Posts Tagged ‘treaty bodies’

To say it again clearly: assaults on human rights defenders are incompatible with international human rights treaties

June 27, 2018

In a ground-breaking joint statement on 23 May 2018, the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and representatives from all of the UN human rights treaty bodies have affirmed that all forms of abuse or undue restrictions against human rights defenders constitute violations of States’ parties obligations towards the realisation of rights set out in the Treaties. The statement was adopted on the eve of the 30th annual meeting of Treaty Body chairs on the occasion of a consultation initiated by the UN Special Rapporteur on human rights defenders and ISHR in New York.

This pronouncement constitutes a major step forward in the protection of human rights defenders and lays the ground for substantial enhancement of treaty body recommendations and jurisprudence in that area” says ISHR head of treaty body advocacy Vincent Ploton.

The statement reiterates the vital and central role played by human rights defenders to promote and support the application of the fundamental rights enshrined in the core international human rights treaties. It further contextualises the importance and relevance of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders which “reaffirms, is underpinned by, and elaborates binding human rights obligations, including rights set out in the Treaties, and is relevant to the interpretation and implementation of the Treaties”.

The Committee on economic, social and cultural rights (CESCR) was the first to adopt in 2016 a statement affirming that threats and violence against human rights defenders amount to violations of the Covenant. “We are delighted that fellow Treaty Bodies are now following suit with the adoption of this new joint statement”, says ISHR’s New York Director Madeleine Sinclair.

Marking the 20th anniversary of the UN Declaration on human rights defenders, the statement confirms that the core international human rights treaties and the Declaration prohibit discrimination against individuals and groups who champion such human rights norms and standards. It reaffirms that all individuals should be able to engage with treaty bodies free from all forms of interference, intimidation, abuse, threat, violence, reprisal, or undue restriction. It concludes with a series of practical measures that States ought to take to guarantee the protection of human rights defenders, including the adoption of specific legislation to protect and recognise defenders, and the revocation of legislation which restricts or hinders their work.

Read the full statement: http://www.ohchr.org/EN/NewsEvents/Pages/DisplayNews.aspx?NewsID=23154&LangID=E

[The statement was endorsed by the Committee on Enforced Disappearances, the Special Rapporteur on Human Rights Defenders, and the following Treaty Body members in their individual capacity: Virginia Brás-Gomes, CESCR Chair; Dalia Leinarte, CEDAW Chair; Noureddine Amir, CERD Chair; Ahmadou Tall, CMW Chair; Danlami Basharu, CRPD Vice-Chair; Felice Gaer, CAT Vice-Chair; Marcia Kran, HRCttee member; Olga Khazova, CRC Vice-Chair and Satyabhooshun Gut Domah, SPT member.]

https://www.ishr.ch/news/treaty-bodies-threats-and-assaults-human-rights-defenders-incompatible-core-international-human

Academics want UN Treaty Bodies to become ‘fit for purpose’

May 9, 2018

The Geneva Academy’s new publication Optimizing the UN Treaty Body System outlines a series of recommendations related to the functioning of United Nations Treaty Bodies (UN TBs) to prepare for the upcoming review of UN TBs by the UN General Assembly in 2020. ‘While the last words will remain with states and TBs members, this report can provide a basis for negotiations and the blueprint for future changes’ underlines Felix Kirchmeier, co-coordinator of the Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020.

This work is the outcome of a three-year consultative process to collect academic inputs and ideas via the creation of an academic network of independent researchers, a call for papers, a series of regional consultations, annual and expert conferences, as well as ongoing interactions with key stakeholders: states, treaty bodies, national human rights institutions, civil society organizations and the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights and other parts of the UN. ‘The issue of TBs’ reform is almost as old as the system itself: many proposals that are on the table today were already formulated before. Our academic contribution takes these proposals out of their political context by analysing them, their relevance, their likelihood to be implemented and the possible need for updates’ adds Felix Kirchmeier.

The final objective of the publication and of the entire process is to make the TB system ‘fit for purpose’ by outlining measures to optimize its functioning, effectiveness and efficiency while safeguarding its key protection role and maintaining the existing legal framework.

‘While the publication provides several detailed recommendations, it notably call for a consolidated state report and a single review, or a semi-consolidated state report and two clustered reviews; the implementation of incremental changes in the TBs working methods; and a consolidation of TBs’ structure in terms of membership, as well as financial and substantial support’ underlines Kamelia Kemileva, Executive Manager at the Geneva Academy and co-coordinator of the Academic Platform on Treaty Body Review 2020.

The 45-page study contains many interesting ideas and I copy here only one of particular interest which is to improve the system’s accessibility and visibility:

To meet its purpose, TB output must be accessible and visible. Many contributors expressed concern on this account. Modern technology offers easy solutions, some of which have been implemented but could be taken further.

Contributors unanimously welcomed the webcasting of country examinations and consider it an important improvement. However, they recommended that webcasts should be broadcast and archived in all working languages, as well as the language in which the review is held – the only one that is available at the moment. They also suggested that webcasts should be easier to access via links on the OHCHR home page in each country and via each committee’s session web page.

Many contributors also called for a readily accessible, up-to-date, comprehensive database of TB jurisprudence. It was noted that information on TB findings is currently hard to find (when available), that the database is incomplete, and that decisions are not always available in all UN official languages. Accessing and understanding TB jurisprudence remains a challenge for all stakeholders – whether they are victims of human rights violations, TB members, states, national and regional human rights mechanisms, civil society organizations, or scholars.

Contributors recommended that more user-friendly fact sheets and jurisprudence summaries should be prepared to disseminate TB findings and other important developments.

To increase visibility, contributors proposed maintaining dedicated pages on social media platforms. This would bring TBs’ work to the attention of larger audiences, assist Committees to update information on their activities, and create followers. More generally, the system’s achievements and impact on rights-holders should be better documented and publicized.

(my earlier posts on TBs include: https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2014/05/06/the-outcome-of-the-treaty-body-strengthening-process-workshop-on-9-may-2014-in-geneva/ and https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2016/10/18/on-24-october-there-is-a-side-event-in-ny-on-the-implementation-of-human-rights-treaty-body-recommendations/ as well as https://humanrightsdefenders.blog/2015/02/17/treaty-bodies-case-law-database-saved-and-resurrected-by-un/)

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https://www.geneva-academy.ch/news/detail/121-optimizing-the-un-treaty-bodies-system

On 24 October there is a side event in NY on the implementation of human rights treaty body recommendations

October 18, 2016

The Permanent Missions of Costa Rica, Finland, and Switzerland to the United Nations, together with Amnesty International and the International Service for Human Rights (ISHR), are organizing a side event in the margins of the General Assembly’s 71st session in New York on 24 October 2016 on the topic of: Implementation of United Nations human rights treaty body recommendations.

The event will take place at 3pm in Conference Room 6 of United Nations HQ in New York.

Some of the question to be discussed are: How can implementation of human rights treaty bodies’ recommendations be strengthened? What progress has there been in the area of follow-up and implementation since the High Commissioner’s 2012 report on strengthening the United Nations human rights treaty body system and Resolution 68/268? What are the national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up (NMRF) and which models have been the most effective in different States?

The discussion will focus on tools to encourage engagement and compliance with human rights treaty body recommendations in order to improve the promotion and protection human rights for all, including the treaty body follow-up procedures, national mechanisms for reporting and follow-up, and the role of civil society. Speakers will include representatives of treaty bodies, OHCHR, civil society, and government.

For more information, please contact m.sinclair@ishr.ch.

Profile of Sharon Hom, human rights defender working on China

January 12, 2016

The ISHR on 3 December 2015 carried a profile on Sharon Hom, human rights defender working on human rights in China.

Read the rest of this entry »

Treaty bodies case law database saved and resurrected by UN

February 17, 2015

For someone who 25 years ago (!!) started the development of legal databases on human rights (specifically the legal protection of refugees) and wrote articles about it (e.g Int J Refugee Law (1989) (1):89-100.doi: 10.1093/ijrl/1.1.89Pp. 89-100, see ABSTRACT below), the news that the UN has now published, on-line, a database of case law on human rights is exciting and it should be for all practitioners.

The new site http://juris.ohchr.org/ contains all case law issued by the UN human rights expert committees, the Treaty Bodies.

The database was developed using data from the Netherlands Institute of Human Rights (SIM) of Utrecht University School of Law (of which I had the honor to be the first Director). Since the mid-1990s, SIM had developed a comprehensive record on the jurisprudence stemming from the decisions by four Treaty Bodies on complaints brought by individuals.  Over 20 years, academics compiled and indexed Treaty Bodies’ case law, making the SIM database the most authoritative online resource on this. Due to budget restrictions, SIM stopped updating the database  from 1 January 2014 and took it offline on 1 January 2015. However, SIM offered its data free of charge to the UN Human Rights Office.

This allowed us to build our own database, with an expanded remit and search capability, and we aim to continue developing it. It is an important part of our efforts to make the work of the Treaty Bodies more visible and accessible, and we hope it will benefit a range of users all over the world,” said Mr. Ibrahim Salama Director of the UN Human Rights Treaties Division. .

There are 10 Treaty Bodies that review and monitor how States that have ratified a particular treaty are implementing the rights contained in it. Eight (listed below) can also consider complaints by individuals who believe their rights have been violated and who have exhausted all the legal steps in their own country.

The site http://juris.ohchr.org contains case law indexed by various categories, including State, date, subject and keywords, which can all be used as search criteria. Users can submit their comments on the functioning of the database as part of ongoing efforts to improve it.

The Committees that can receive and consider individual complaints are:

  • Human Rights Committee (CCPR)
  • Committee against Torture (CAT)
  • Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW)
  • Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination (CERD)
  • Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities (CRPD)
  • Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED)
  • Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (CESCR)
  • Committee on the Rights of the Child (CRC)

Abstract of 1989 article on the development of legal databases: “Today’s information technology can be used to improve the legal protection of refugees, by providing information relevant to the asylum procedure, and laying the foundation for progressive development at the international level. The positive potential of legal databases is only now beginning to be realised, thanks to pioneering efforts within human rights and related documentation centre networks. UNHCR is helping to set up a case law database, in co-operation with non-governmental organizations. A database on national legislation is also planned, as is a full text database of international legal instruments database. Legal literature continues to be covered by the database REFLIT (REFugee LITerature) of UNHCR’s Centre for Documentation on Refugees (CDR/UNHCR). This article examines two basic kinds of information-retrieval systems, ‘free text’, and ‘indexed’, and considers their different structures, uses and search procedures, with reference to work on a forthcoming refugee thesaurus. The author calls attention to the need for standard formats, such as those of HURIDOCS, and to problems of scope and coverage. He suggests that information and documentation are areas in which practical co-operation between the UN, governments and non-governmental organizations could be implemented to advantage.”

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Treaty Bodies add ammunition to struggle against reprisals

May 20, 2014

Thanks to Theo van Boven, who alerted me, I am happy to report another small step in the war against reprisals. On 21 April 2014 the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution on the Strengthening on the Treaty Bodies in which operative paragraph 8 strongly condemns intimidation and reprisals against human rights defenders and others who coöperate with the treaty bodies. (A/RES/69/268).   For text of resolution: http://www.un.org/en/ga/search/view_doc.asp?symbol=A/RES/68/268

for more posts on reprisals: https://thoolen.wordpress.com/tag/reprisals/

The outcome of the treaty body strengthening process: workshop on 9 May 2014 in Geneva

May 6, 2014

While not directly about Human Rights Defenders, this workshop organised by the Permanent Mission of Switzerland to the UN and others (see below) is of great importance to HRDs as they are the ones who provide most of the information to the Treaty Bodies, and are often the victims of the violations reported, including reprisals against them for having cooperated. Thus, this meeting on “The outcome of the treaty body strengthening process: Lessons learnt, implications and implementation” should be of interest to all. It takes place on 9 May 2014, 9.30am to 1pm in Room XXII, Palais des Nations, Geneva. Read the rest of this entry »

20 years ago: the Toonen watershed case from Tasmania

April 13, 2014

On 12 April Dan Harrison, in the Australian newspaper ‘Daily Life”, recalls how the famous Toonen case – decided 20 years ago – had a tremendous impact: “The fax arrived from Geneva on a Saturday almost exactly 20 years ago. The message on United Nations letterhead that landed on the fax machine at the Tasmanian Gay and Lesbian Rights Groups office in Hobart’s Battery Point would change the lives of millions. It carried the UN Human Rights Committees finding that Tasmanian laws, which made consenting sex between adult men in private a criminal offence punishable by up to 21 years jail, were in violation of Australia’s international obligations.” Read the rest of this entry »

Optional Protocol Children’s Rights comes into effect in April

January 15, 2014

Photo: ILO

With Costa Rica as the tenth country to ratify the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, children or their representatives will have the possibility to file an individual complaint as from  April 2014,when the Protocol comes formally into effect, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) announcement on 14 January. 

 

Protecting Human Rights Defenders from Reprisals: crucial issue with timely article and side event on 24 September

September 20, 2013

Philip Alston, John Norton Pomeroy Professor of Law at New York University School of Law, and former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions wrote a piece on one of the most crucial topics facing human rights defenders at the moment and which has figured regularly in this blog: the issue of retaliation or reprisals against those HRDs who cooperate with the Un and their Rapporteurs.  Read the rest of this entry »