Friday, December 1, 2023
The following calls for inputs have been issued by UN Human Rights Mechanisms with deadlines in December 2023 – March 2024 and law professors whose practice, research, and/or scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs to inform the High Commissioner’s report to the Human Rights Council on the impact of arms transfers on human rights. Deadline December 31, 2023. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures – Call for inputs to collect relevant articles, reports, publications and information to develop the Sanctions Research Platform. Deadline January 1, 2024. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights – Call for inputs for his thematic report on “Eradicating poverty in a post-growth context: preparing for the next Development Goals.” Deadline January 15, 2024. Read more.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs to inform the Secretary-General’s analytical study on the impact of loss and damage from the adverse effects of climate change on the full enjoyment of human rights, exploring equity-based approaches and solutions to addressing the same. Deadline January 31, 2024. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on violence against women and girls – Call for inputs to better understand the relationship between prostitution and violence against women, to clarify terms, approaches and actions States should take in order to maintain the spirit of international human rights law and to effectively protect women and girls from all forms of violence. Deadline January 31, 2024. Read more.
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Call for inputs on “Laws, legislation, policies, constitutions, judicial decisions and other mechanisms in which States had taken measures to achieve the ends of the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples, in accordance with article 38 of the Declaration.” Deadline January 31, 2024. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on unilateral coercive measures – Call for inputs on “Access to justice in the face of unilateral sanctions and over-compliance.” Deadline February 28, 2024. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on the right to adequate housing – Call for inputs on the topic of resettlement as a human rights issue. Deadline March 31, 2024. Read more.
This information was compiled from https://www.ohchr.org/en/calls-for-input-listing.
Sunday, May 28, 2023
From May 30 – June 2, 2023, the second session of the UN Permanent Forum on People of African Descent will be held at the United Nations headquarters in New York City.
The session will open on Tuesday May 30, 2023 at 10 a.m. ET with a cultural performance, followed by a high-level segment, and a general debate. The thematic discussions will start on Tuesday afternoon and continue until Thursday afternoon, focusing on human rights concerns of people of African descent on issues, respectively: reparatory justice, Pan-Africanism, transnational migration, structural racism and data, health, well-being, and intergenerational trauma.
On Friday, the members of the Permanent Forum will present the preliminary conclusions and recommendations of the session. The session will close on Friday afternoon with a cultural performance.
Discussions on these thematic issues are aimed at contributing to the process of elaborating a UN Declaration on the promotion, protection, and full respect of the human rights of people of African descent. Dozens of side events are also expected to take place in person or virtually to expand the discussions beyond the plenary session.
The event is open to the public and can also be viewed via livestream here.
Sunday, April 2, 2023
On April 6, 2023, at 12:00pm EST, join the American Journal of International Law (AJIL) for a webinar on race and international law.
International law has historically perpetuated racist practices by providing the legal architecture for slavery and the slave trade; colonialism; the theft of art or other objects; the relegation of many people of color to the economic, cultural, and social periphery; and in other ways. Many of these structures have formally been abolished and much progress has been made. But the legacy of racism in international law continues. This legacy might, for example, be seen in the marginalization of Africa in the international legal system, the relative lack of attention to race in international human rights and economic law discourses, and in the frames for addressing climate change. In this webinar, panelists will discuss race and international law in a historical and contemporary perspective, while looking forward to consider the changes that might be made. They will focus, among other topics, the representation of historically disenfranchised groups in international law and the prospects for reparations for past and ongoing harms.
The distinguished panelists will be Antony Anghie of the University of Utah College of Law, Aslı Ü. Bâli of Yale Law School, and Olúfẹmi O. Táíwò of Georgetown University’s African Studies Program. The program will be moderated by Monica Hakimi, AJIL Co-Editor-in-Chief, of Columbia Law School.
Register for the program here.
Wednesday, March 29, 2023
Join the Duke Law Center for International and Comparative Law and the International Human Rights Clinic on April 3, 2023, at 12:30pm EST, for a program discussing human rights and legal empowerment. This event is co-sponsored by the American Constitution Society, Duke Human Rights Center at the Franklin Humanities Institute, Human Rights Law Society, International Law Society, and National Lawyers Guild.
The distinguished speaker will be Meg Satterthwaite, Professor of Clinical Law; Faculty Director, Center for Human Rights and Global Justice; Director, Global Justice Clinic; Faculty Director, Robert L. Bernstein Institute for Human Rights at NYU Law & UN Special Rapporteur on the independence of judges and lawyers. The program will be moderated by Jayne Huckerby, Clinical Professor of Law and Director, International Human Rights Clinic, Duke Law.
Tuesday, March 21, 2023
New Article: Moral Imperative—Legal Requirement: Why Law Schools Should Require Poverty Law and International Human Rights
Eric J. Boos, Moral Imperative - Legal Requirement: Why Law Schools Should Require Poverty Law and International Human Rights, 19 U. St. Thomas L.J. 63 (2023). Abstract below.
This paper argues that the growing undercurrent of discontent in this nation, which has manifested in increasing levels of civil unrest, violence, crime, mass shootings, and political chaos, is symptomatic of the ever-increasing disparity in wealth that political philosophers, sociologists, economists such as Alan Greenspan, and politicians such as Bernie Sanders, have warned against. This paper further argues that this disparity is, in large measure, facilitated by the legal establishment. Lawyers are at the heart of the global financial crisis, the restructuring of the criminal justice system as a “for-profit” enterprise, the 900+ police shootings since 2014, the $2 billion of property confiscated under civil forfeiture rules, the mass incarceration policies, the recent environmental scandals, the protection of monopolies in agribusiness, pharmaceuticals, and telecommunications, the dysfunctional system of immigration and deportation, and the deplorable and racially biased legal processes for capital crimes and the death penalty. Unfortunately, the response to the increasing levels of discontent has been a predictable increase in policing tactics, legalistic controls, political fearmongering, social vitriol, and intolerance against targeted populations. Society is ripping apart at the seams, and the response has been a fascist-like clampdown—a trajectory first predicted by Mortimer Adler in 1938. Citing the deplorable state of higher education, Adler averred that America would become the next great fascist state in the World. This paper applies Adler’s critique of higher education to America’s law schools and argues that what is needed to change the trajectory is a different approach to legal education. The justification for a restructuring of American legal education is rooted in the fact that lawyers have a special obligation under the Constitution of the United States to achieve justice and to vitiate the tendency of economic and social stratification that occurs in society. The restructuring would ideally include a comprehensive overhaul of the curriculum so that each course addresses the issue of justice (in the Platonic sense and in the sense our Founders used it), but at a minimum it should require courses in Poverty Law (because of our deplorable track record in that area) and International Human Rights (because we live in a global society and justice is a universal goal).
Friday, March 10, 2023
On Thursday March 16, 2023, from 3:00 – 4:30 PM EST, Cornell Law School, Global Strategic Litigation Council for Refugee Rights, and the Refugee Solidarity Network, will present a virtual panel on Decolonizing Refugee law. Register here.
The legal protection of the rights of refugees and other migrants is inscribed within imperial and colonial legacies. This virtual event will consider decolonial practices and the protection of refugees with a focus on positive practices for refugee protection in South and Southeast Asia. Speakers will reflect on the challenges and opportunities for realizing human rights posed by colonial-era laws and legal work in countries which are neither parties to the 1951 Geneva Convention on the Status of Refugees nor its 1967 Protocol. The event will open with framing remarks by Professor E. Tendayi Achiume, reflecting on these themes as well as decolonization itself as a frame for critique. The event will then proceed as a discussion of examples of legal advocacy work promoting refugee rights under contemporary applications of colonial-era laws, such as the Foreigners Act (1946) in Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, and open to a broader discussion of practical strategies for litigation and other legal advocacy in the context of such legacy legal frameworks.
- Tendayi Achiume, Alice Miñana Professsor of Law, UCLA Law and former UN Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance
- Roshni Shanker, Executive Director, Migration & Asylum Project
- Umer Gilani, Advocate and Partner, The Law and Policy Chambers
- Zaid Hydari (co-facilitator), Executive Director, Refugee Solidarity Network
- Ian M. Kysel (co-facilitator), Assistant Clinical Professor of Law, Cornell Law School
Please note: additional speakers may be confirmed in due course.
Thursday, January 19, 2023
The following calls for inputs have been issued by UN Human Rights Mechanisms with deadlines in January – February 2023 and law professors whose practice, research, and/or scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs regarding promoting and protecting economic, social and cultural rights within the context of addressing inequalities in the recovery from the COVID-19 pandemic. Deadline: January 31, 2023. Read more.
Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights – Call for inputs regarding human rights and the regulation of civilian acquisition, possession and use of firearms, to inform the High Commissioner’s report pursuant to Resolution 50/12. Deadline: January 31, 2023. Read more.
Expert Mechanism on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples – Call for inputs regarding the impact of militarization on the rights of Indigenous Peoples. Deadline: January 31, 2023. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism – Call for inputs regarding the global study on the impact of counter-terrorism measures on civil society and civic space. Deadline: February 1, 2023. Read more.
Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances - Call for inputs for a thematic study on “new technologies and enforced disappearances.” Deadline: February 3, 2023. Read more.
Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the right to freedom of opinion and expression – Call for inputs to the thematic report of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression to the UN Human Rights Council: “Freedom of Opinion and Expression and Sustainable Development - Why Voice Matters.” Deadline: February 3, 2023.
Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association – Call for inputs from the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and for his report to be presented at the 53rd session of the HRC. Deadline: February 6, 2023. Read more.
Special Procedures – Call for inputs to inform the Special Rapporteur’s report on how to expand and diversify regularization mechanisms and programs to enhance the protection of the human rights of migrants. Deadline: February 15, 2023. Read more.
Committee on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities – Call for inputs on persons with disabilities in situations of risk and humanitarian emergencies for the Day of General Discussion the Committee will hold on March 16, 17, and 20. Deadline: February 15, 2023. Read more.
International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in Law Enforcement – Call for Inputs on Upcoming Country Visit to the United States of America by the United Nations International Independent Expert Mechanism to Advance Racial Justice and Equality in the context of Law Enforcement from 24 April – 5 May 2023. Deadline February 24, 2023. Read more.
This information was compiled from https://www.ohchr.org/en/calls-for-input-listing.
Tuesday, October 18, 2022
Event 11/1: Can the United Nations Solve Racism? Symposium on the Global Anti-Racism Architecture of the UN
On Tuesday, November 1, 2022, from 5:30 – 7:30pm EST, join Fordham University School of Law’s Center on Race, Law, & Justice and Leitner Center for International Law and Justice for a discussion and reflection on the United Nations General Assembly’s session addressing racial discrimination, which will take place the day before. This event will be moderated by Gay McDougall, and the distinguished panelists include E. Tendayi Achiume, Gaynell Curry, Dominique Day, Justin Hansford, Justice Yvonne Mogkoro, and Verene Shepherd. The panelists will discuss anti-racism mechanisms of the UN and reflect on the new anti-racism architecture of the UN human rights system. Attendance for the event is available both in-person in Fordham Law’s McNally Amphitheater and online via Zoom Webinar.
To register for this event, click here.
Thursday, April 14, 2022
Kristina B. Daugirdas, Funding Global Governance, Law & Economics Working Papers. 216 (Oct. 1, 2021). Abstract below.
Funding is an oft-overlooked but critically important determinant of what public institutions are able to accomplish. This article focuses on the growing role of earmarked voluntary contributions from member states in funding formal international organizations such as the United Nations and the World Health Organization. Heavy reliance on such funds can erode the multilateral governance of international organizations and poses particular risks for two kinds of undertakings: normative work, such as setting standards and identifying best practices; and evaluating the conduct of member states and holding those states accountable, including through public criticism, when they fall short. International organizations have devised strategies for mitigating these risks, but those strategies are generally not codified in formal policies and are not visible to the public. This Article argues that more formal regulations are needed and outlines some possibilities for the form they might take.
Monday, August 16, 2021
UN Special Rapporteurs Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment; Morris Tidball-Binz, Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Clement Nyaletsossi Voulé, Special Rapporteur on the rights to freedom of peaceful assembly and of association, as well as others, have expressed alarm at what they describe as a “rampant police brutality against peaceful protesters worldwide” and warned States of the grave danger arising from such abuse for human rights and the rule of law.
“In recent months and years, we have repeatedly voiced our concern over a steady increase in the use of excessive force, police brutality, and other forms of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, as well as arbitrary detention, against predominantly peaceful protesters in all regions of the world,” the experts said in a statement on August 13, 2021.
“This trend, often extending to journalists covering protests, has resulted in countless deaths and injuries, often exacerbated through torture, sexual violence, arbitrary detention, and enforced disappearance, and has intimidated, traumatized, and antagonised large segments of society worldwide.”
The experts said the vast majority of these incidents were rooted in political, socio-economic, ethnic, racial, religious, or other tensions specific to particular national or regional situations. “At the same time, there are also relevant, more generic contexts of global reach and underlying reasons of racism, gender-based and other forms of discrimination in law enforcement,” they said.
“Large-scale migration, protests of climate activists, human rights defenders, indigenous peoples and, more recently, the Black Lives Matter movement are affected by excessive use of force and police brutality.
“Additionally, since the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, there have been numerous reports of security forces employing excessive and often indiscriminate violence resulting in unlawful deaths, injury and psychological trauma, as well as arbitrary detentions, in order to enforce emergency measures for the protection of public health, such asbans on assemblies, lockdowns and curfews.
“Most worryingly, throughout all regions and contexts, these acts of violence and abuse have often been encouraged by divisive, discriminatory and inflammatory narratives spread or condoned by political leaders, local authorities, and parts of the media, and by the resulting atmosphere of near complete impunity for perpetrators.”
The experts said it is the prime responsibility of governments and political leaders to prevent such dangerous developments through non-violent means including, most notably, pro-active communication aiming at de-escalation, reconciliation, and the peaceful exercise of civil and political rights.
“Public confidence in the reliability, legitimacy and integrity of State institutions and their law enforcement officials is the most valuable commodity of any peaceful, just and sustainable society and the very foundation of democracy and the rule of law,” the experts said.
“We therefore urge governments and political leaders not to needlessly squander the trust of their people, to refrain from any unwarranted violence, coercion and divisiveness, and to prioritize and promote dialogue, tolerance and diversity in the common public interest of all.”
Wednesday, July 21, 2021
Charlotte Alexander and Jonathan Todres, Evaluating the Implementation of Human Rights Law: A Data Analytics Research Agenda, University of Pennsylvania Journal of International Law, Vol. 43, forthcoming 2021. Abstract below.
Human rights law relies on national-level implementation and enforcement to give it full meaning. The United Nations’ reporting process, a built-in component of all major human rights treaties, enables monitoring and evaluation of countries’ progress toward human rights goals. However, the operation and effectiveness of this process have been largely under-studied. This Article lays the foundations for a data analytics research agenda that can help assess the reporting process and inform human rights law implementation. As a first step, we use a relatively new set of computational tools to evaluate the Concluding Observations issued by a human rights treaty body, the Committee on the Rights of the Child. The Concluding Observations provide both an appraisal of states’ practices and a set of recommendations that act as an agenda for the state going forward. Using text and data analytics tools, we mined the text of Concluding Observations issued by the Committee on the Rights of the Child over a twenty-seven year period to identify the topics addressed in each report and parsed the language of these reports to determine the tenor and tone of the Committee’s discussion. We then mapped our findings by state and year, to form a detailed descriptive picture of what the Committee has said, and how the Committee has delivered its message(s), across both geography and time. In doing so, we hope to show how these data analytics tools can contribute to a deeper understanding of the Committee’s work and, more broadly, of the effectiveness of the reporting process in securing and protecting human rights.
Monday, July 5, 2021
By Martha F. Davis, Co-Editor
Save the date for a webinar on July 14, 2021, at 10:00-11:30am Eastern US/16:00-17:30pm Central European, on COVID-19 vaccine access through a human rights lens, featuring UN Special Rapporteur Tlaleng Mofokeng, with Amanda Lyons (U Minn), Steven Jensen (Danish Institute), Brook Baker (Northeastern Law), and Morten Kjareum (RWI). Register for the webinar using this link: https://rwi.lu.se/events/covid-19-vaccines-for-the-few-how-to-ensure-the-right-to-health-for-all/.
The webinar marks the publication of the hot-off-the-presses book COVID-19 and Human Rights (Routledge): https://www.routledge.com/COVID-19-and-Human-Rights/Kjaerum-Davis-Lyons/p/book/9780367688035. Topics addressed in the book include racial justice, land rights, access to medicines, the SDGs, rights of disabled persons, and many others, with a must-read introduction by Olivier de Schutter, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extreme Poverty.
Wednesday, June 30, 2021
Please find resources and a synopsis report from a National Strategy Meeting on Realizing the Rights to Food, Health, and Housing in the U.S., hosted by the University of Miami School of Law’s Human Rights Clinic and the Cardozo Law Institute in Holocaust and Human Rights.
The first half of the meeting consisted of short topical panels on the rights to food, health, and housing. Advocates from each of these fields shared strategies, lessons, achievements, and challenges and set the scene for the second half of the meeting, which focused on cross-cutting issues and opportunities for future collaboration. Potential joint initiatives identified included exchanging legal tools and models for transformation, shifting narratives from individual responsibility to structural causes and away from a scarcity mentality, disrupting our current system through direct action and political education, and challenging corporate power and the financialization of basic services. With regards to the last point on the privatization of basic services, the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights just released a compendium, collecting the statements of United Nations (UN) treaty bodies on private actors’ involvement in health care, as a tool for advocates.
The meeting concluded with a panel discussion on the documentary film, PUSH, which investigates the increasing unaffordability of housing in cities around the world. The film features Leilani Farha, the former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing and Global Director of The Shift, launched with the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights and United Cities and Local Governments to secure the right to adequate housing.
The Strategy Meeting has already inspired some action. Advocates in West Virginia and Washington, excited by efforts in Maine to enshrine the right to food in the state constitution, introduced their own right to food legislative efforts. To find out more about this growing movement, please see a recent article by Michael Fakhri, current UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food.
Wednesday, March 10, 2021
The last decade has seen the rise of illiberal democracies and multiple withdrawals from international human rights treaties, leading some to declare the “endtimes” of human rights. Skeptics claim that the failures of states to comply with international legal obligations or to prosecute serious crimes are evidence of a movement—and an idea—in decline.
There is good reason to worry. Just over ten years ago, the Open Society Justice Initiative published the first report to comprehensively examine the degree to which states actually comply with the decisions of international and regional human rights courts. As a co-author of that report, I found the results sobering. The study concluded that an “implementation crisis” afflicted human rights systems—and consequently, too often left people that those courts were intended to protect without sufficient safeguards.
To that point, the limited power of human rights institutions to ensure compliance with their decisions is often raised as an area of particular weakness for the system at large. Given the world’s sobering realities, how effectively can courts and committees police governments who violate international and regional human rights law? But there is good reason to disagree with those who have sounded the death knell for human rights. Ten years on, a closer look reveals that there are many examples of systems—and states—working as they should to implement human rights decisions.
For instance, let’s look to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), where remedies for human rights violations can take the form of financial compensation, retrials, orders to investigate, or other structural reforms. Today, there are fewer decisions imposed by the ECtHR that states have not complied with than there were ten years ago, despite an equally robust docket of cases. An improved rate of compliance from governments has likewise resulted in a significant decrease in the number of decisions needing closer follow-up—what the Committee of Ministers (CoM), the Council of Europe’s political body, calls “enhanced” review.
Council of Europe member states are also implementing ECtHR judgments more swiftly. While the number of ECtHR cases closed in under two years or less has doubled since 2011, the number of judgments that states have not complied with after five years (or more) has declined. There has also been an increase in the number of action plans and reports submitted by states in response to judgments and greater, more frequent monitoring thanks to robust engagement rom NGOs. Over the last decade, for instance, the CoM has reviewed nearly twice the number of cases that it used to.
Elsewhere, in the Americas, approximately half (68) of the 135 judgments that have been monitored by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights since 2010 have been “declared fulfilled.” This is a vast improvement from 2009, when the rate of implemented judgements stood at only 10 percent. Meanwhile, in Africa, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights has taken encouraging steps to develop a new compliance monitoring framework for both the court and the African Union. The African Commission (ACHPR) has also instituted procedural rules that strengthen the role of national human rights commissions in compliance monitoring, something they did not previously do. It can also now refer instances of non-compliance to the Court and other relevant African Union organs, giving the ACHPR new enforcement teeth.
There have been strides made at the national level as well, as states have increasingly focused on developing domestic structures and/or better coordination to facilitate their human rights reporting and implementation obligations. Many have created or strengthened National Mechanisms for Reporting and Follow-up to coordinate their responses to—and dialogues with—the UN and other regional bodies.
This progress in the implementation of human rights decisions owes much to the substantial growth of civil society engagement in this field over the past decade. As findings from a recently completed multi-year research project called the Human Rights Law Implementation Project (HRLIP) suggest, litigators and advocates are increasingly incorporating implementation into their planning and litigation processes. The HRLIP also concluded, based on hundreds of interviews with state officials, judges, court personnel, lawyers, and advocates, that “implementation is most certainly occurring” and that “for a number of cases there has been more implementation than may be visible or at first appeared.” State authorities, victims, and the broad range of stakeholders at the national and international level who were interviewed by the project indicated that they still consider international justice to be a worthwhile endeavor, and one in which they are prepared to invest. This momentum has been further evidenced by the creation of new organizations like the European Implementation Network, which work to build a broader, more robust network for implementation advocacy.
This good news is highlighted in a new capstone series with contributions from scholars and practitioners, “Implementing Human Rights Decisions: Reflections, Successes and New Directions.” Launching today, the series showcases findings from HRLIP’s research as well as examples drawn from the Justice Initiative’s work with partners to implement human rights decisions in countries like Cote d’Ivoire, Kazakhstan, and Hungary. While there are no easy victories to be found, together, these stories demonstrate the value of tenacious, sustained advocacy on behalf of human rights decisions. They also remind us that implementation is not a linear process, but dynamic and iterative.
To be sure, an implementation crisis still endures; enormous challenges remain. But as we look ahead, it’s critical to recognize the progress that has been made.
Editor's note: This post first appeared on Open Society Foundation's Voices on February 17, 2021, and is cross-posted here with permission from the author.
Wednesday, March 3, 2021
On Friday February 26, 2021, 23 UN human rights experts issued a very strong statement on policing and systemic racism in the United States. The statement calls out police use of excessive force against protesters, highlighting the Philadelphia Police Department’s violent crackdown on Black Lives Matter protesters last June. The statement is also the first time international human rights experts have echoed the Black Lives Matter Movement and allied groups in calling to shift resources from police departments to social and economic resources to support communities of color.
This is also very significant because the last time the UN addressed the issue there was outrage after the UN Human Rights Council watered down a resolution on police brutality and racism after George Floyd's murder, removing the language condemning the US and calling for an investigation.
This statement would not have been possible but for the incredible advocacy of Professors Rachel Lopez and Lauren Katz Smith and their students at Drexel's Kline School of Law, as well as the ACLU of Pennsylvania.
Tuesday, March 2, 2021
By Co-Editor, Prof. Margaret Drew
The US has returned to the UN Human Rights Council. US participation was withdrawn during the Trump administration and the Biden administration quickly reversed. The US should expect matters to be different. Until elections for the Council come around, the US will have observer status. Since the US last participated in the council, US human rights violations are even more exposed. #MeToo, Black Lives Matter, and Times Up contributed to worldwide criticism of the US from a human rights perspective.
The US will best approach their participation with a sense of humility, acknowledging US abuses while working to prevent future abuses in the US and the broader international community. No doubt the other nations will expect a less judgmental approach to Council business and some will relish in the US being called out on its human rights abuses. Indeed China will soon release a report on US Human Rights Abuses.
Another change in the council is the predominance of China and other nations known for human rights abuses. China's influence accounts for the lack of a UN resolution condemning arrests and other mistreatment of Hong Kong protesters. When those countries that are the most willing to use brutality and the least willing to acknowledge mistreatment of its people control Human Rights decision-making, one has to examine whether the Council has lost its authority and leadership in the world of global human rights advocacy. One writer proposes how the US might break China's deadlock on the council and possibly bring back credibility to the UN Human Rights Council.
Monday, October 5, 2020
The Open Society Justice Initiative sued the Trump Administration over its Executive Order that sanctions the International Criminal Court. The order, described as "draconian" sanctions and criminal liability for those who support the ICC and for their highest officials. The plaintiffs are four law professors: Diane Marie Amann, University of Georgia School of Law; Gabor Rona, Cardozo School of Law; Milena Sterio, Cleveland Marshall school of Law; and Margaret deGuzman, Temple University Beasley School of Law.
The executive order denies the UCC's jurisdiction over the US actions that happen outside of the United States.
"I, DONALD J. TRUMP, President of the United States of America, find that the situation with respect to the International Criminal Court (ICC) and its illegitimate assertions of jurisdiction over personnel of the United States and certain of its allies, including the ICC Prosecutor’s investigation into actions allegedly committed by United States military, intelligence, and other personnel in or relating to Afghanistan, threatens to subject current and former United States Government and allied officials to harassment, abuse, and possible arrest."
Foley Hoag represents the Plaintiffs who request that the order be enjoined while the court considers its constitutionality.
Thursday, October 1, 2020
On October 19, 2020 at 8 to 10 AM eastern time, you will have an opportunity to discuss human rights difficulties stemming from the privatization of what once were public services. The discussion will touch on such concerns as water, health, and housing and the dialogue will be will be held with five current and former Special Rapporteurs. The formal announcement includes the following:
This event is co-organised by ActionAid, The East African Centre for Human Rights (EACHRights), the European Network on Debt and Development (Eurodad), the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights (GI-ESCR), the Initiative for Social and Economic Rights (ISER), Oxfam, the Society for International Development (SID), Public Services International (PSI), and the Translational Institute (TNI).
The Special Rapporteurs:
- Philip Alston, former UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights
- Koumbou Boly Barry, UN Special Rapporteur on the right to education
- Olivier De Schutter, UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and former UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food
- Leilani Farha, former UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing as a component of the right to an adequate standard of living, and on the right to non-discrimination in this context
- Léo Heller, UN Special Rapporteur on the human rights to safe drinking water and sanitation
The event will be moderated by Magdalena Sepúlveda, former UN Special Rapporteur on extreme poverty and human rights, and Executive Director of the Global Initiative for Economic, Social and Cultural Rights.
This online seminar will be held on Zoom, and be available in French and Spanish.
Click on this link to register: REGISTER TO THE EVENT
After decades of deregulation and privatisation policies around the world, private actors are playing an increasing role in many sectors, from education and health, to water, food and housing. However, concerns that privatised systems are gravely threatening the realisation of human rights are rising.
In recent years, dozens of human rights experts and bodies have rung the alarm bell, including four UN Special Rapporteurs who have written reports on the topic. The issue is becoming all the more critical in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, high and rising inequalities, and the ecological emergency. More than ever, the current trends towards privatisation and the dismantling of public services are proving to be untenable. The time has come to review human rights concerns across sectors and discuss alternatives to the dominant discourses.
This event will be the first-ever to bring together a range of current and former UN Special Rapporteurs and explore how human rights can help build a joint analysis of privatisation and bring support to resilient, rights-aligned, gender-inclusive public services and innovative approaches to realise the common good in a changing world.
Find out more on https://bit.ly/302TZbD
Tuesday, June 16, 2020
Editors' Note: Prof. Jeff Baker sends this post from Pepperdine's Caruso Law School, reflecting on Mr. Floyd's human rights.
The murder of George Floyd is a moral outrage that violated his human rights. Like countless Black people before him, a state agent summarily and brutally executed Mr. Floyd with no legal justification, due process, or expectation of accountability. The police officer, knowing he was on camera, acted with supreme confidence that he had the power to kill a Black man in the street.
Americans often discuss human rights abuses as events that happen elsewhere. We are apt to discuss civil rights at home, even while we’re quick to critique other nations’ human rights abuses. This may be due to convictions about sovereignty, suspicions about international organizations, or an assumed moral superiority, but I suspect we do not look to human rights principles because we have made sure our international human rights obligations are rarely legally operable. That is, the U.S. has not consented to meaningful enforcement of international human rights laws. We have chosen to trust ourselves and to reject accountability outside our vaunted sovereignty.
Human rights arise from ineffable conscience that transcends positive law, but human rights laws codify some of those ideals in operable language. The U.S. has signed and ratified a few conventions that create international human rights law, so by ratifying them, the conventions become part of the constitutional, supreme law of the land. Notwithstanding weak enforcement mechanisms, they are law, so the U.S. must reckon with its obligations.
The Universal Declaration of Human Rights founds modern iterations of human rights on a bedrock: “recognition of the inherent dignity and of the equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family is the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.” Every convention enumerating human rights builds on this precept, including the Convention Against Torture and Other Forms of Cruel, Inhuman and Degrading Treatment or Punishment, ratified by the U.S. in 1994.
Under the Convention, torture means “any act by which severe pain or suffering, whether physical or mental, is intentionally inflicted on a person . . . punishing him for an act he or a third person has committed or is suspected of having committed, or intimidating or coercing him or a third person, or for any reason based on discrimination of any kind, when such pain or suffering is inflicted by or at the instigation of or with the consent or acquiescence of a public official. . . “
The state obligation is “to take effective legislative, administrative, judicial or other measures to prevent acts of torture.” “Each State Party shall ensure that education and information regarding the prohibition against torture are fully included in the training of law enforcement personnel . . . who may be involved in the custody, interrogation or treatment of any individual subjected to any form of arrest, detention or imprisonment.”
These rights are non-derogable, and “[s]tates parties are obligated to eliminate any legal or other obstacles that impede the eradication of torture and ill-treatment; and to take positive effective measures to ensure that such conduct and any recurrences thereof are effectively prevented. . . .”
Did the Minneapolis Police violate the Convention? Have our governments done enough to eradicate torture and ill-treatment by public officials?
For nearly nine minutes after being restrained in handcuffs, a uniformed police officer ground George Floyd into the asphalt, even as Mr. Floyd begged for his life, gasped for air, called out for his mother, and stopped breathing and moving. The State of Minnesota charged the police officer with murder and the attending officers with related crimes, but, by these officers’ actions, the State very likely violated human rights law against ill-treatment. Per the Convention:
States bear international responsibility for the acts and omissions of their officials. . . acting on behalf of the State, in conjunction with the State, under its direction or control, or otherwise under colour of law. Accordingly, each State party should prohibit, prevent and redress torture and ill-treatment in all contexts of custody or control. . . .
These abuses are common in our history, certainly no mystery to Black people. As social media and smart phones force all of us to bear witness, again and anew, they shock our collective conscience because these murders by state actors are affronts to indispensable human dignity. They always have been, but now we cannot look away, diminish or evade our collective burden to confront and eliminate them.
The state obligation is the people’s obligation. Because formal enforcement of international human rights laws is so weak, the bulwarks for human dignity are our democracy, politics, and the conscience of our people. Our governments must protect human rights. If we remain a self-governing republic, then we all bear a profound obligation to vote, speak, and govern to defend the inherent dignity of every person.
Sunday, June 14, 2020
Editors' Note: In our continuing symposium we hear from Minnesota through a Human Rights framework.
By guest blogger Amanda Lyons
Executive Director at the Human Rights Center, University of Minnesota Law School
In Minnesota we find ourselves grieving and challenged by yet another horrific act of racialized state violence. In the fallout, our “Minnesota Paradox” has been dramatically exposed to the world. The voice and clarity of racial-justice advocates in our community, and the incredible groundswell of support, compels us to take greater action to live up to our human-rights identity and ideals.
Out of a desire to speak out with a shared voice, the University of Minnesota Human Rights Lab published a brief statement to condemn the killing of George Floyd, to denounce the pervasive racial inequalities in our community, and to call for a rights-based response at all levels. We sought signatures from our community of 80+ human-rights faculty across campus, and the statement swiftly received over 4,000 endorsements system-wide.
In response, an alumnus shared that as a member of the Black American Law Student Association (BALSA) in the early 1980s he had worked with Prof. David Weissbrodt to research and report on the racist killings of black people by the police in the U.S. They made two submission to the U.N. Subcommission on the Prevention of Discrimination and Protection of Minorities (in 1982 and 1983) and elicited a formal response from the U.S. government.
At first I was moved by this pioneering “human rights at home” work as a testament to the University of Minnesota’s long legacy of inspiring and preparing students to engage with international human rights to advance individual rights and social justice. But it is devastating to acknowledge that nearly 40 years later, our 2020 Black Law Students Association has to lead on the same issue.
Despite the intractability of these injustices, it does seem that in this unique moment and confluence of events, the movements have created an opening for real change. Amidst the grief and turmoil here in Minneapolis, we are seeing the uprising, outpouring, and activism lead to unprecedented institutional steps:
- The Attorney General took over the case from the county prosecutor, all 4 ex-police officers were arrested, and additional charges were brought.
- The Minneapolis City Council banned chokeholds and impose an affirmative duty on police officers to intervene in the case of excessive use of force.
- The Minnesota Department of Human Rights announced it will open a Commission of Inquiry to “address systematic discriminatory practices” over the past 10 years.
- In what the Police Chief calls part of “transformational” reforms, he has withdrawn from contract negotiations with the police union and its controversial president.
- The Minneapolis Public School Board voted unanimously to terminate their contract with the MPD
- The Minneapolis City Council voted to disband the police and pursue alternative models.
The day after George Floyd was killed University of Minnesota student body president, Jael Kerandi, demanded that the University cut ties with the MPD and called for a response by University leadership within 24 hours. The next day University President Joan Gabel shocked many by announcing the University was taking immediate steps to change its relationship with the MPD and would no longer contract for additional law enforcement support. Many welcomed the announcement as a sign of bold leadership and a building block for real change.
Since then, prominent Minneapolis cultural institutions have also pledged to cut ties with the MPD, including the Minnesota Orchestra, Minneapolis Institute of Art, Walker Art Museum, and beloved First Avenue, which said it will “instead work with local organizations who represent our community, and who will protect and affirm Black and Brown lives.”
These steps reflect and contribute to the growing support for reallocating funding away from policing and into services and models designed to respect and promote human rights, address root causes, and take on systemic disparities. The recent statement led by UN Special Rapporteur on Racism, Prof. Tendayi Achiume lays out the strong human-rights underpinnings for this call, as do our friends at the Minneapolis-based Advocates for Human Rights.
Despite our history of racialized police violence here in Minnesota, including the killing of Philando Castile, there has never been such a resounding demand for change. Until just a few weeks (or even days) ago, calls to radically alter our relationship with the police and policing were unimaginable for most.
We see the importance to act as a University human-rights community in support of these historic efforts to advance racial and social justice in our state and country. We are committed to advocating human-rights values in our own institution and to pushing on questions of legacy and building names, diversity and equity, and the role for the University in advancing human rights in our state. In the face of a toxic national climate of violence and bigotry, the vision, energy, anger, and leadership of our students (like many before them) compels us to see the chance of real change where we thought impossible.