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IHR LEGAL Newsletter

IHR LEGAL Newsletter

January – April 2021

Selected developments 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.

 Latest News and Updates from the OHCHR:

 – Statement by UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet on guilty verdict in George Floyd case

 On April 21, 2021, the High Commissioner issued a statement and expressed, among other aspects, the following:

“This is a momentous verdict. It is also a testament to the courage and perseverance of George Floyd’s family and many others in calling for justice. As the jury recognised, the evidence in this case was crystal clear. Any other result would have been a travesty of justice.

But for countless other victims of African descent and their families, in the United States and throughout the world, the fight for justice goes on. The battle to get cases of excessive force or killings by police before the courts, let alone win them, is far from over.

Impunity for crimes and human rights violations by law enforcement officers must end, and we need to see robust measures to prevent further arbitrary killings […]”. The full version can be consulted here.

2. Human Rights Committee

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.

Latest News and Updates from the Human Rights Committee:

 A new individual complaints form for United Nations treaty bodies and a guidance note on the subject were recently published. Both can be found here.

– The latest General Comment Nº 37 of the Human Rights Committee refers to the right of peaceful assembly enshrined in Article 21 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. It can be found here.

II. AFRICAN HUMAN RIGHTS SYSTEM

1)   African Commission on Human and Peoples 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 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:

– Resolution on the need to undertake a Study on human and peoples’ rights and artificial intelligence (AI), robotics and other new and emerging technologies in Africa – ACHPR/Res. 473 (February 25, 2021). The ACHPR called on State Parties to ensure that the development and use of AI, robotics, and other new and emerging technologies are compatible with the rights and duties in the African Charter. To this end, it specified that transparency must be guaranteed, these technologies must be kept under significant human control and a regional regulatory framework must be developed. The complete resolution is available here.

– Resolution on the need to protect civic space and freedom of association and assembly – ACHPR/Res. 475 (February 25, 2021). The ACHPR urged States to refrain from using the state of emergency related to COVID-19 to repress or restrict the freedoms that constitute the civic space. On the contrary, they must respect the rights to freedom of association and assembly. The complete resolution is available here.

– Resolution on the Prohibition of Excessive Use of Force by Law Enforcement Officers in African States – ACHPR/Res. 474 (February 25, 2021).  The ACHPR established that the use of force must be compatible with the principles of legality, necessity, proportionality, and accountability and do not endanger human life. Moreover, it highlighted the absolute prohibition against torture and other cruel, inhuman, or degrading treatment, even under “emergency” situations. The complete resolution is available here.

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

The African Court, 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.

Latest News and Updates from the African Court

– The African Court recently rendered judgment in the case of Sébastien Germain Marie Aikoué Ajavon v. the Republic of Benin, and determined, among other aspects, that the failure to comply with its previous decisions, regarding the same case, constitutes a new violation of human rights, in particular as it relates to Article 30 of the Protocol to the African Charter on Human and Peoples´ Rights, : “[t]he States Parties to the present Protocol undertake to comply with the judgment in any case to which they are parties within the time stipulated by the Court and to guarantee its execution”. The judgment can be found 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 States that have accepted the ECtHR’s jurisdiction.

Latest News and Updates from the ECtHR:

– The ECtHR recently decided the case of Vavřička and Others v. the Czech Republic. The case, decided on April 8, 2021, and originating from six complaints, concerns the legal obligation to vaccinate children against diseases known to medical science, and the sanctions and restrictions when this obligation is breached. The first complaint was filed by a father who was fined for not having properly vaccinated his school-age children. The other applications were filed by parents on behalf of their minor children after they had been denied authorization to enroll them in preschools or daycare centers. The Court, in a split decision, found that there was no violation of article 8 of the ECHR. The judgment can be found here.

– The ECtHR publishes a factsheet on the use of force in the policing of demonstrations. In March 2021 the ECtHR published a report stating, inter alia, that the use of force in the policing of demonstrations may, in certain circumstances, raise concerns under the ECHR, in particular concerning the right to life, the prohibition of torture, and inhuman or degrading treatment, freedom of expression and freedom of assembly. The factsheet 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.

 Latest News and Updates from the IACHR:

– The IACHR recently adopted a resolution on “COVID-19 vaccines and inter-American human rights obligations”, in which it expressed, among other aspects, that “it is imperative (…) to promote the just and equitable distribution of the vaccines, particularly with regard to accessibility and affordability for middle and low income countries. Equity must be a key component, not only among countries but within countries, in order to put an end to the severe phase of this pandemic”. In its resolution, the IACHR made recommendations to the OAS Member States regarding the following aspects: 1) access to vaccines, health goods and services pursuant to the principle of equal protection and nondiscrimination; 2) distribution and prioritization of vaccine doses; 3) active dissemination of adequate and sufficient information on the vaccines and combating disinformation; 4) right to free, prior and informed consent; 5) right of access to information, transparency and combat against corruption; 6) business and human rights as regards the COVID-19 vaccines; and 7) international cooperation. The resolution is available here.

– The IACHR and its Special Rapporteurship on Economic, Social, Cultural and Environmental Rights (REDESCA) celebrated the entry into force of the regional agreement on access to information, public participation, and access to justice in environmental matters, known as the Escazú Agreement, and urged the States of the region to strengthen their environmental public policies in the face of the climate emergency. The press release 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 recently rendered judgment in the case of Cordero Bernal Vs. Peru. The case concerns the administrative process and dismissal of a judge as a consequence of his decision to grant unconditional release to two defendants. Although the IACHR had concluded that Peru violated, among others, the principle of judicial independence and the right to receive reasoned decisions, the IACtHR, in a judgment dated February 16, 2021, with dissenting votes of two judges, held that Peru did not violate human rights in this case. The judgment in Spanish can be found here.

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