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News Clips – October 25, 2010

October 25, 2010 Leave a comment
  • The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights begins holding hearings today in its 140th Period of Sessions.  Issues to be discussed today include the Situation of Environmentalists in Mesoamerica, and Discrimination against the Transsexual, Transgender, and Transvestite Population in Brazil.  See the week’s schedule of hearings here.  Webcast of some hearings is available here.
  • The IACHR has called on the United States to suspend the execution of Jeffrey Timothy Landrigan, following its grant of precautionary measures in Landrigan’s favor last week.  The Commission subsequently held that the U.S. violated the rights of Landrigan, who is scheduled to be executed tomorrow, when he was sentenced to death by a trial judge rather than a jury using a procedure later found to be unconstitutional, but was never granted a new sentencing hearing.  The Commission requested the immediate suspension of his execution. [IACHR] Amnesty International USA questioned Landrigan’s defense counsel’s failure to present mitigating evidence of his neuropsychological health and raised concerns that the state of Arizona may have obtained the drug used for lethal injections, sodium thiopental, from a non-FDA-approved source. [AI USA]  Landrigan’s application for stay of execution and habeas petition  – on the grounds of possible actual innocence – are pending before the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.
  • The European Court of Human Rights has found Russia in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights for arbitrarily and discriminatorily denying authorization for gay rights marches in Moscow, in its judgment in Alekseyev v. Russia.
  • Canadian Omar Khadr has pleaded guilty to war crimes charges before a Military Commission in Guantánamo, as part of an agreement which will likely limit his prison sentence and provide for his return to Canada, while avoiding the controversy of trying Khadr for crimes he allegedly committed as a juvenile. [AI] Amnesty International urges the U.S. government to comply with its obligations to investigate Khadr’s allegations of torture and abuse while in custody.
  • Another mass killing in Ciudad Juárez has claimed the lives of 14 individuals at a teenage boy’s birthday party, following the UN Special Rapporteur on the Independence of Judges and Lawyers’ visit to Mexico and her call for a reformed, independent judiciary capable of handling the increased incidence of violent crime, ensuring access to both defendants and victims, and prosecuting human rights offenders in the ordinary – rather than military – courts. [NYT]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on Turkey to investigate the arbitrary detention and beating of five transgender activists in Ankara by police officers in May 2010, as well as drop the charges against the activists. [HRW]
  • The ICC Trial Chamber III has rejected former DRC vice president Jean Pierre Bemba Gombo’s double jeopardy claim, making way for his trial to begin on war crimes and crimes against humanity charges related to the Movement for the Liberation of Congo’s activities in the Central African Republic in 2002 and 2003. [RNW]  The situation in the CAR was referred to the ICC prosecutor in 2005 and the warrant for Bemba’s arrest was issued in 2008.
  • Cholera continues to take lives in Haiti, as fears grow of the disease spreading to camps for earthquake survivors. [Washington Post]
  • The Associated Press reports that “[a] group of Israeli reservists critical of the military’s treatment of Palestinians has released new photos that appear to show Israeli soldiers abusing Palestinians” [Washington Post] Meanwhile, Human Rights Watch has called attention to torture allegations in Palestinian detention in the West Bank. [HRW]
  • Vietnam has attracted criticism for recent, continued arrests of Vietnamese political bloggers and critics. [HRW]
  • The United Arab Emirates Federal Supreme Court has ruled that husbands have a right – under the penal code – to “chastise” their wives and children using violence and coercion, provided they leave no physical marks. [HRW]
  • Last week, the Burundi government denied that police arbitrarily executed 22 rebels, accusing the president of the Association for Protection of Detainees and Human Rights of making false accusations and insisting that the rebels were killed in combat. [RNW]
  • Strikes and fuel shortages persist in France as workers protest President Sarkozy’s decision to raise the retirement age from 60 to 62 to balance the social security budget. [Washington Post]
  • Serbia is urged to prosecute two war crimes suspects, Goran Hadzic and Ratko Mladic, as the European Commission considers Serbia’s application to join the EU. [HRW]
  • Jailed Iranian human rights defender Nasrine Sotoudeh enters her eighth week of detention in solitary confinement, where she is reported to be on a hunger strike. [LA Times Blog]
  • Cuban journalist and political prisoner, Guillermo Fariñas, has been awarded the Sakharov Prize given by the European Parliament to recognize those who “combat intolerance, fanaticism and oppression”.  Fariñas has been leading a hunger strike in prison to advocate for the release of prisoners in poor health who want to stay in Cuba. [RNW]
  • Following a YouTube video depicting the torture of two Papuan men by Indonesian officials, Amnesty International is calling for an investigation of torture allegations against Indonesian security forces in Papua province over the past two years. [AI]
  • A Virginia man has pleaded guilty in federal district court to attempted material support of terrorism and communicating threats, in connection with his online threats to South Park creators and advocacy of Somali Al-Qaeda affiliate, Al-Shabaab. [Washington Post]
  • The Iraqi Supreme Court has ordered Parliament to meet within two weeks, finding the suspension of the current legislative session – due to legislators’ failure to reach consensus on the formation of the next government – unlawful. [Washington Post]
  • A New York Times article reports on the crumbling state of public housing in the United States, as budget constraints force residents to wait years for necessary repairs. [NYT]
  • The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has temporarily stayed enforcement of the District Court’s injunction against the Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell policy regarding sexual orientation in the U.S. armed forces, in order to consider the federal government’s appeal in Log Cabin Republicans v. USA.
  • Twice this month, Iranian authorities have used amputation as punishment by cutting off the hand of two Iranians convicted of theft, raising concerns that the practice is regaining favor. [Huffington Post]
  • Thousands protested in Argentina following the death of labor activist Mariano Ferreyra last week during demonstrations for better pay and benefits for railway workers. [Impunity Watch]
  • The Telegraph reports, “The US is withholding assistance to Pakistani military units accused of human rights abuses, according to American officials, sparking outrage in a country where CIA drones are blamed for killing hundreds of civilians”. [Telegraph]
  • 1.3 million votes have been cancelled in Afghanistan’s recent election, following findings of fraud and irregularities. [BBC]  Meanwhile, President Hamid Karzai is taking heat for accepting funding from Iran. [BBC]
  • The African Union has reported that the Central African Republic, along with the DRC, Sudan and Uganda, are working together to defeat the Lord’s Resistance Army, in part by creating a joint brigade and classifying the LRA as a terrorist organization. [RNW]
  • A New York Times editorial questions U.S. government treatment of material witnesses in terrorism cases, following the Supreme Court’s decision to hearAshcroft v. al-Kidd, a suit by an American citizen held in detention and subjected to strict probation-like restrictions for fifteen months, as a material witness. [SCOTUSblog]  Former Attorney General John Ashcroft appealed the Ninth Circuit’s decision holding he was not entitled to absolute immunity against the suit.
  • The UN Special Rapporteur on Torture warned last week that Greek detention facilities are dangerously overcrowded as they continue to receive irregular migrants seeking to enter Europe from Turkey, and called on the EU to address the migrant detention issue. [OHCHR]
  • Last week, Tibetan students marched in protest of reported government plans to institute a Chinese-only language policy in classrooms. [Impunity Watch]
  • The European Commissioner for Human Rights calls attention to the plight of institutionalized persons with disabilities in his latest comment.
  • A U.S. federal district court judge in Kansas has ruled that Human Rights Watch and a researcher must disclose their notes and sources in the trial of a Rwandan charged with illegally obtaining U.S. citizenship by lying about his participation in the Rwandan genocide. [AP]
  • Mark Lyttle, a mentally disabled U.S. citizen of Puerto Rican descent who was wrongly deported to Mexico is suing the U.S. government after Lyttle, who apparently has a history of mental illness and speaks no Spanish, was deported without court-appointed counsel or an opportunity to present evidence of his citizenship. [Impunity Watch]

News Clips – October 15, 2010

October 15, 2010 Leave a comment
  • The loss of leading international human rights scholar Louis Henkin is mourned, while the legal community remembers his long career dedicated to the development of international law and the protection of human rights. [Human Rights First]
  • Moldova has ratified the Rome Statute to become the newest State Party to the International Criminal Court, bringing the total to 114. [UN]
  • Canadian citizen Omar Khadr may have reached a plea agreement with the U.S. government, ending his prosecution by a Military Commission at Guantánamo. [Human Rights First]  Khadr was detained in Afghanistan when he was 15 years old and recently turned 24 while in U.S. custody.  Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has declined to confirm the status of Khadr’s case, but reports indicate that the deal would require Khadr to plead guilty to the war crimes charges against him – including murder, attempted murder, and conspiracy – and serve eight years in prison, the final seven years being served in Canada, contingent on the Canadian government’s agreement. [CBC News]  Khadr’s case has drawn attention because of his young age, but also as one of a handful of cases in which Guantánamo detainees have argued that their home country governments have an obligation to use diplomacy to secure their nationals’ release from Guantánamo.  See INTERIGHTSthird party intervention in Boumediene before the ECHR for relevant jurisprudence and an example of the analysis used in such cases.
  • France has arrested Rwandan rebel leader Callixte Mbarushimana, who is wanted by the ICC on charges that he committed war crimes and crimes against humanity in the Democratic Republic of Congo last year. [ICC; HRW]
  • Uzbekistan has convicted two journalists, Vladimir Berezovskii and Abdumalik Boboev, on defamation and insult charges in connection with articles written or made available by them which were critical of the Uzbek government’s policies; Boboev was ordered to pay a hefty fine. [VOA; HRW]
  • Kenya will no longer prosecute suspected Somali pirates captured by international forces, as it lets expire an agreement entered into last year with the European Union and several national governments. [Impunity Watch]
  • Indonesian President Yudhoyono cancelled his scheduled trip to the Netherlands last week due to a human rights suit filed in Dutch court against him by a Maluku separatist who was allegedly detained and severely beaten for showing a Maluku independence flag during a presidential speech in 2007. [VOA]
  • Federal district court judge Virginia A. Phillips has granted the plaintiffs permanent injunctive relief against the government’s “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy which had allowed the U.S. military to dismiss soldiers for revealing their homosexuality, upon finding that the law violates the U.S. Constitution’s substantive due process and free speech protections. [C.D. Cal.]  The federal legislature has recently been deliberating repeal of DADT, but Senate Democrats were unable to overcome Republican opposition to the bill. [WSJ]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on the Rwandan government to protect the rights and safety of opposition leaders, in relation to the detention of the leaders of two Rwandan opposition parties. [HRW]
  • The IACHR has released its hearing schedule for 140th Period of Sessions, to begin later this month. [IACHR]  The Commission’s thematic hearings will address issues ranging from camps for the internally displaced in Haiti to prosecutions for crimes against humanity in Argentina, while the hearings on the admissibility and merits of individual cases will include that of Guantánamo detainee Djamel AmezianeLivestreaming and/or recordings will be available for most hearings.
  • A Peruvian court has convicted Vladimiro Montesinos, former aide to ex-President Alberto Fujimori and de facto head of security, as well as members of the Colina death squad, on charges of extrajudicial killing and injury of 29 individuals in separate incidents, including the massacre of Barrios Altos.  The court (Sala Penal Especial de la Corte Suprema de Justicia) found the acts constituted crimes against humanity, as it similarly found in the case of Alberto Fujimori. [CEJIL]  The Barrios Altos case has been reviewed by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, which found Peru responsible for the deaths and lack of investigation or reparation (merits decision here).
  • Ecuador is receiving negative attention from NGOs and the UN as recent unrest has led the Ecuadorian government to crack down on freedom of the press and of expression. [UN]
  • UN peacekeepers and Democratic Republic of Congo forces have captured a DRC rebel leader accused of orchestrating the mass rape of more than 300 people two months ago. [UN]
  • South Africa’s majority party, the African National Congress, is considering pursuing a bill that would allow the government to imprison journalists for 3 to 25 years for publishing any information that impacts the “national interest”. [Impunity Watch]
  • Following the Nobel Committee’s award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Chinese democracy activist Liu Xiaobo, UN experts and others have called for his release from detention and respect for fundamental rights in China. [UN]
  • The UN has called for an investigation into the October 8th death in custody of a man detained for throwing stones at DRC President Joseph Kabila’s motorcade last month. [UN]
  • ProPublica reports that the U.S. government significantly altered a federal judge’s decision granting a Guántanamo detainee’s habeas petition while reviewing the order for classified information, removing eight pages of the opinion, including the judge’s criticism of the government’s weak case, and changing key details to make the detainee appear more threatening.  The changes were discovered because the court had published the judge’s original opinion online. [Democracy Now!]

News Clips – October 3, 2010

October 3, 2010 Leave a comment
  • In Ecuador, a state of emergency remains in place following last week’s uprising of members of the military against President Correa’s government, prompting human rights defenders to call for a quick restoration of full civil liberties. [CEJIL] The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights condemned the attack against Correa. [IACHR]
  • Germany today commemorates 20 years of reunification and will use its experience to assist the South Korean government in moving forward with unification of the Korean Peninsula. [New York Times; VOA]
  • The UN fact-finding mission into the Gaza flotilla incident has issued its report, concluding that Israel used “unlawful” and “unnecessary” violence in its interception of a flotilla of ships carrying humanitarian aid in May and June of this year.  The report was adopted by the Human Rights Council. [UN; OHCHR]
  • The U.S. government has apologized for conducting medical experiments on Guatemalan prisoners, sex workers, psychiatric hospital patients, and soldiers from 1946 to 1948.  The tests purposefully infected approximately 1,500 Guatemalans with syphilis and other sexually transmitted diseases between 1946 and 1948.  U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton expressed outrage and regret, while Guatemalan President Alvaro Colom qualified the experiments as a “crime against humanity” and reserved the right to pursue legal redress. [CERIGUA; Reuters]
  • In Venezuela, a riot in the Tocoron prison, which is allegedly run by gang members, has claimed 16 lives. [Impunity Watch]  The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has previously expressed concern regarding the overcrowding and conditions in Venezuelan prisons, and last week expressed its concern at the discovery of a child prostitution ring operating out of a Paraguayan prison. [IACHR]
  • Uganda has charged detained Kenyan human rights defender Al-Amin Kimathi with terrorism and murder due to his role in representing the six Kenyans being prosecuted for the Kampala World Cup bombing. [HRW]
  • Cuba may release more political prisoners if they agree to leave the country. [AP]
  • Seven years after Liberia’s civil war, Prince Johnson, a current Liberian senator and former warlord who participated in atrocities committed during the war, has been certified to run for the presidency in next year’s election.  The Truth and Reconciliation Commission of Liberia’s final report recommended that Johnson be banned from holding public office for 30 years and be prosecuted for crimes against humanity (p. 353). [AP]  The Special Court for Sierra Leone is managing the prosecution of former Liberian President Charles Taylor, in The Hague, for atrocities committed by Liberian and rebel forces under his direction in neighboring Sierra Leone, but the International Criminal Court has not opened an investigation into the crimes committed in Liberia during its civil war.
  • The UN Human Rights Council has confirmed that the right to water and sanitation is binding on States, as embodied in international treaties  [UN]
  • The U.S. Supreme Court begins a new term tomorrow with Justice Elena Kagan becoming the third woman on the court.  As quoted in the Washington Post, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg stated, “When the schoolchildren file in and out of the court and they look up and they see three women, then that will seem natural and proper – just how it is.” Critics note that the the ideological divide among the 9 justices may be seen as partisan, in that each Supreme Court justice viewed as conservative was nominated by a Republican president and each justice viewed as liberal in his or her judicial philosophy was appointed by a Democratic president, which had not previously been true.  [Washington Post]  The Court’s docket this term will include cases related to immigration law, freedom of expression, criminal due process and other issues. [SCOTUSblog]  For an interesting commentary on the Roberts Court’s impact on American constitutional law thus far, see Barry Friedman and Dahlia Lithwick’s article on Slate.
  • The UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights has issued a report calling on Nepal to establish an independent body to receive and investigate citizen complaints, following its discovery that security forces are suspected of having committed dozens of extrajudicial killings since January of 2008. [UN]
  • As a series of teen suicides in the United States are attributed to school bullying on the basis of perceived sexual orientation, activist Dan Savage has initiated the It Gets Better Project on YouTube to offer messages of hope to LGBT teens. [ACLU]
  • The trial of former Guantanamo detainee Ahmed Khalfan Ghailani for his alleged participation in the U.S. embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya in 1998 is set to begin tomorrow in federal court in New York City, drawing further criticism of the continued use of military commissions and detention abroad of terrorism suspects. [ACLU; HRW]
  • Indigenous Chilean prisoners have ended their hunger strike in protest of the terrorism charges levied against them in connection with their anti-poverty protests.  The end of the hunger strike was welcomed by the UN, but Human Rights Watch called on the Chilean government to amend its anti-terrorism laws and limit use of the military court system. [ UN; HRW]
  • Human Rights First urged the UNHCR to continue working to ensure equality and dignity in the treatment of LGBTI refugees, as governments and civil society met in Geneva to discuss the issue. [HRF]
  • The CIA has begun using armed drones in Afghanistan and Pakistan, in an expansion of the highly controversial use of targeted killings. [Washington Post]
  • Bahrain has issued a travel ban against several human rights defenders, preventing them from leaving the country. [HRW]
  • Mexican mayors’ lives are at risk in the country’s ongoing battle against drug trafficking. [Washington Post]
  • Britain has legally recognized  Druidry, an ancient faith whose followers worship the natural world, as a religion by approving the Druid Network’s application to be registered as a religious charity.  [Huffington Post]
  • Liu Xiabobo, a likely contender for the Nobel Peace Prize and Chinese dissident, is serving an 11-year prison sentence for subversion in connection with the publication of Charter 08, a proposal for peaceful democratic reform. [Washington Post]
  • One year after a massacre perpetrated by Guinea security forces claimed the lives of more than 150 people, the government has yet to prosecute the suspects, despite the ICC’s opening a preliminary examination. [HRW]
  • Cambodian opposition leader Sam Rainsy has been convicted of spreading disinformation and falsifying maps, as the UN Special Rapporteur on Cambodia criticizes “disproportionate use of the law” against the press, activists and political leaders. [OHCHR; VOA]
  • The Thai government continues to invoke emergency powers to limit civil liberties, five months after anti-government protests were suppressed. [HRW]
  • Human Rights Watch calls for an investigation into a recent rash of police brutality and deaths in custody in Vietnam. [HRW]
  • In Zimbabwe, violence and arrests of activists have led to the disruption and suspension of community outreach meetings on Zimbabwean constitutional reform. [HRW]
  • The Global Migration Group, comprised of various intergovernmental organizations including the International Organization for Migration, urges States to ensure the fundamental rights of migrants in irregular situations. [OHCHR]
  • The Al-Jazeera network protested the arrest of two cameramen by NATO forces in Afghanistan. [Washington Post]  The cameramen were released two days later. [Al-Jazeera]
  • Following reports that Burmese democracy activist Aung San Suu Kyi was to be allowed to vote in upcoming elections and be freed from house arrest, it remains unclear what action the military government will take. [The Hindu; AP]

News Clips – June 1, 2010

June 1, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Protocol 14 to the European Convention on Human Rights enters into force today, introducing a number of changes to decrease the Court’s backlog, strengthen enforcement in order to reduce repetitive applications, concentrate its efforts on cases where applicants have suffered a “significant disadvantage”, and allow the European Commissioner for Human Rights to intervene as a third party [ECHR]
  • UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions reports continuing killings by Brazilian police [UN]
  • UN Security Council calls for impartial investigation of deaths on Gaza flotilla [Washington Post]
  • Efforts by Jamaican police to arrest suspected drug dealer, wanted for extradition by the U.S., claim dozens of lives, raising concerns of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [IACHRWashington Post]
  • U.S. Supreme Court decides Samantar v. Yousuf, holding that the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Actdoes not grant immunity to former Somali prime minister against torture suit brought by victims of abuse [CJASCOTUSblogWashington Post]
  • IACHR grants precautionary measures to indigenous communities affected by Goldcorp’s Marlin mine in Guatemala, in order to prevent environmental contamination [IACHR]
  • UN experts condemn attacks against religious minority in Pakistan [UN]
  • Tropical Storm Agatha claims lives in Central America, as flooding and landslides continue [Washington Post]
  • UN Working Body on Enforced and Involuntary Disappearances expresses concern over suspension of Spain’s Judge Garzón
  • Bahrain prohibits news outlet Al Jazeera from operating within its territory [Impunity Watch]
  • U.S. Supreme Court decides Berghuis v. Thomkins, holding that Miranda waiver was implied by man’s admission after over two hours of silence, reinterpreting Miranda to require explicit invocation of right to remain silence [Washington PostSCOTUSblog]
  • UN High Commissioner for Human Rights calls for investigation of crackdown on political protesters in Thailand [AFP]

    OHCHR Establishes Guinea Office

    May 5, 2010 Leave a comment

    The United Nations announced today that the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights will open an office in the Guinean capital of Conakry in order to “assist the Government in reporting on compliance with international human rights treaties. It will also advise on establishing a National Human Rights Institution and on judicial reforms, help combat impunity for human rights violations including sexual and gender-based violence, and promote social and economic rights“, according to the press release.  The establishment of an OHCHR office was recommended by the International Commission of Inquiry established by the U.N. following a pre-election crackdown by the de facto government last September in which nearly 150 individuals were killed and nearly as many women were subjected to sexual violence.  A transitional government is now in power and Guinea is set to hold elections next month. [UN]

    Review of Guinea’s human rights record under the Universal Periodic Review began yesterday (see overview of the recommendations concerning Guinea here, and more on UPR on this blog).  Also, the International Criminal Court has initiated a preliminary examination to determine whether the events of last fall constitute crimes within the court’s jurisdiction (press release here).

    The Office of High Commissioner operates other country offices in Angola, Bolivia, Cambodia, Colombia, Guatemala, Mexico, Nepal, the Occupied Palestinian Territories, Kosovo (Serbia), Togo, and Uganda. [OHCHR]

    Honduras Inaugurates Truth Commission to Investigate Coup

    May 5, 2010 Leave a comment

    Yesterday, Honduran President Porfirio Lobo inaugurated the previously-announced Truth Commission to investigate the events surrounding last June’s military coup which removed from power President Manuel Zelaya, who is currently exiled in the Dominican Republic.  (Read Honduran government press releases here and here.)  The establishment of such a commission was a condition of Zelaya’s exit from the national stage and a campaign promise of President Lobo.  The Commission will be composed of five individuals and is expected to deliver its report within eight months.

    The Commission has the backing of the United States and Organization of American States, but is questioned by some States and civil society organizations as lacking adequate investigative authority and ignoring the question of human rights abuses committed in the wake of the coup.

    In the view of non-governmental organization CEJIL, the nascent Commission has serious legal flaws, in that its objective is limited to ‘clarifying the events before and after June 28, 2009 in order to identify the acts which gave rise to the crisis situation and provide Honduran society with the knowledge necessary to avoid the repetition of such events in the future‘, the investigatory process excludes victims and civil society, the Commission was created by a presidential decree which lacks the binding force of law, the other branches of government are not asked to provide information to the Commission, and the Honduran government itself has not designated funds for the Commission’s operation. [CEJIL]

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights has reported that, in the months following the coup, the de facto authorities illegally detained thousands of people, used disproportionate force which resulted in several deaths, and highly restricted the flow of information and freedom of expression, adding :

    Violations of the right to life, humane treatment, freedom of association, personal liberty, judicial guarantees, freedom of expression, political rights, the rights of women and the rights of minority groups were exacerbated by the absence of a legitimate government capable of processing complaints, investigating facts, punishing those responsible, and making reparations to victims.

    (report here).  Such abuses will apparently not be investigated by the newly-composed Truth Commission.

    [AFP, BBCIPS, La Tribuna]

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