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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]
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News Clips – June 13, 2010

June 13, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Physicians for Human Rights has published a report documenting illegal experimentation and torture by CIA medical personnel in the “war on terror”.  The report is available here.  Following the paper’s publication, PHR and other organizations filed a formal complaint before the US Department of Health and Human Services Office for Human Research Protection against the CIA. [PHR]
  • Human Rights Watch kicked off its International Film Festival in New York, which will run until June 24. [HRW]
  • Kuwait has drawn international attention over its detention of critical journalist and blogger, Mohammad al-Jasim. [HRW, Reporters Without Borders]
  • Venezuela orders arrest of Globovision owner and his son, in connection with an investigation into their car dealerships. [Impunity Watch]  Globovision owner Guillermo Zuloaga runs the only remaining private television station with an editorial stance critical of the Chavez government and has previously been the subject of governmental and private harassment as a result.  Earlier this year, Zuloaga was arrested by Venezuelan authorities after having made remarks critical of the government at an assembly of the Inter-American Press Association. [CIDH]  For more information on freedom of the press in Venezuela, see the Inter-American Commission’s report Democracy and Human Rights in Venezuela.
  • Honduras has withdrawn its application against Brazil before the ICJ, in which it had alleged that Brazil threatened the peace and stability of Honduras by housing ousted President Zelaya in its embassy in Tegucigalpa. [ICJ]
  • The Mexican government and Human Rights Watch, among others, are calling for an investigation into the death of a Mexican teenager who was shot by a U.S. border agent from U.S. soil. [HRW, BBC] Another individual was killed by U.S. agents this month on the U.S. side of the border when he was being deported after 20 years in the U.S. as an undocumented worker. [BBC]
  • In the case of the disappeared from the Colombian Palace of Justice, former army coronel Alfonso Plazas Vega was sentenced to 30 years’ imprisonment on Thursday for the enforced disappearance of 11 individuals when the army retook the Palace in November 1985 after it had been seized by guerrillas. President Uribe opined that Plazas should not have been convicted as he was “simply trying to comply with his duty”. [BBC]  For many years, official reports had indicated that the disappeared died in the conflict surrounding the army’s retaking of the Palace, but in recent years evidence surfaced showing the now-disappeared leaving the Palace alive.  At its most recent session, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights held a hearing on the case (number 10.738) against Colombia, which is pending a combined decision on admissibility and merits by the Commission. (Video of the hearing available here).  CEJIL and the Colectivo de Abogados are among the NGOs representing the victims before the IACHR.  Colombian judge Maria Stella Jara Gutierrez has been granted precautionary measures by the Commission because of the threats she has received while handling the Palace of Justice case.
  • Kyrgyzstan’s interim government extends state of emergency as attacks by Kyrgyz against Uzbeks in southern region continue, causing the displacement of thousands, nearly 100 deaths and over 1,000 injuries. The conflict is reported to be over land and housing and follows the turbulent April overthrow of former president Kurmanbek Bakiyev. The government has authorized its security forces to use lethal force and has sought Russian military intervention. [BBC, AlertNet]
  • The IACHR has submitted two cases to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights. One is the case of Dominican opposition leader Narciso González Medina (previously covered on this blog, here) who was forcibly disappeared in 1994 (admissibility report here).  The other involves due process violations in the criminal prosecution of Jorge Fernando Grande in Argentina.  Read the Commission’s admissibility report in the Grande case here. [IACHR]
  • The International Criminal Court (ICC) prosecutor calls on UN Security Council to secure arrest of suspected Sudanese criminals Ahmad Harun and Ali Kushayb, against whom the ICC issued arrest warrants three years ago. The situation in Darfur, Sudan was referred to the ICC by the Security Council Resolution 1593. [ICC]  Prosecutor Luis Moreno-Ocampo’s remarks could raise concerns about the presumption of innocence and duty of public officials not to make pre-trial statements regarding a suspect’s guilt.
  • Last week, the lower house of Bolivia’s legislature approved a law which would give indigenous communities the right to autonomously administer their own justice systems in accordance with their customs and values.  Although the reach of the new resolution is unclear, the legislature has 180 additional days to specify the areas of competence of the ordinary justice system vis-à-vis community justice systems. [BBC, JURIST]
  • Meanwhile, the Argentine legislature’s lower house passed a bill that would authorize same-sex marriage in that country and grant same-sex couples the right to adopt children. Observers say that the bill has a good chance of being approved by the upper legislative house and becoming law. [Impunity Watch, Reuters]
  • Freedom House identifies the world’s worst protectors of civil rights and liberties in its Freedom in the World 2010 report as: Burma, Equatorial Guinea, Eritrea, Libya, North Korea, Somalia, Sudan, Tibet, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan.  [Huffington Post, Freedom House]
  • Human rights organizations call for an investigation into the death of human rights activist Floribert Chebeya in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in which the government is suspected to have been involved. [VOA]
  • Yesterday, the Review Conference of the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court concluded in Uganda, where an amendment was adopted to include a definition of the crime of aggression and regulate the ICC’s exercise of jurisdiction over such crimes. According to the ICC’s press release:

The Conference based the definition of the crime of aggression on United Nations General Assembly resolution 3314 (XXIX) of 14 December 1974, and in this context agreed to qualify as aggression, a crime committed by a political or military leader which, by its character, gravity and scale constituted a manifest violation of the Charter.

As regards the Court’s exercise of jurisdiction, the Conference agreed that a situation in which an act of aggression appeared to have occurred could be referred to the Court by the Security Council, acting under Chapter VII of the United Nations Charter, irrespective as to whether it involved States Parties or non-States Parties.

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]

    IACHR Submits Cases Involving Disappearance and Indigenous Land Rights to Inter-American Court

    May 5, 2010 Leave a comment

    The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights announced today that it will litigate two cases before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (against Argentina and Ecuador), while the press and civil society reported that a third case against the Dominican Republic will also be heard by the court.  The IACHR press release states:

    On April 18, 2010, the IACHR filed an application in Case 12.533, Iván Eladio Torres et al., Argentina. The case involves the arbitrary detention, torture, and forced disappearance of Iván Eladio Torres, which occurred beginning on October 3, 2003, in the city of Comodoro Rivadavia, in Chubut province, and the subsequent lack of due diligence in the investigation of the facts, as well as the denial of justice to the detriment of the victim’s relatives. The case was sent to the Court based on the need to conduct a diligent investigation for the purpose of obtaining truth, justice, and reparation for the damage caused by the violations perpetrated against Iván Eladio Torres and his relatives.

    In another matter, on April 26, 2010, the IACHR filed an application in Case 12.465, the Kichwa Peoples of the Sarayaku Community and Its Members, Ecuador. The case involves the State’s acts and omissions to the detriment of the Kichwa indigenous people of the Sarayaku community and its members, given that the State has allowed an oil company to carry out activities on the community’s ancestral territory without prior consultation, placing the population at risk. This situation has made it impossible for the indigenous community to seek its means of subsistence in its territory and has restricted its right to movement within the territory. The case also refers to the denial of judicial protection and due process to the Kichwa people of Sarayaku. The case was sent to the Court based on the need for the State to respect and guarantee the right of the Kichwa indigenous people of Sarayaku to use, enjoy, and avail themselves of their territory.

    Read the Commission’s earlier admissibility decisions in the cases here and here, respectively.

    The third case submitted to the Inter-American Court, involves the disappearance of prominent Dominican journalist, lawyer and professor Narciso Gonzalez at the hands of the military in 1994.  [Diario LibreCEJIL]  Read the Commission’s admissibility report here.

    New IACHR Report on Captive Indigenous Communities in Bolivia

    April 20, 2010 Leave a comment

    Today, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights released a new publication, entitled Captive Communities: Situation of the Guaraní Indigenous People and Contemporary Forms of Slavery in the Bolivian Chaco, which focuses on the plight of Guaraní communities subjected to debt bondage and forced labor on private estates in the Chaco region of Bolivia.  The findings are based in part on the Commission’s working visit to Bolivia in 2008, which was made in an effort to follow-up on alleged abuses of this nature which were reported to the Commission by some of the roughly 600 affected families during its 2006 visit to Bolivia. (See the Commission’s report following its 2006 on-site visit here.)  As summarized in the press release, in the report:

    the Commission recognizes the efforts made by the Bolivian State to address this grave situation; nevertheless, there are still captive communities whose members are subject to performing forced labor for debts supposedly contracted and who most of the time do not receive any salary for their work. The Commission deplores the existence of these practices, which violate the American Convention on Human Rights and other international instruments to which Bolivia is a party. The Commission also observes that the situation of bondage and forced labor in which the captive communities live is an extreme manifestation of the discrimination that indigenous peoples have suffered historically and continue suffering in Bolivia.

    Access other IACHR publications, available in English and Spanish, here.

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