Archive for the 'ICJ' Category

In spite of or because of the US’ absence, the 39th Human Rights Council considered a relative success

September 29, 2018

Civil society organisations welcomed significant outcomes of the Human Rights Council’s 39th session, including the creation of independent investigative mechanism on Myanmar, the renewal of the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen and the Commission of Inquiry on Burundi, and a dedicated space on the Council’s agenda in 2019 to discuss the human rights situation in Venezuela. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/09/08/many-hrd-issues-at-the-39th-session-of-the-un-human-rights-council/]

In a joint statement, several NGOs (ISHR The African Centre for Democracy and Human Rights Studies (ACDHRS), Amnesty International, Article 19, Center for Reproductive Rights. CIVICUS, DefendDefenders, FIDH, Forum Asia, Human Rights House Foundation (HRHF), Human Rights Watch, International Commission of Jurists) welcomed the Council’s adoption of landmark resolutions on several country situations:

On Myanmar, the creation of the independent investigative mechanism is an important step towards accountability for the horrific crimes committed in Myanmar, as elaborated in the Fact Finding Mission’s report to this session. The overwhelming support for the resolution, notwithstanding China’s shameful blocking of consensus, was a clear message to victims and survivors that the international community stands with them in their fight for justice. 

On Yemen, the Council demonstrated that principled action is possible, and has sent a strong message to victims of human rights violations in Yemen that accountability is a priority for the international community, by voting in favor of renewing the mandate of the Group of Eminent Experts to continue international investigations into violations committed by all parties to the conflict. 

Furthermore, the leadership by a group of States, including Latin American countries, on the landmark resolution on Venezuela, was as an important step for the Council applying objective criteria to address country situations that warrant its attention. The resolution, adopted with support from all regions, sends a strong message of support to the Venezuelan people. By opening up a space for dialogue at the Council, the resolution brings scrutiny to the tragic human rights and humanitarian crisis unfolding in the country.  

The renewal of the mandate of the Commission of Inquiry (CoI) on Burundi will enable it to continue its critical investigation and work towards accountability. However, the Council failed to respond more strongly to Burundi’s record of non-cooperation and attacks against the UN human rights system. [see alsohttps://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/26/enough-is-enough-ngos-call-for-burundi-suspension-from-un-human-rights-council/]

The Council also adopted a resolution on Syria, which among other things condemns all violations and abuses of international human rights law and all violations of international humanitarian law committed by all parties to the conflict.

However, on other country situations including China, Sudan, Cambodia and the Philippines, the Council failed to take appropriate action. 

On Sudan, the Council adopted a weak resolution that envisions an end to the Independent Expert’s mandate once an OHCHR office is set up; a “deal” Sudan has already indicated it does not feel bound by, and which is an abdication of the Council’s responsibility to human rights victims in Sudan while grave violations are ongoing. At a minimum, States should ensure the planned country office monitors and publicly reports on the human rights situation across Sudan, and that the High Commissioner is mandated to report to the Council on the Office’s findings.  

The Council failed to take action on the Philippines, in spite of the need to establish independent international and national investigations into extrajudicial killings in the government’s ‘war on drugs’, and to monitor and respond to the government’s moves toward authoritarianism. 

In addition, the Council continued with its weak response to the deepening human rights and the rule of law crisis in Cambodia, failing to change its approach even when faced with clear findings by the Special Rapporteur demonstrating that the exclusive focus on technical assistance and capacity building in the country, is failing.

Many States, NGOs and the High Commissioner, raised concerns about China’s human rights record, specifically noting serious violations of the rights of Uyghurs and other predominantly Muslim minorities in Xinjiang province. It is regrettable that States did not make a concrete and collective call for action by China to cease the internment of estimates ranging up to 1 million individuals from these communities. 

On thematic resolutions, the Council adopted by consensus a resolution on equal participation in political and public affairs, as well as a resolution on the safety of journalists. The latter sets out a clear roadmap of practical actions to end impunity for attacks.  

The Council also adopted by consensus a resolution on preventable maternal mortality and morbidity and human rights in humanitarian settings. Women and girls affected by conflict have been denied accountability for too long. The implementation of this resolution will ensure that their rights, including their sexual and reproductive health and rights, are respected, protected and fulfilled. 

Finally, the Council’s first interactive dialogue on acts of reprisals and intimidation was an important step to ensure accountability for this shameful practice. More States need to have the courage and conviction to stand up for human rights defenders and call out countries that attack and intimidate them. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/reprisals/]

Read the full statement here.

Justice’s law firm exists 60 years In Geneva

September 28, 2018

The International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) celebrates its 60th year in Geneva.

2018 marks the 60th anniversary of the ICJ’s move to Geneva thanks to the Swiss jurist Jean-Flavien Lalive, who was ICJ’s Secretary General in 1958. This makes the ICJ one of the earliest international organizations to establish its headquarters in Geneva. DISCLAIMER: I worked for the ICJ from 1977-1982. The ICJ was at that time a small organisation with less than 10 persons including the interns. As Executive Secretary – the grandiose title belied my real position as the personal assistant of the impressive Secretary General Niall MacDermot. Still, then as now the ICJ plays a preeminent role as a non-governmental organization seeking to defend human rights and the rule of law worldwide.

The ICJ will mark this event with two major initiatives:

  • A visibility campaign from 26th September to 9th October: the TV screens on the Geneva public transport network and five vehicles will carry the slogan “Global Advocates for Justice and Human Rights – 60 years in Geneva”
  • The launch of the “60th Anniversary Appeal” to all lawyers in the Republic and canton of Geneva to support the ICJ and, in turn, their less privileged colleagues, victims of persecution on five continents.

Geneva can be proud of its image as the world human rights capital. It is a beacon for justice advocates around the world. We must continue to make it shine,” said Sam Zarifi, Secretary General of the ICJ. “Through its 60-year history, the ICJ has contributed significantly to Geneva’s human rights record: the campaigns that led to the creation of the post of UN High Commissioner for Human Rights in 1993 and the UN Human Rights Council in 2006, as well as the adoption of the United Nations Convention against Torture in 1984 are some emblematic examples,” said Olivier Coutau, Head of La Genève Internationale.

The international reputation of the ICJ rests on these pillars:

  • 60 Commissioners – eminent judges and lawyers – from all regions of the world and all legal systems – with unparalleled knowledge of the law and human rights;
  • Cooperating with governments committed to improving their human rights performance;
  • Effective balance of diplomacy, constructive criticism, capacity building, and if necessary, ‘naming and shaming’;
  • Unmatched direct access to national judiciaries, implementing international standards and improved legislation impacting millions;
  • Guiding, training and protecting judges and lawyers worldwide to uphold and implement international standards (e.g.in 2018, the ICJ provided local trainings on five continents to assist 4,300 judges, lawyers and prosecutors strengthen their ability to protect and promote fundamental rights)
  • Working for access to justice for victims, survivors and human rights defenders, in particular from marginalized communities;
  • Following a strict result based management in project delivery.

The ICJ has been awarded, during its long history, some of the most prestigious international awards: the Council of Europe Human Rights Prize, the United Nations Award for Human Rights, Erasmus Prize, Carnegie Foundation Wateler Peace Prize.

https://www.icj.org/global-advocates-for-justice-and-human-rights-the-icj-60-years-in-geneva/

Save the date 20 March 2018: side event on UN Declaration on HRDs

March 15, 2018

In the month of the International Women’s Day and in the year of the 20th Anniversary of the Declaration on Human Rights Defenders, this event will highlight the experience of women human rights defenders and the implementation of the Declaration.

It will also share findings and recommendations related to a recent joint researchon implementation carried out by the Colombian Commission of Jurists, the Tunisian League for Human Rights and ISHR.

Confirmed panellists include:

  •  Ana Maria Rodriguez – Colombian Commission of Jurists
  •  Djingarey Maiga – Femmes et Droits Humains Mali

Other panellists and co-sponsors will be announced soon.
20 March, 16h00 – 17h30 Room XXII, Palais des Nations, Geneva.

Attendance with UN identification pass only!

International Women’s Day at the ICJ: 5 out of 7 new Commissioners are women!

March 8, 2018

That the celebration of International Women’s Day can be more than words is shown by the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in today’s announcement that 5 of the 7 new members added to the Commission are women. They are: Dame Silvia Cartwright (New Zealand), Professor Sarah Cleveland (USA), Justice Martine Comte (France),, Ms Mikiko Otani (Japan), and Justice Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza (Uganda). Also elected were former ICJ SG Mr Wilder Tayler (Uruguay) and Justice Willy Mutunga (Kenya).

[Eight Commissioners were re-elected to serve second terms: Justice Radmila Dragicevic-Dicic (Serbia), Mr Shawan Jabarin (Palestine), Justice Egbert Myjer (Netherlands), Justice Qinisile Mabuza (Swaziland), Professor Victor Rodriguez Rescia (Costa Rica), Professor Marco Sassoli (Switzerland), Justice Stefan Trechsel (Switzerland) and Professor Rodrigo Uprimny Yepes (Colombia)]

Further information on the new Commissioners

Dame Silvia Cartwright (New Zealand) was Governor-General of New Zealand from 2001-2006 and the first woman appointed to the High Court in New Zealand. She was also a judge on the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia. Amongst others, she has the following honours: Dame Commander of the British Empire (DBE) and Principal Companion of the New Zealand Order of Merit (PCNZM).  Dame Cartwright has served on the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women and played a role in drafting the optional protocol to the Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW).

Professor Sarah Cleveland (USA) is the Louis Henkin Professor of Human and Constitutional Rights and faculty director of the Human Rights Institute at Columbia Law School. She is currently a member of the UN Human Rights Committee, the US member of the Venice Commission, and former counsel to the US State Department legal adviser. She also serves as coordinating reporter of the American Law Institute’s project on the Restatement (Fourth) of the Foreign Relations Law of the United States.

Justice Martine Comte (France) has been a judge in France for more than 30 years, including having served as President of the Orléans Court of Appeal from 2011-2014. Prior to this her judicial career has been extensive and amongst other roles she has served as President of the Pontoise Tribunal of First Instance, President of the Bourgoin-Jallieu Court of First Instance and as Head of the Regional Administrative Department of Paris. She has also served as an Inspector of Judicial Services. Justice Comte is an Officer of the National Order of Merit and Knight of the Légion d’Honneur.

Justice Willly Mutunga (Kenya) served as Chief Justice & President of the Supreme Court, Republic of Kenya, 2011- 2016. He was the Commonwealth Secretary-General’s Special Envoy to the Maldives, 2016-17. He is an active member of the Justice Leadership Group. He has a previous career as an academic and in human rights movements in East Africa and Canada, and served as Executive Director of the Eastern Office of the Ford Foundation, 2004-2011.

Ms Mikiko Otani (Japan) Mikiko Otani is a member of the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC) (2017-) and a former Chair of the Committee on International Human Rights of the Japan Federation of Bar Associations. Prior to being elected as a member of the CRC, she was actively involved in the reporting process for Japan under the CRC and the CEDAW, representing NGOs.

Justice Lillian Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza (Uganda) is a Justice of the Supreme Court of Uganda. Prior to joining the Court, she served on Uganda’s Constitutional Court for two years. Before joining the Judiciary, Tibatemwa-Ekirikubinza served as Deputy Vice-Chancellor in charge of Academic Affairs at Makerere University, Uganda, where she was also a Professor of Law. She is an author of law textbooks currently in use as reference texts in East African Law Schools.

Mr Wilder Tayler (Uruguay) is a Director of the National Institution of Human Rights and Ombudsman’s Office in Uruguay. He was Secretary-General of the International Commission of Jurists from 2008-2017. Between 2007 and 2014 he was a member and Vice-Chairperson of the UN Sub-Committee on the Prevention of Torture. Mr Tayler was Legal Director of Human Rights Watch from 1997 to March 2007 and before that he worked with Amnesty International as Director of the Americas Programme and a Legal Advisor.

See also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/01/10/international-commission-of-jurists-appoints-five-personalities-as-new-commissioners/

https://www.icj.org/icj-appoints-seven-new-commissioners/

International Commission of Jurists joins criticism of Singapore for harassment of human rights defender Jolovan Wham

January 5, 2018

International Commission of Jurists urges Singapore to stop harassment of human rights defender Jolovan Wham

 

https://www.icj.org/singapore-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-defender-jolovan-wham/

https://www.theonlinecitizen.com/2017/12/13/international-commission-of-jurists-urges-singapore-to-stop-harassment-of-human-rights-defender-jolovan-wham/

https://asiancorrespondent.com/2017/12/singapore-human-rights-watch-repression/#CZ3VvbvQq6iQymK5.97

https://www.forum-asia.org/?p=25288

26 June: Torture issues in Hong Kong and Thailand

June 26, 2017

This week, to mark the International Day in Support of Victims of Torture, celebrated annually on 26 June, Just Asia has a special report on Hong Kong’s plan [not sure but still…] to withdraw from the UN Convention against Torture.  The reason for such a withdrawal is a misguided attempt to address the rise in torture protection claimants in Hong Kong and block “fake” refugees, as well as solve the issue of illegal workers. In the video report Just Asia speaks to three prominent persons in the city to discuss their views. Puja Kapai is the Director of Hong Kong University’s Centre for Comparative and Public Law; Mark Daly is a human rights lawyer with Daly and Associates; as is Patricia Ann Ho. The three discuss how such a withdrawal will impact Hong Kong’s international standing, Hong Kong’s human rights protections, and whether it will truly make a difference to the city’s numerous torture claimants. [for other Just Asia posts: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/just-asia/]

In the same context of anti-torture work in Asia, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists issued today a statement calling on Thailand to finally follow through on commitments to prevent torture and ill-treatment. They regret repeated delays to the finalisation and passage of Thailand’s Draft Prevention and Suppression of Torture and Enforced Disappearance Act……Similarly, Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge Thailand to move ahead with its commitment to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention against Torture, which obligates authorities to establish a National Preventive Mechanism.. as well as to allow such visits by an international expert body. Such independent scrutiny is critical to prevent torture and other ill-treatment, including through implementing their detailed recommendations based on visits. Authorities should also act immediately on the commitment made at Thailand’s Universal Periodic Review before the United Nations Human Rights Council in 2016, to inspect places of detention in line with the revised UN Standard Minimum Rules for the Treatment of Prisoners, also known as the Nelson Mandela Rules….

Acts of torture and other ill-treatment in Thailand have rarely been investigated in a prompt, impartial, independent and efficient manner, as required by the Convention against Torture, and perpetrators of such acts have seldom been held to account. Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists urge authorities to ensure that such investigations are undertaken into all credible reports of torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. The scope, methods and findings of such investigations should be made public. Where sufficient, admissible evidence is gathered, perpetrators should be prosecuted in fair trials in civilian courts.

Amnesty International and the International Commission of Jurists also notes with concern the criminal prosecution or threats of prosecution—often under criminal defamation provisions—of victims of torture, their family members, and human rights defenders who have raised allegations of torture, including with a view to seeking redress. The organizations urge that such threats, investigations, charges, prosecution or other proceedings against these persons be are withdrawn and charges dropped, and that authorities take steps to create an enabling environment for freedom of expression in which people are able to seek redress and raise concerns about torture publicly without fear of reprisal or recrimination….

[see also: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/tag/thailand/]

http://reliefweb.int/report/thailand/thailand-amnesty-international-and-international-commission-jurists-call-thailand

 

Even landmark UN decision does not change Cambodia’s treatment of human rights defenders

March 11, 2017

I was reading (belatedly) about the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Cambodia, Rhona Smith, who in January 2017 intervened strongly in the case of the 5 Cambodian human rights defenders of ADHOC (#FreeThe5KH) who have been in detention since April last year. [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/05/04/civil-society-condemns-charges-human-rights-defenders-cambodia/] Only then did I realize that the case had led a few months earlier to a landmark decision by the United Nations Working Group on Arbitrary Detention (WGAD): the first time that any UN body has referred to HRDs as a protected group.

 

 

On 21 November 21, 2016, the WGAD ruled that the ongoing detention of Mr. Ny ChakryaDeputy Secretary-General of the National Election Committee (NEC), and four staff members of the Cambodian Human Rights and Development Association (ADHOC), Messrs. Ny SokhaYi SoksanNay Vanda, and Ms. Lim Mony, was “arbitrary.” Following a submission made by the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders (OMCT-FIDH partnership), the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) and the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) in June 2016, the WGAD’s Opinion No. 45/2016 ruled that the five human rights defenders (HRDs) have been discriminated against based on their status as human rights defenders, and in violation of their right to equality before the law and equal protection of the law under article 26 of the ICCPR.” This is the first time ever that the WGAD – or any other UN mechanism receiving individual complaints – has referred to HRDs as a protected group that is entitled to equal legal protection under Article 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR). The ruling also recognised the violation of the five HRDs’ “rights to offer and provide professionally qualified legal assistance and other relevant advice and assistance in defending human rights.”

 In addition, the WGAD found that the targeting of ADHOC staff members for having provided “legitimate legal advice and other assistance” violated the five HRDs’ right to freedom of association. It ruled that violations of fair trial rights (including the fact that the five were denied legal counsel from the beginning of their questioning), unjustified pre-trial detention, and statements made by the Cambodian authorities which denied the five the presumption of innocence – all of which contravene Cambodia’s international human rights obligations in respect to the right to a fair trial – are also serious enough to consider their ongoing detention as arbitrary. The WGAD concluded that “the deprivation of liberty of Ny Sokha, Nay Vanda, Yi Soksan, Lim Monyand Ny Chakrya, being in contravention of articles 7, 9, 10, 11 and 20 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and of articles 9, 10, 14, 22 and 26 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights, is arbitrary.”

That Cambodian authorities are not impressed is shown by the continued detention of the 5 ADHOC HRDs and by the press release of 7 February 2017 calling for the cessation of the politically motivated criminal investigation of human rights defenders Am Sam-at and Chan Puthisak. Amnesty International, Civil Rights Defenders, Human Rights Watch, and the International Commission of Jurists signed the statement.

Phnom Penh 20170207 PHTO
Cambodian police detain protesters during a protest to free jailed activists in Phnom Penh, Cambodia May 9, 2016.© Reuters/Samrang Pring

Cambodian officials have accused Sam-at, a respected human rights monitor at the Cambodian League for the Promotion and Defense of Human Rights (LICADHO) for nearly 20 years, and Puthisak, a land rights activist from Boeung Kak Lake and former prisoner of conscience, of instigating violence at an October 10, 2016 demonstration. Para-police forces, who are regularly used to suppress demonstrations, violently dispersed what had been a peaceful protest in Phnom Penh. When Puthisak attempted to prevent para-police from confiscating a drum that was being used by a demonstrator, four or five para-police attacked him, repeatedly beating him on the head with their fists, according to a video of the incident. When Sam-at tried to stop the assault, the para-police attacked him, also beating him on the head. Both men sustained injuries that needed medical attention.

The investigation of Sam-at and Puthisak by the Cambodian authorities is a typically absurd and undisguised case of judicial harassment,” said Champa Patel, Southeast Asia and Pacific director at Amnesty International. “As usual, unnecessary and excessive use of force by the para-police goes unpunished, and those who work to promote and protect human rights find themselves subject to criminal proceedings.”

 

Sources:

http://www.un.org/apps/news/story.asp?NewsID=56036#.WMP0Dhhh2V4

Cambodia: In landmark decision, UN body declares the detention of five human rights defenders arbitrary #FreeThe5KH / December 18, 2016 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT

https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/02/07/cambodia-drop-farcical-investigation-human-rights-defenders

International Commission of Jurists appoints five personalities as new Commissioners

January 10, 2017

After giving itself a new Secretary General [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/11/04/sam-zarifi-new-sg-of-the-international-commission-of-jurists/] the International Commission of Jurists (ICJ) in Geneva has now announced new additions to its main body: the Commission:

The following five new Commissioners have recently been elected: Mr Reed Brody (United States), Ms Roberta Clarke (Barbados/Canada), Professor Juan Mendez (Argentina), Mr Alejandro Salinas Rivera (Chile) and Justice Kalyan Shrestha (Nepal). It is an impressive list: Read the rest of this entry »

Killed Kenyan lawyer, Willie Kimani, named Jurist of the Year 2016

December 12, 2016

 

willie-kimani-killed-hrd-in-kenya

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Willie Kimani, the Kenyan human rights lawyer who was murdered this year [https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/07/03/body-of-disappeared-human-rights-lawyer-kimani-client-found-kenya-impunity/], was honoured with an award for his bravery in defending the poor and oppressed in Kenya. While receiving the award, Kimani’s widow Hannah Kimani said she had never imagined that his standing up for justice would eventually amount to his death. “No amount of words can explain who Willy was. He was one of a kind… with this award, it shows that his work was not in vain,” she said.
Executive Director Samwel Mohochi of the Kenyan chapter of the International Commission of Jurists said “We give it to him as recognition for the ultimate price he paid in performing his work as human rights defender and as a reminder to the risks that face all other human rights defenders”…“This will renew our commitment to all human rights defenders. It is an appreciation of the work he did”.

Source: Slain lawyer Willie Kimani honoured with yearly title

https://www.capitalfm.co.ke/news/2016/12/murdered-lawyer-willie-kimani-named-jurist-of-the-year/

https://www.frontlinedefenders.org/en/case/case-history-willie-kimani

Sam Zarifi new SG of the International Commission of Jurists

November 4, 2016

 

Sam Zarifi has been appointed to serve as ICJ’s next Secretary General when the current Secretary-General retires next spring. Wilder Tayler will continue to work as SG until the end of March 2017 and Sam will begin in April 2017, although there will be some overlap to ensure a smooth transition in the Geneva based HQ.

Sam is a veteran of the human rights movement, with a most impressive array of experience and contacts, and has done phenomenal work as Director of the ICJ’s Asia and Pacific Regional Programme over the last four years. Prior to joining the ICJ Sam served as Amnesty International’s Director for Asia and the Pacific from 2008 to 2012. He was at Human Rights Watch from 2000, where he was Deputy Director of the Asia division. He was Senior Research Fellow at Erasmus University Rotterdam from 1997 to 2000, where he co-edited Liability of Multinational Corporations under International Law (Kluwer 2000) as well as several other publications on the subject. Sam was born and raised in Tehran, Iran and moved to the United States to complete his education. He received his Bachelor of Arts degree from Cornell University and his Juris Doctor from Cornell Law School in 1993. After practicing as a corporate litigator for several years, he obtained an LL.M in Public International Law from New York University School of Law in 1997.

Source: ICJ Newsletter – November 2016