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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!]
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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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