention conditions in Romanian prisons violated the right to the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. [Council of Europe]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • On Monday, a migrant boat traveling between Greece and Turkey sunk, killing 16 people. [Washington Post]
  • According to European Union (EU) officials, 23,000 unaccompanied children in Greek and Italian refugee camps are at risk of child abuse, rape, and smuggling. [Guardian]
  • This week, 25,000 people were displaced due to a violent offensive in the Kodok region of South Sudan. [Washington Post]

International Criminal Law

  • On Thursday, an appeals court in Senegal upheld former Chad dictator Hissene Habre’s life sentence for war crimes and crimes against humanity committed during his presidency. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, the International Criminal Court (ICC) unsealed the warrant of arrest for alleged war criminal Al-Tuhamy Mohamed Khaled for crimes committed in Libya in 2011. [ICC Press Release]


  • On Wednesday, Venezuelan President Maduro announced Venezuela’s withdrawal from the Organization of American States (OAS) amid ongoing violent protests in the country. [BBC News]
  • On Monday, Indian President Shri Pranab Mukherjee approved a law that prohibits discrimination against, and expands protections for, individuals with HIV and AIDS. [Jurist]

Tunisia Allows Individuals and NGOs Direct Access to African Court

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]

Read more

News Clips- April 21, 2017

The United Nations and African Union sign the joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security
Credit: UN Photo/Eskinder Debebe

Civil Society

  • On Wednesday, anti-government protesters marched in the streets of Caracas, Venezuela amid riot police while the government held counter-demonstrations. [Washington Post]
  • On Tuesday, the Human Rights Commission in Ethiopia reported 669 deaths resulting from anti-government protests in the country. [BBC News]
  • On Saturday, a United States aid worker was released from pretrial detention in Egypt after three years. [Washington Post] 

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • On Monday, the government of Turkey announced it would extend Turkey’s state of emergency for an additional three months. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Saturday, a suicide bomb attack in Syria killed 126 people; there are no claims of responsibility for the attack. [Guardian]

Migrants, Refugees, & Asylum Seekers

  • On Thursday, the Libyan coastguard reported at least 97 people missing after a boat transporting African nationals to Europe sunk. [Al Jazeera]
  • The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) estimated 8,300 migrants were rescued at sea from smugglers last weekend; eight migrants died. [Washington Post] 

International Criminal Law

  • On Wednesday, Uganda’s military ended its years-long search for Joseph Kony, a warlord charged with war crimes and crimes against humanity, because his Lord’s Resistance Army was largely neutralized. [Washington Post]
  • The United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) stated that the attacks in Syria over the weekend may amount to war crimes and recommended referring the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court (ICC). [UN News Centre]


  • This week, the government of Tunisia signed a declaration that gives non-government organizations and individuals the ability to submit complaints directly to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) against Tunisia. [ACHPR Press Release]
  • On Tuesday, Australian Prime Minister Malcom Turnbull announced a plan to get rid of the country’s 457 skilled-worker visa program. [Washington Post]
  • On Wednesday, the United Nations and the African Union signed a joint UN-AU Framework for Enhancing Partnership on Peace and Security. [UN News Centre]

Cuba Welcomes First Visit from UN Special Rapporteur in Nearly 10 Years

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

Requiring Operation to Correct Sex on Birth Certificate Violates Rights

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

News Clips – April 14, 2017

Russia blocks the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution
Credit: UN Photo/Manuel Elias

Civil Society

  • This week, Thai authorities warned that the online dissemination of information from two academics and a journalist critical of the government could violate Thailand’s Computer Crime Act. [Guardian]
  • On Wednesday, an Egyptian criminal court sentenced a human rights lawyer to ten years in prison for using Facebook to “harm national unity.” [Washington Post]
  • Last week, a TV reporter in Uganda was kidnapped, threatened, and beaten in relation to her coverage of the president of Uganda’s family. [Reporters Without Borders]
  • Last week, law enforcement officials opened fire on protesters, killing six, as thousands demonstrated at polling stations near Srinagar, India. [Guardian]

Activities of International Bodies

  • On Thursday, the European Court of Human Rights ruled that Russian officials failed to act sufficiently in response to an impending terrorist attack in 2004, which resulted in more than 330 deaths. [New York Times]
  • On Wednesday, Russia vetoed the adoption of a United Nations Security Council resolution that would have condemned the use of chemical weapons in Syria and called for an investigation. [UN News Centre]

Violence & Humanitarian Crises

  • Four days of violence in a Palestinian refugee camp in Lebanon resulted in six dead and 35 injured. [Al Jazeera]
  • On Sunday, Egypt declared a state of emergency in response to two attacks, claimed by ISIS, targeting Egypt’s Christian minority; the attacks caused at least 44 deaths and 100 injuries. [Washington Post]
  • On Monday, a large-scale fire broke out across the Dunkirk camp in France leaving 900 refugees and migrants displaced. [Guardian]

European Union

  • On Wednesday, the European Union warned it will take legal action if Poland and Hungary do not receive asylum seekers according to the region’s migration scheme. [Reuters]
  • This week, the European Union extended sanctions, initially applied in 2011, against Iran as a result of alleged human rights violations in the country. [Washington Post]

Trafficking in Persons

ILO: Thailand Not Meeting Obligations Under Forced Labour Convention

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

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