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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]

Book Review – Preventing Irreparable Harm: Provisional Measures in International Human Rights Adjudication

September 21, 2010 Leave a comment

Eva Rieter, Preventing Irreparable Harm: Provisional Measures in International Human Rights Adjudication (Intersentia, Antwerp, 2010, xl + 1200 pp., €129.00) ISBN 978-90-5095-931-5 (pb)

This year, Eva Rieter, assistant professor in public international law and international human rights at Radboud University Nijmegen, has authored an extensive volume which is the result of years of research on provisional measures in the international human rights context.

Provisional measures—also termed precautionary measures or interim measures—are those actions which international tribunals direct States to take (or refrain from taking) in order to preserve the object of the litis or to prevent irreparable harm to individuals in situations of imminent risk.  International judicial and quasi-judicial tribunals that issue such measures include those of the regional human rights systems, some U.N. treaty bodies, and the International Court of Justice.

Although several scholars have previously written about the use of provisional measures, such literature has typically focused on individual tribunals[1] or on particular cases[2]. Rieter’s tome appears to be the first comprehensive analysis of the use of provisional measures in the field of international human rights law.

In addition to the dearth of scholarly analysis of provisional measures, this subject has remained elusive to practitioners and academics alike because few tribunals publish their decisions on provisional measures, and those that do may not include reference to supporting international law or jurisprudence. These factors complicate not only the study of precautionary measures, but also the work of those hoping to attain coherence and consistency in—if not progressively expand upon—their use. In addition, the lack of transparency raises questions about the expectations of States vis-à-vis their potential obligations in this area of the law.

Rieter’s book examines the conventional and/or statutory authority to examine requests for provisional measures; the procedural rules governing their authorization and implementation; and the substance of nearly a century of decisions granting, modifying and lifting such measures. Its chapters address, first, the relevant tribunals and the competence of each (Chapters I and II), before turning to the use of provisional measures in specific situations of risk (Chapters III through XII), the kind of protective action required of the State (Chapter XIII) and, lastly, more specific questions of jurisdiction  and enforcement (Chapters XIV through XVIII).

Read more…

News Clips – July 18, 2010

July 19, 2010 Leave a comment
  • Argentina legalizes same-sex marriage, becoming the second country in the Western Hemisphere to do so. [Washington Post]
  • The Pre-Trial Chamber I of the ICC has issued a second arrest warrant for Sudan’s President Al Bashir, who is wanted to face charges of genocide against the Fur, Masalit and Zaghawa ethnic groups.  The first warrant was based on charges of war crimes and crimes against humanity. [ICC]
  • ACLU files suit alleging  U.S. “No Fly List” is unconstitutional, on behalf of individuals placed on the list without explanation or recourse, and seeking declaratory and injunctive relief. [ACLU]
  • In its admissibility decision in Babar Ahmar and Other v. United Kingdom, the ECHR requested additional information from the parties and extended interim measures to suspend the extradition of the applicants to U.S., where they could face life imprisonment in supermax prisons. The Court sought further information on the conditions of detention in such prisons, the reach of the U.S. Constitution’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment, and the reducibility of the life sentences potentially imposed – in order to determine whether the transfer would constitute a violation of Article 3’s prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment. [Huffington PostBBCECHR]
  • Jorge Rafael Videla, the former Argentina dictator whose de facto government was in power for most of the Dirty War years, has gone on trial again this month, in connection with the murder of 32 political prisoners in 1976. [BBCLa Nación]  Videla was previously convicted on kidnapping and other charges and later benefited from Argentina’s amnesty law, but began serving a life sentence in 2008 after his pardon was overturned [BBC].
  • IACHR welcomes the release of 7 Cuban political prisoners, which belatedly, partially complies with the Commission’s 2006 merits report in the case of several dozen journalists and human rights activists detained in Cuba, in which it recommended their release. [IACHR]
  • Attorney Lynne Stewart’s sentence has been increased on appeal to 10 years, following her2005 conviction of conspiring to aid terrorists for conveying messages on behalf of her client, who was detained on terrorism-related charges. [Democracy Now!]
  • Human Rights Watch calls on Iran to spare civilians in its military operations  surrounding Kurdish villages in Iraq. [HRW]
  • Human Rights Watch’s new publication Hellish Work denounces Philip Morris’ labor practices and exploitation of migrant workers in Kazakhstan. [NYT]
  • Internal Israeli report finds that the Gaza aid flotilla deaths were justified. [Impunity Watch]
  • President Medved says killer of human rights defender Natalya Estemirova has been identified, as European Commissioner for Human Rights calls on government to bring to justice those responsible. [VOA]
  • Zimbabwe faces continued allegations of human rights abuses in its diamond mines, as Kimberly Process and World Diamond Council approve Zimbabwean diamonds for sale. [NPR, Newsweek]
  • Conditions for Haitians displaced by earthquake are criticized, as nearly 2 million remain homeless.  [truthdig]
  • Last week, thousands commemorated the 15th anniversary of the Srebrenica massacre in Bosnia-Herzegovina. [Impunity Watch]
  • IACHR laments deaths in Uruguay prison fire. [IACHR]
  • South Korean human rights commission to review chemical castration of sex offenders, approved by parliament last month. [Dong-a Ilbo; MSNBC]
  • Egyptian Bedouin rights activist freed following three years of detention under Egypt’s emergency law. [Impunity Watch]
  • Russian Duma expands Russian security services’ powers, amidst protests. [Business Week]

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]
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