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IHR LEGAL Newsletter

IHR LEGAL Newsletter

April – June 2021

New developments concerning the universal and regional systems for the promotion and protection of human rights

I. THE 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.

Latest News and Updates from the OHCHR:

 – On June 29, 2021, High Commissioner Michelle Bachelet denounced the increase in human rights violations and abuses in Mali occurring since August 2020. Mali, like other Sahel countries, in recent years has been registering an increasing number of jihadist attacks by both Al Qaeda and the Islamic State, which has led to an increase in inter-communal violence. This has displaced tens of thousands of people. The human rights situation in Mali has deteriorated due to continued abuses by armed Islamist groups, ethnic militias, and government security forces. The Human Rights and Protection Division of the United Nations Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), from January to June 2021, recorded 617 human rights violations, including 165 killings (147 men, 9 women, 7 boys, and 2 girls) committed by armed groups. This represents an increase of approximately 37% over the 449 civil society human rights violations, including 121 killings documented from August to December 2020. The press release is available here.

2. Human Rights Committee (HRC)

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

Latest News and Updates from the Human Rights Council (HRC):

 – The HRC celebrated its 132nd session online. This was the fourth session that the HRC held online since March 2020. During the sessions, held in July and October/November 2020, and March 2021, the HRC adopted 203 individual communications, 4 follow-up reports on concluding observations related to 16 States Parties and 4 follow-up reports on Views related to 32 individual cases, 17 lists of issues and 23 lists of issues before reporting, as well as General Comment 37 on the right to peaceful assembly. The 132nd session of the HRC took place from June 28 to July 23, 2021. All documents related to the session are available here.

3. Committee against Torture (CAT)

The Committee against Torture is a body of independent experts that monitors the implementation of the UN Convention against Torture by States Parties.

Latest News and Updates from the CAT:

 – In a press release dated 24 June 2021, the CAT stated that governments must protect those who assist victims of torture. On this occasion, the CAT urged States to uphold the absolute and universal prohibition of torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment or punishment. As well, States must provide an environment for redress and rehabilitation for victims of torture and for them to act freely. The press release is available 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 peoples´ rights in African countries. Among its responsibilities is 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.

Latest News and Updates from the ACHPR:

 – On June 26, 2021, the ACHPR issued a statement on the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture. On that occasion, the Commission commended the sustained efforts of each African State and urged governments to strengthen national measures to fulfill their international commitments. The statement is available here.

 – The ACHPR issued a press release on the celebration of the 40th anniversary of the adoption of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights. The African Charter was adopted in Nairobi, Kenya, on June 27, 1981, by the Assembly of Heads of State of the then Organization of African Unity (OAU), now the African Union (AU). The Charter was entered into force on October 21, 1986, after ratification by a simple majority of the member states of the then OAU. Currently, 54 of the 55 member states of the African Union are party to the African Charter. The press release is available here.

2. African Court on Human and People’s 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 opinions on human rights issues.

Latest News and Updates from the ACtHPR:

 – The ACtHPR issued a judgment in the Case of “Masoud Rajabu v. Tanzania” on June 25, 2021. The petitioner had been convicted for raping an 11-year-old girl. In response to his claims of possible human rights violations during the criminal proceedings, the ACtHPR only found that his right to free legal representation, contemplated in Article 7.1.c) of the African Charter and Article 14.3 of the ICCPR, had been violated. The judgment is available here.

 – The ACtHPR held its 61st Ordinary Session from May 31 to June 25, 2021, at its headquarters in Arusha, United Republic of Tanzania. At this session, the two newly elected judges were sworn in: Judge Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza from South Africa and Judge Sacko Modibo from Mali. In addition, the Court’s Strategic Plan 2021-2025 was formally launched on June 1, 2021. More information is available here.

III. EUROPEAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

The European Court of Human Rights (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 others States that have accepted the ECtHR’s jurisdiction.

Latest News and Updates from ECtHR:

 – On May 19, 2021, the Moscow office of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty (RFE/RL) and its CEO, Andrey Shary, filed a complaint before the ECtHR, challenging Russia’s use of “foreign agent” laws that have caused the imposition of million-dollar fines on RFE/RL and Mr. Shary since January 2021.

 – RFE/RL is an editorially independent media outlet funded by a grant from the U.S. Congress through the U.S. Global Media Agency. It owns its networks of local reporters who deliver news and information to more than 41 million people each week in 27 languages and in 23 countries where press freedom is restricted or where a professional press has not fully developed. Its videos were viewed 6.5 billion times on Facebook, YouTube, and Instagram/IGTV in 2020.

 – In the case under analysis, RFE/RL and Mr. Shary argued that Russia’s actions violated the rights to freedom of expression and freedom of the press protected by Article 10 of the ECHR and that they will suffer irreversible harm if the ECtHR does not act quickly. After the Court refused to grant interim measures in response to RFE/RL’s initial request for urgent interim measures on April 16, 2021, RFE/RL was invited to submit its case on the merits by May 18, 2021. Given the urgency of the situation, RFE/RL has been requesting “Priority Status” for the case under the Tribunal’s Priority Policy. More details of the case are available 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.

Latest News and Updates from the IACHR:

 – In a press release dated May 14, 2021, the IACHR, together with treaty bodies and experts from the United Nations and the Council of Europe, issued a Joint Statement on the eve of the International Day Against Homophobia, Lesbophobia, Biphobia, and Transphobia. The statement called on States and other stakeholders to consider the negative impact of exclusionary or stigmatizing narratives on violence and discrimination against lesbian, gay, bisexual, trans, intersex, and gender diverse people (LGBTI+). Additionally, the statement also stressed the need to ensure that religion and tradition are not used to promote discrimination against people based on their sexual orientation and gender identity. The joint statement is available here.

 – The IACHR concluded its 180th Period of Sessions. Between June 21 and July 2, 2021, the IACHR held its 180th period of sessions, during which it held 21 public hearings virtually. Of these, two public hearings dealt with precautionary measures regarding Brazil and Colombia.

 – The hearing on the implementation of the precautionary measures granted in favor of the Shipia Wayúu indigenous community concerning Colombia was attended by Ignacio Álvarez Martínez, Executive Director of IHR LEGAL, who acted on behalf of the beneficiaries of the precautionary measures. The case deals with the violations perpetrated against the members of the Shipia Wayúu community to the rights to life and personal integrity, as well as to economic, social, cultural, and environmental rights since the people have been victims of a generalized context of discrimination in the access to the rights to health, drinking water, and food, which has had a direct impact on their rights to life and personal integrity. This context has been recognized by different authorities, such as the Ombudsman’s Office and the Colombian Constitutional Court, on several occasions.

 – In addition, another eight hearings were on human rights issues in Bolivia, Chile, Cuba, Honduras, Guatemala, Mexico, Nicaragua, Trinidad and Tobago, the United States, and Venezuela. On the other hand, two hearings were convened ex officio and dealt with the general human rights situation in El Salvador and Brazil, in addition to another four hearings on cases regarding Argentina, Chile, Colombia, and Guatemala.

 – Moreover, a regional hearing was held on the use of virtual hearings in the region in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. Finally, the IACHR highlighted the situation faced by different groups at risk, expressing its concern about complaints received regarding human rights violations against migrants in detention centers, summary returns, the lack of due process guarantees, the adverse context faced by human rights defenders, among others. The press release on the culmination of the 180th session of the IACHR is available here.

2. Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR)

The IACtHR is a regional human rights court responsible for applying and interpreting the American Convention on Human Rights and other human rights instruments in the region. Its main function is to decide cases on human rights violations committed by States that have accepted its jurisdiction.

Latest News and Updates from the IACtHR:

 – The IACtHR held its 142nd Regular Session between May 24 and June 25, 2021. The IACtHR issued judgments in the following contentious cases: a) Grijalva Bueno v. Salvador; b) Moya Solís v. Peru; c) Guerrero, Molina et al. v. Venezuela; and d) Martínez Esquivia v. Colombia. Additionally, the IACtHR issued a response to the request for an Advisory Opinion regarding the concept of indefinite presidential reelection in the context of the Inter-American Human Rights System.

 – Moreover, the IACtHR held six virtual public hearings on contentious cases. Two provisional measure hearings were held, and three hearings were held to monitor compliance with judgments. Six resolutions on the monitoring of compliance with judgments were approved and five resolutions were adopted concerning requests and the implementation of provisional measures. The press release regarding the details of the judgments issued and the hearings held is available here.

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