Human Rights Bodies’ Sessions & Hearings: August 2020

Committee on Enforced Disappearances
Committee on Enforced Disappearances

Committee on Enforced Disappearances meets virtually
Credit: UN Web TV

In August, the African human rights court and commission, the United Nations Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD), UN Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD), and Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD) will be in session, virtually. The UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) will continue the online session it began in May, in order to allow members to continue their work remotely.

The Human Rights Council’s Advisory Committee and Working Group on Communications have postponed their scheduled meetings from August 2020 to February 2021, per the Council’s homepage and Working Group webpage. Although the UN Special Rapporteur on minority issues and Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures have country visits currently scheduled for August (to Paraguay and Venezuela, respectively), it is not clear whether they will proceed.

The COVID-19 pandemic continues to impact the scheduling and format of supranational human rights bodies’ sessions and other activities. The IJRC monthly overviews have detailed these changes, beginning in April 2020. For an overview of the changes in human rights oversight caused by the pandemic, see our July post on OpenGlobalRights. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

Inter-American Commission Issues Precautionary Measures as COVID-19 Threatens Indigenous Communities

The IACHR holds a hearing in 2019 on Environmental Protection in the Amazon and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil.
The IACHR holds a hearing in 2019 on Environmental Protection in the Amazon and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil.

IACHR hearing on Environmental Protection in the Amazon and the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in Brazil
Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has requested that Brazil protect the Yanomami and Ye’kwana peoples from the ongoing, heightened risk posed by COVID-19. [IACHR Press Release: Measures (Spanish)] In particular, the IACHR asked Brazil to protect the Indigenous communities’ rights to health, life, and personal integrity by taking steps to prevent the further spread of COVID-19 – including from trespassing miners – and by providing appropriate healthcare. See IACHR, Resolution 35/2020, Precautionary Measure No. 563-20, Members of the Yanomami and Ye’kwana Indigenous Peoples (Brazil), 17 Jul. 2020 (Portuguese). The precautionary measures adopted by the IACHR on July 17, 2020 appear to be the first international protective measures addressing the risks posed to Indigenous peoples by the pandemic, although international human rights bodies have repeatedly made broader calls for States to address those risks. Read more

Germany Arrests Gambian Ex-Soldiers, As Transitional Justice Efforts Continue

Former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh addresses the 68th session of the General Assembly
Credit: UN Photo/Amanda Voisard

Germany has arrested seven asylum seekers from The Gambia who are suspected of having committed crimes against humanity during the 22-year rule of former Gambian President Yahya Jammeh. [TDN] The arrests come as The Gambia takes steps towards justice and reconciliation, primarily via its Truth, Reconciliation and Reparations Commission (TRRC), which has been holding public hearings since January 2019. [JusticeInfo] Since assuming the presidency in 2017, Adama Barrow’s government has signaled a new approach to human rights, including by ratifying United Nations human rights treaties, authorizing complaints by individuals and NGOs to the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (AfCHPR), committing to constructing a permanent headquarters for the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), and bringing Myanmar before the International Court of Justice to face allegations of genocide against the Rohingya. [CTI; AfCHPR Press Release: Declaration; BBC]

Germany is not the first country to initiate an investigation into crimes committed by those associated with Jammeh’s government. In 2017, Switzerland opened an investigation into crimes against humanity allegedly committed by former Gambian Minister of the Interior Ousman Sonko, and a Swiss court agreed to hold him in preventative detention until January 2020. [SWI] And, in June 2020, the United States indicted a man on torture charges of conspiring to commit torture against individuals who planned a coup against Jammeh’s government. [Jurist; HRW: Correa]

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Four Members Join African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

28th Extraordinary Session of the ACHPR
Credit: ACHPR

On June 29, during its virtual 28th Extraordinary Session, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR) swore in four new Commissioners who will begin six-year terms. They are: Marie Louise Abomo (Cameroon), Mudford Zachariah Mwandenga (Zambia), Ndiamé Gaye (Senegal), and Alexia Gertrude Amesbury (Seychelles). [ACHPR Press Release; ISHR] The Commissioners were appointed during the 33rd Ordinary Session of the Assembly of Heads of State and Government (the Assembly) of the African Union (AU), which took place from February 9 to 10, 2020, in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia. The gender balance of the ACHPR will remain the same, with six members who identify as female and five who identify as male. The new Commissioners join the continent’s human rights body at a time when some AU Member States are pushing back against human rights norms and regional oversight.

The new Commissioners will replace Soyata Maiga (Mali), Yeung Kam John Yeung Sik Yuen (Mauritius), Lucy Asuagbor (Cameroon), and Lawrence Murugu Mute (Kenya). Commissioner Asuagbor was first elected to a three-year term in 2009. Commissioners Maiga and Yeung were first elected to six-year terms in 2007. The Executive Council re-elected the three commissioners, and elected Commissioner Mute, to six-year terms in 2013. Commissioner Mute was among the 10 candidates presented to the AU Executive Council in December 2019, but was not reelected. The next expected elections will take place in 2021, when three Commissioners’ terms will expire.

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Human Rights Bodies: Schedule and Procedural Changes Amid COVID-19 Pandemic (July 2020)

First hearing of the ECtHR by videoconference
Credit: ECtHR via Twitter

Universal and regional human rights oversight bodies are beginning to hold virtual sessions, following postponements and cancellations as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. Since mid-March 2020, almost all human rights bodies started suspending their meetings and travel through at least June, with the United Nations treaty bodies postponing all in-person meetings through August 2020. Quarantine measures in many of the bodies’ host countries are further impacting the way staff and appointed experts can carry out their work. However, many human rights bodies have adopted measures that will enable them to continue some of their work remotely. On May 1, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights became the first human rights body to announce that it would hold a virtual period of sessions in July 2020. This month, several regional universal and regional human rights bodies will meet virtually, including the African Commission and Peoples’ Rights, which will swear in four new commissioners during its session.

As more information becomes available in the month of July, this post will be updated. For future or past monthly updates on human rights bodies’ schedule & procedural changes, see the IJRC monthly overviews. To view human rights bodies’ past and future activities, visit the IJRC Hearings & Sessions Calendar. Read more

New Council of Europe Guidance on Rights of Trafficking Victims

Credit: GRETA via Council of Europe website

The Council of Europe Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) has published new guidance for States on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection. See Council of Europe GRETA, Guidance Note on the entitlement of victims of trafficking, and persons at risk of being trafficked, to international protection, GRETA(2020)06, June 2020. In particular, GRETA’s new guide explains when trafficking victims are entitled to international protection in countries where they are not citizens or permanent residents, and identifies the kinds of services and treatment those countries must provide. [COE Press Release] Relying on various international and regional human rights instruments, including the Council of Europe Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings, European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) jurisprudence, as well as the principle of non-refoulement, the guide is intended to assist Council of Europe (COE) Member States in meeting their obligations. The guide builds on the guidelines from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees and elaborates on the scope of application of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings. [COE Press Release]

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IACHR Launches Searchable Database of Recommendations, to Track Implementation

Credit: IACHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has launched an online database of recommendations it has issued to States in friendly settlement agreements, published merits reports, annual reports, country reports, and resolutions. [IACHR Press Release] The IACHR plans to soon add recommendations from thematic reports and precautionary measures, as well. The goals of the new system, known as the Inter-American SIMORE, are to facilitate State compliance and promote accountability and transparency, by improving access to information on the IACHR’s recommendations and their implementation. [IACHR Press Release] The Inter-American SIMORE is the IACHR’s first searchable database of its decisions and other outputs, and it is unique among human rights bodies in that it also serves as a channel for receiving information from many stakeholders on the status of (some) recommendations. States and civil society members may register on the platform to submit information on implementation, including regarding the IACHR’s most recent recommendation on the COVID-19 pandemic and human rights in the Americas. [IACHR Press Release] Currently, it contains 2,340 recommendations from 1999 to 2020. The interface, although not all documents, is available in English, Spanish, French, and Portuguese.

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