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IHR LEGAL Newsletter

IHR LEGAL Newsletter

April – June 2022

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In this issue:

HRC decision on violation of human rights of murdered protesters; ACHPR statement on terrorist attack in the Republic of Togo; ECtHR judgment in the Case “Taner Kılıç v. Turkey” for the arbitrary detention of one of the founders of Amnesty International Turkey; and much more.

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News concerning the universal system and regional systems for the promotion and protection of human rights

I. UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

1. Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR)

The OHCHR is the principal human rights entity of the United Nations. Its functions include promoting and protecting all human rights, helping to empower people, and developing a human rights perspective in all United Nations programs. The current United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights is Mrs. Michelle Bachelet.

News from the OHCHR:

— On May 17, 2022, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet expressed deep concern about the serious human rights impact of increased violence by armed groups in Haiti. Between April 24 and May 16 of this year at least 92 people not associated with gangs and at least 96 presumed gang members were killed during coordinated armed attacks in Port-au-Prince. In addition, 113 people were injured, 12 were reported missing and 49 were kidnapped for ransom, according to statistics corroborated by OHCHR officials. The actual number of people killed is possibly higher. There have been reports of extreme violence, including beheadings, dismemberments, burning of corpses, and sexual violence, as well as the killing of minors accused of being informants for a rival gang.

The High Commissioner stated that the fragility of State institutions, particularly the police and the judiciary, has led to lawlessness. She also expressed her fear that violence will continue to escalate, as ongoing police operations have failed to restore public order and protect the local population. In that vein, the High Commissioner expressed that “it is paramount that human rights of Haitians be at the heart of the international response, including on issues related to sexual and gender-based violence”. The press release can be found here.

— On May 7, 2022, the High Commissioner issued a statement on the recent violent clashes between Muslims and Orthodox Christians in Ethiopia. Inter-religious clashes first recorded on April 26 in the town of Gondar in the northern Amhara region, apparently in connection with a land dispute, appear to have spread rapidly to towns and cities in many regions, and the capital, Addis Ababa. There is evidence that two mosques were burned and two others were partially destroyed in Gondar. In the apparent reprisal attacks that followed, two Orthodox Christian men were burned to death, another was hacked to death, and five churches were burned in the Silt’e area of the Southern Nations, Nationalities, and Peoples region in the southwest of the country. On April 28, further violence occurred in the town of Debark in the Amhara region and the town of Dire Dawa in the northeastern Afar region. As a result, at least 30 people were killed, more than 100 were injured and the police reportedly arrested and detained at least 578 people, in at least four towns, because of the violent clashes.

 The High Commissioner called on the Ethiopian authorities to initiate and conduct thorough, independent, and transparent investigations into each of the events and to ensure that the perpetrators are held accountable. The press release can be found here.

2. Human Rights Committee (HRC)

The Human Rights Committee is the United Nations body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights by its States Parties.

News from the HRC:

— On May 6, 2022, the HRC determined that Peru failed to protect the right to life and peaceful assembly of two protesters who were shot and killed by policemen during a non-violent march. Emiliano Garcia Mendoza and Ruben Pariona Camposano, along with 700 other people, participated in an agrarian protest in the city of Huamanga, in the Ayacucho region of south-central Peru years ago. As the demonstrators made their way to a street guarded by 12 police officers, an officer suddenly fired a tear gas canister into the crowd. As the protesters dispersed, two shots were heard before Garcia Mendoza and Pariona Camposano fell to the ground bleeding profusely from their head wounds. Both died instantly.

The HRC found that Peru violated the rights to life and peaceful assembly of the deceased, as well as the right of their families to an effective remedy. The HRC also stated that “in the context of a peaceful demonstration, the use of potentially lethal force by law enforcement officials should be an extreme measure that can only be used when strictly necessary to protect life or prevent serious injury from an imminent threat”. The press release can be found here and the decision here.

3. Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)

The CERD is the United Nations body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

News from the CERD:

— On April 29, 2022, the CERD issued its conclusions on Cameroon, Estonia, Kazakhstan, and Luxembourg after having examined these States parties at its last session. Regarding Cameroon, the CERD was deeply concerned, among others, by the widespread violent attacks and clashes between security forces and separatist armed groups in the northwest and southwest regions since 2016. With regard to Estonia, the CERD reiterated its concern about the Estonian Penal Code, which does not fully comply with the Convention given its failure to prohibit racist organizations and the dissemination of ideas based on racial hatred.

With regard to Kazakhstan, the CERD was concerned, among others, about incitement to racist hatred against ethnic minority groups on the internet and social networks, and called on the State to increase measures to monitor, investigate and prosecute incitement to racist hatred online. Finally, about Luxembourg, the CERD expressed concern, among others, that people of African descent in Luxembourg experience significantly higher rates of racism and discrimination in the workplace, housing, and education than other population groups, and recommended that the State takes measures to facilitate victims’ access to justice and to combat racism and all forms of discrimination against people of African descent. The press release can be found here.

4. Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

The CRC is the United Nations body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention on the Rights of the Child.

News from the CRC:

— On June 9, 2022, the CRC presented its concluding observations on Cuba’s combined third through sixth reports. In the document, the CRC welcomed the progress made by the State in various areas, such as the adoption of a new Constitution in April 2019 that recognizes children as subjects of rights and integrates the principle of the best interests of the child. In relation to the main areas of concern and recommendations, the CRC considered the following areas requiring urgent action: i) freedom of association and peaceful assembly; ii) sexual abuse; iii) children deprived of a family environment; iv) nutrition; v) inclusive education, and vi) juvenile justice. Concerning child sexual abuse cases, for example, the CRC found that in 2015 alone they amounted to 2,274 child victims. Due to the lack of public and updated information on these cases, it is not possible to know the type of measures taken to address these crimes. On this issue, the CRC urged the Government, among others, to ensure mandatory reporting, in all settings, of suspected sexual abuse. The concluding observations can be found here.

5. Committee against Torture (CAT)

The CAT is the United Nations’s body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment

News from the CAT:

— On May 13, 2022, the CAT published its observations on Cuba, Iceland, Iraq, Kenya, Montenegro, and Uruguay, the six States parties it examined during its last session. In relation to Cuba, the CAT urged the State to take several measures, including ending practices of harassment, arbitrary arrests, intimidation, imprisonment, and reprisals against human rights defenders. About Iceland, the CAT expressed concern that current Icelandic law allows for four weeks of solitary confinement in pre-trial detention. While welcoming Iceland’s willingness to review the existing legal framework, the CAT called on the State to bring its legislation on solitary confinement into line with international standards. Concerning Iraq, the CAT expressed alarm at continuing allegations of torture or ill-treatment in detention facilities and noted that existing mechanisms to investigate acts of torture and ill-treatment committed by officials do not effectively hold perpetrators accountable.

With regard to Kenya, the CAT noted that female genital mutilation is still common in some communities and that these harmful practices are even reportedly carried out by medical professionals, and therefore urged the State to take measures to eliminate this practice. As for Montenegro, the CAT asked the State to intensify its efforts to eliminate overcrowding and improve conditions in prisons and other places of confinement. Finally, with regard to Uruguay, the CAT expressed concern about the lack of a definition of torture in national legislation and the failure to collect statistics on allegations of torture, investigate these acts and impose sanctions on perpetrators. The press release can be found here and the observations of each State here.

II. AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

1. African Commission on Human and People’s Rights (ACHPR)

The ACHPR is a quasi-jurisdictional body, within the framework of the African Union, whose main function is to protect and promote human and people´s rights in African countries. Among its functions are to process complaints from individuals or States about human rights violations committed by States in the region, and to receive periodic reports from States on the human rights situation in their country.

News from the ACHPR:

— On June 21, 2022, the ACHPR issued a press release after the terrorist attacks perpetrated in and around the villages of the Diallassagou Community in the Republic of Mali. On the weekend of June 18-19, 2022, there was an attack by the jihadist group Katiba du Macina against the villages of Diallassagou, Dianweli, Deguessagou, and their surroundings in the Bankass circle in central Mali. The ACHPR expressed its deep concern about the multiple human rights violations committed during these attacks, in particular the loss of human lives which, according to the latest report of the Malian government, is estimated at 132 civilians killed. It also regretted the material damage caused by the burning of the market, houses, stores, and vehicles, as well as the looting of livestock. On the occasion, the ACHPR called on the Malian authorities to carry out impartial investigations to identify the perpetrators and accomplices of this attack and of all other human rights violations perpetrated against the civilian population, in order to bring them to justice and prosecute them in accordance with the laws in force. The press release (in French) can be found here.

— On May 16, 2022, the ACHPR issued a statement on a terrorist attack in the Republic of Togo. On May 11, 2022, there was a terrorist attack against a military post of the Togolese armed forces in the town of Kpékpakandi, in the north of the country, which, according to the Togolese government report, caused 8 casualties and 13 wounded. The ACHPR showed to be deeply concerned about the attacks on the northern region, especially the prefecture of Kpendjal, which was the target of a second attack after the one in November 2021. On the occasion, the ACHPR called on Togolese authorities to speed up investigations to identify and bring the alleged perpetrators to justice. It also urged them to take appropriate measures to ensure the security of the entire territory in general. The press release (in French) can be found here.

2. African Court on Human and Peoples Rights (ACtHPR)

The ACtHPR, which is also an institution of the African Union, resolves contentious cases of human rights violations, orders provisional measures, and presents its expert opinion on human rights issues.

News from the ACtHPR:

— On April 4, 2022, the ACtHPR stated that it will appoint two new judges during the 41st Regular Session of the Executive Council, scheduled for June/July 2022. The two terms of office expiring in July 2022 are currently held by Ms. Marie-Theresa Mukamulisa from Rwanda and Ms. Ntyam Ondo Mengue from Cameroon. The ACtHPR invited States Parties to the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights on the Establishment of an African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights to submit their nominations/nominations. The press release can be found here.

III. EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

1. European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR)

The ECtHR is a judicial body of the Council of Europe whose main function is to monitor the compliance of States parties with the European Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms (ECHR). The ECtHR is responsible for analyzing complaints from individuals, groups of individuals or States for human rights violations committed by States that have accepted the ECtHR’s jurisdiction.

News from the ECtHR:

In June 2022, the ECtHR updated its factsheet on migrant children in detention and accompanied by adults. The factsheet contains jurisprudential updates and recent cases on the subject, such as in the cases “B. et al.” and “Popov“, both against France, in which the ECtHR found that the administrative detention of migrant children, given the material conditions of the center and the vulnerability of the children, amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. The fact sheet can be found here.

—On May 31, 2022, the ECtHR ruled in the Case “Taner Kılıç v. Turkey” and found Turkey responsible for the arbitrary detention of one of Amnesty International’s founding members in Turkey. Taner Kılıç is a Turkish civil rights activist, one of the founding members of Amnesty International’s Turkey section, and its president since 2014. Kılıç was arrested by Turkish authorities for alleged terrorist activities on June 6, 2017, during the 2016-17 reprisals in Turkey. In the judgment, the ECtHR mainly ruled that the detention was unlawful and arbitrary for lack of reasonable grounds and that his detention was due to his activity as a human rights defender and therefore interfered with his freedom of expression. In this regard, the ECtHR held Turkey responsible for the violation of liberty, security, and freedom of expression. The summary of the judgment can be found here.

IV. INTER-AMERICAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

1. Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR)

The IACHR is the autonomous body of the Organization of American States (OAS) responsible for the promotion and protection of human rights in the Americas. One of its duties is to receive and review complaints from individuals for human rights violations and to monitor human rights situations.

News from the IACHR:

On June 18, 2022, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship for Freedom of Expression (RELE) condemned the murder of journalist Dom Phillips and indigenous peoples expert Bruno Araújo Pereira, beneficiaries of precautionary measures, in Brazil. On June 6, 2022, the Union of Indigenous Peoples of the Javari Valley (UNIVAJA) issued an alert about the disappearance of the victims, who were on a work trip and journalistic investigation related to alleged illegal fishing and hunting activities in the state of Amazonas. On June 11, the IACHR granted interim measures in favor of Dom Philips and Bruno Araújo. In this regard, RELE became aware of reports from civil society organizations that warned about the delay of State authorities in starting the search for them during the first days of their disappearance and urged the State to take immediate and coordinated actions between State and federal authorities to find their whereabouts. However, on June 16 their bodies were found dead.

Dom Phillips was recognized for his specialized work covering environmental issues, land conflicts, and the situation of indigenous peoples in Brazil. Bruno Araújo was a recognized expert on indigenous peoples and accompanied Dom Phillips as a guide and facilitator due to his extensive knowledge of the region.

The murders of Dom Phillips and Bruno Araújo are framed in a context of worsening violence against indigenous peoples, human rights defenders, journalists, and social communicators in the Amazon region, as recognized in the 2021 country report on the Situation of human rights in Brazil. In this sense, the RELE of the IACHR reaffirmed its concern about the silencing effect and self-censorship generated by the climate of violence and impunity against journalists, human rights defenders, and communicators. The press release (in Spanish) can be found here.

On June 10, 2022, on Day of Children and Adolescents of the Americas, the IACHR urged States to guarantee education free of sexual violence. The IACHR expressed its concern about the persistence of sexual violence against children and adolescents in the educational systems of the Americas. Through its monitoring work, the IACHR collected information indicating that between 2014 and 2022 in Ecuador more than 3,900 cases of sexual violence in schools and colleges were reported. Likewise, from the beginning of the year until May 31, the Secretariat of Education of Bogota (Colombia) received 2,667 alerts on alleged cases of sexual violence against girls and boys, occurring in different contexts, including the educational environment. According to UNICEF data, 14% of children and adolescents have suffered some form of sexual violence.

The IACHR stated that, despite the measures adopted by several countries in the region, there are still great challenges for the implementation of effective responses in this area and noted with concern the persistence of social norms and patterns that promote the invisibility, repetition, and impunity of various forms of sexual violence in educational contexts. The IACHR recalled that sexual violence has a disproportionate impact on girls and female adolescents, who are more likely to suffer various forms of discrimination and violence, which affects their access to and permanence in schools, and urged States to recognize the need to guarantee children and adolescents an education free of any form of violence. The press release can be found here.

On May 27, 2022, the IACHR and its Special Rapporteur for Freedom of Expression (RELE) urged the Nicaraguan State to cease persecution against the Church and to guarantee pluralism and diversity of voices. According to public information, the Nicaraguan Institute of Telecommunications and Post (TELCOR) – the country’s communications regulator – has ordered cable television operators to eliminate the Catholic channel from the programming grid. The Catholic Channel, which was founded in 2011, belongs to the Episcopal Conference of Nicaragua and was interrupted while broadcasting religious activities.

These events occurred in a context of persecution, intimidation, harassment, police assault, and stigmatizing statements by the highest authorities of the State and police agents against members of the Catholic Church. Thus, the IACHR and RELE called on the State to cease the constant attacks against the Catholic Church. They also urged the State to refrain from using its telecommunications powers as an indirect measure to limit or impede the circulation of information, ideas, and opinions, which implies the duty to reinstate the broadcasting license of the Catholic Channel and thus guarantee the diversity and plurality of voices. The press release can be found here.

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