Posts Tagged ‘IACHR’

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights launches major report on Human Rights Defenders

March 2, 2018

While all eyes are on the ongoing session of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) – on 28 February – presented its report “Toward a Comprehensive Policy to Protect Human Rights Defenders,” in the context of the 167th session of the IACHR taking place in Colombia. The purpose of this report is to provide the States in the region with guidance in developing their domestic policies, programs, and protection mechanisms for human rights defenders, in keeping with inter-American human rights standards.

The work of defending human rights in the countries of the Americas has become extremely dangerous,” said the President of the IACHR, Commissioner Margarette Macaulay. “The levels of violence against people who defend human rights in our region are alarming, and the rates of impunity for these types of crimes are very high. The focus of the IACHR’s concern is on the violent deaths of rights defenders, the impunity that tends to surround these types of crimes, and the remaining vulnerability of all persons and groups on whose behalf the defender had worked. This makes it essential and urgent for the States to adopt effective measures to put an end to this situation,” she added.

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2018/02/22/amnestys-annual-report-2017-is-out-depressing-but-rays-of-hope/

https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2017/07/15/documenting-the-killings-of-environmental-defenders-guardian-and-global-witness/

…….

“We are aware of and welcome the efforts made by some States to implement different mechanisms, laws, and policies to protect rights defenders, but unfortunately these have not been effective enough,” said the IACHR Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, Commissioner Francisco Eguiguren. “That is why the IACHR in this report has laid out the main components of a comprehensive protection policy, so that such a policy can be effective and so that we can manage to stop the killings and other attacks that are putting an end to the lives of rights defenders or preventing them from doing their work. The aim of the IACHR is to provide the States with a guide on developing domestic policies, programs, mechanisms, and practices for the effective protection of human rights defenders, in accordance with Inter-American human rights standards,” he indicated.

A comprehensive protection policy is based on a recognition of the State’s interrelated and interdependent obligations to enable rights defenders to freely and safely carry out their work of defending human rights. In this sense, a comprehensive protection policy refers to a broad, all-encompassing approach that requires extending protection beyond physical protection mechanisms or systems when defenders experience situations of risk. It requires implementing public policies and measures designed to respect the rights of defenders; prevent violations of their rights; diligently investigate acts of violence against them; and punish the perpetrators and masterminds of any attack on human rights defenders.

The report also analyzes the main steps forward and challenges in terms of the efforts underway in some States, such as the national protection mechanisms, legislation, and policies and programs that exist in some countries. It also makes recommendations to the States on how to ensure better implementation of prevention, protection, and investigation measures to achieve a comprehensive protection policy.

..Human rights defenders are an essential pillar for the strengthening and consolidation of democracies in the hemisphere. Acts of violence against human rights defenders not only infringe on the defenders’ own rights as human beings but also undermine the critical role they play in society and in upholding democratic standards.

Contact info María Isabel RiveroIACHR Press and Communication Office mrivero@oas.org

http://www.oas.org/en/iachr/media_center/PReleases/2018/039.asp

IACHR Hearing on the Bahamas : “great step forward” or “defamation”?

March 27, 2015

The Bahamas are not the most talked about nation when it comes to human rights but this story is a marvelous lesson in effective diplomacy by human rights defenders.

ICHRA-meeting.jpg

A group of NGOs [i.c. the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA), the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and and the Haitian Organization for the Prevention of HIV/AIDS and STDS] managed to get a hearing on Friday 20 March 2015 before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR) about the treatment of migrants in the country. In short: The main concern was that the Government has put into effect new immigration restrictions without any amendments to the relevant law. It was claimed that Haitians had been targeted and there had been unlawful detention as well as mistreatment. To its credit the government of the Bahamas participated in the hearing and was represented by Minister of State for Legal Affairs Damian Gomez. He refuted the allegations made by the group. [“Indeed, our support of Haiti and its people in the attainment of economic, political and social stability emanates from an abiding and unflinching belief in the dignity of our shared human condition”] Gomez added that the Government received intelligence that Haitians were being smuggled to his country for as much as US$5,000. Still, Gomez invited the IAHRC to conduct an on-site visit to the Carmichael Road Detention Centre. “We have invited them to do an onsite visit. They have indicated a willingness to accept that invitation and act on it and the ball is within their court with respect to indicating to us when they wish to come. They’ve also given us some questions at the hearing which will be answered in the course of things within the next fortnight or so, though we have no deadline within which to answer them.

 

Mitchell: Activists Defamed Country

However his colleague the Minister of Immigration, Fred Mitchell, reacted very differently a few days later when he called on the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association to explain why it is attempting to “defame” the country’s name through “irresponsible” efforts. “These people who went to Washington – Bahamians – making these exaggerated claims about abuse of migrants to this country must answer the question to the Bahamian public,” he said at a press conference. “What they are doing will aid and comfort people who are trying to sabotage this country through a criminal enterprise. They have to answer that question. Their actions are irresponsible.” He added: “You can disagree with policy. There are domestic remedies for people to take if you have a difficulty with the policy. If there are specific abuses, there are domestic remedies but to actually go and defame the country in another country, I want to describe that as a particular thing, but I’ll just stay my hand for the moment. But they do have to account to the Bahamian public for their conduct, knowing what we know.”

Compare this with the tone of the Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) in a statement of 24 March, which thanked the government for participating in the hearing and for “sharing the view” that the Immigration Bill should be reviewed. The letter is such a beauty that I copy it below in full.  Diego Alcalá, deputy director of the Caribbean Institute for Human Rights, also used positive language and called the invitation “a great first step”.

But then the issue of reprisals..

During the hearing, petitioners also requested that the IACHR assist The Bahamas in designing and implementing a training protocol on Human Rights for State agents, including the role of human rights defenders and their protection. In his contribution, Mr Alcalá said: “Human rights defenders in The Bahamas are confronting a hostile environment that put their security and work at risk. Members of our delegation have been threatened for expressing their opinions against recent changes in migration policies. Also, high-level government officials have made expressions against them, minimising their work or even depicting it as ‘alarmist and inflammatory’.” Mr Alcalá referred to threats against GBHRA executive members Fred Smith and Joe Darville with charges of criminal libel and sedition, and pointed to the cancellation of the Kreyol Connection radio show following critical statements by the government.

Mr Smith, the GBHRA president, told The Tribune that he has made numerous complaints to the Commissioner of Police over verbal and physical attacks he has experienced due to his environmental and human rights activism. However, he did not feel the concerns are taken seriously given the government’s own proclamation against his organisation: “Joe Darville and I have been called social terrorists. Fred Mitchell (the Minister for Foreign Affairs) has threatened to have us prosecuted for criminal libel, sedition. On social media, we have had horrific accusations made against us, that we’re traitors against The Bahamas and that we should be deported.

During Friday’s hearing, commissioner and country rapporteur Tracy Robinson responded by saying: “In relation to human rights defenders, the commission is always concerned when there are allegations of either threats or stigmatisation of human rights defenders and we ask the state to pay close attention to the allegations made. The commission has very clear rules and principles about the use of criminal laws, including criminal libel laws, in a context where human rights defenders are exercising their rights to protect the interest of others.

The GBHRA’s reaction was coolly that it hoped Friday’s hearing would foster closer working ties with human rights groups and the government!

—–

Full text of the letter by the GBHRA:

“The Grand Bahama Human Rights Association (GBHRA) would like to publicly thank the government for participating in the recent international hearings in Washington D.C. concerning the country’s new immigration policy. 

The hearings before the Inter-American Human Rights Commission (IACHR), convened at the request of the GBHRA and its international partners, we hope will serve as an opportunity for government and human rights defenders to work together closely on reforming current immigration policy and law, specifically the proposed amendments to the Immigration Act, currently before the Senate.

Considering the reaffirmation of its commitment to human rights best practices and international law during the hearings, we are confident the government shares our view that the Bill should be reviewed in light of the comments of the IAHCR commissioners.

The GBHRA looks forward to contributing to this effort in any way it can, and more generally speaking, stands prepared to partner with government to enhance respect for individual rights, strengthen the rule of law and prevent official actions which could pose a risk to our international reputation in the long run.

We likewise thank the government for extending an invitation to the commissioners to conduct an on-site visit to The Bahamas, and have expressed our avid support for such a visit to the Commission.

The GBHRA would also like to express our formal gratitude to the commissioners, the IAHCR and the Organization of American States (OAS) as a whole, for the careful attention currently being paid to human rights issues in The Bahamas.

The commissioners performed a great service to our country during the hearings, reminding us of the expectations of international law on the question of immigration enforcement.

Specifically, their comments affirmed: that detention must be a measure of last resort, not a general rule; that children should not be detained under any circumstances; that the impact of policies on women and children must be a matter of special consideration; that due process, the presumption of innocence and access to justice must be guaranteed for all migrants; and that the government has a duty to address violence and abuse during immigration enforcement exercises.

With regard to this last point, the commissioners made it clear that the government has a responsibility to not only prosecute those who would commit violence or abuse, but also do all in its power to prevent such attacks in the first place.

The commission asked for a report in writing on the extent to which the current policy conforms with the above requirements, and the GBHRA is confident the government will promptly comply with this formal request.

Finally, the GBHRA also welcomes the commission’s offer of help in revising and redrafting the current Bill. We are sure the government will be receptive to this offer, particularly with a view to better clarifying where immigration policy ends and law begins – another issue raised by the commissioners during the hearing.”

Inter-American Commission on role of Human Rights Defenders in Trinidad & Tobago case

May 15, 2014

It is not often that we can write about Trinidad and Tobago but when the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights [IACHR] calls on Trinidad and Tobago “to fully investigate and prosecute” those responsible for the murder of prominent Senior Counsel, Dana Seetahal, there is a good reason. The former state prosecutor and magistrate, was shot and killed on 4 May. This is reinforced by the legal reasoning of the IACHR which recalls “”.  ….in this sense, acts of violence and other attacks perpetrated against human rights defenders not only affect the guarantees that every human being must enjoy, but also seek to undermine the fundamental role that human rights defenders play in society and leave all those for whom they fight defenseless. “The work of human rights defenders is essential to building a solid and enduring democratic society, as they play a leading role in the pursuit of the full attainment of the rule of law and the strengthening of democracy.

via Inter-American body calls for full probe into her murder | Trinidad Express Newspaper | News.

Lolita Chávez about land and life in peril in Guatemala

January 29, 2014

This time just a short presentation of Guatemalan human rights defender Lolita Chávez who spoke in Ottawa, Canada, for a group of supporters some time ago (March 2013): Lolita Chávez says it is love of life that motivates her to risk her own as an outspoken Maya Kiche activist against racism, mining, and hydroelectric project developments in the highlands of Guatemala. As a result of her leadership in Guatemala’s Indigenous movement, she is a frequent target of threats, accusations and attempts to label her as working against the national interest, as some sort of enemy of the state. Read the rest of this entry »

Group of human rights defenders requests IACHR for thematic hearing on California prison situation

August 25, 2013

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights 2013 by OAS, web

(Commissioners of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights – Photo: OAS)

By letter of 23 August 2013, addressed to Dr. Emilio Álvarez Icaza, executive secretary of the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights, a group of human rights NGOs [National Religious Campaign Against Torture, California Families to Abolish Solitary Confinement, California Prison Focus, Legal Services for Prisoners with Children, California Coalition for Women Prisoners, The Center for Prisoner Health and Human Rights, Disability Rights Legal Center, Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic, American Friends Service Committee (Western Region), ACLU National Prison Project, Families to Amend California’s Three Strikes, Fair Chance Project, Center for Constitutional Rights, Justice Now, National Lawyers Guild, San Diego Committee for Prisoners Rights, The Real Cost of Prisons Project and the Center for Human Rights and Constitutional Law] requested a thematic hearing with a focus on people incarcerated in California prisons. Read the rest of this entry »

Concrete steps towards better protection of human rights defenders

March 15, 2012

On March 8 and 9, 2012, the Observatory for the Protection of Human Rights Defenders, a joint programme of the World Organisation Against Torture (OMCT) and the International Federation for Human Rights (FIDH), organised the fourth “inter-mechanisms” meeting, which was hosted by the Office of the United Nations (UN) High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) in Geneva, Switzerland. This is a unique informal platform where under Chatham House Rules key actors meet to fine tune standards and mechanisms for Human Rights Defenders.

On this occasion, international and regional mechanisms and programmes for the protection of human rights defenders – operating within the United Nations, the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACHPR), the Council of Europe, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights(IACHR) and the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights – joined by representatives of the European Union, the International Organisation of the Francophonie and various NGOs, discussed the drafting of a joint report on existing standards and recommendations related to the protection of human rights defenders at the international and regional levels. IACHR offered to take a coordinating role in drafting the report, with the back up of the Observatory. This report would be inspired by the 2011 Commentary of the UN Declaration on Human Rights Defenders by the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders and the IACHR Second Report on the Situation of Human Rights Defenders. Such a document, the first of its kind, will not only be a useful tool to human rights defenders, States and other relevant stakeholders, but will also demonstrate a unity of approaches among mechanisms.

Participants also shared their experiences and lessons learnt in order to identify possible ways tostrengthen the coordination and cooperation among existing mandates on the protection of human rights defenders. In particular, action-oriented discussions focused on how to ensure accountability for human rights violations against human rights defenders, which is a central issue for all mechanisms and programmes in order to combat impunity.

Participants also discussed core policy challenges affecting the protection of human rights defenders in relation to freedom of association, as well as possibilities of cooperation with the newly appointed UN Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association. A specific focus on the right to receive and access funding, including foreign funding was discussed, reflecting renewed preoccupations by mechanisms on restrictions by States in this regard. These issues should be further discussed during a future inter-mechanisms meeting, to be organised by the Observatory.

For more information, please contact :

• OMCT : Delphine Reculeau : + 41 22 809 49 39
• FIDH : Karine Appy / Arthur Manet : + 33 1 43 55 25 18

Concrete steps towards better protection of human rights defenders / March 15, 2012 / Urgent Interventions / Human rights defenders / OMCT.