Tuesday, April 20, 2021

Call for Proposals: University of Dayton Human Rights Center's The Social Practice of Human Rights Conference

The Human Rights Center at the University of Dayton will convene the 2021 Social Practice of Human Rights Conference in December 2021 and will focus on the challenges and opportunities the pandemic has created for human rights advocacy.  The deadline for submissions is June 1, 2021

The Call for Proposals states that submissions are welcome on the following:

  • New or refined tools, methods, and strategies for advocacy emerging during the pandemic, including in transnational advocacy and international institutions;
  • Confronting historical legacies of abuse in moments of flux and transition, including reshaping public spaces (eg. memorials, schools) to advance justice;
  • New forms of public-private partnerships in human rights and corporate-sector advocacy, including by labor and employee movements; and
  • The emergence of intersectional advocacy groups, movements, and networks building relationships across borders and connecting issue areas that leverage this particular political moment.

I attended this conference in 2015 and loved the mix of scholars and practitioners, lawyers and non-lawyers, all in dialogue with one another.

 

April 20, 2021 in Books and articles, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 18, 2021

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights News

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) has announced that the 180th Period of Sessions (June 21-July 2nd) will be again held virtually.  The portal for requesting hearings and working meetings for the 180th Period of Sessions is open until April 21, 2021.  Information available here.

In other news, the United States has nominated human rights law professor Alexandra Huneeus for the position of Commissioner on the IACHR for the 2022-2025 term.  The United States has nominated Ms. Alexandra Huneeus, J.D., Ph.D., for the position of Commission on the IACHR for the 2022-2025 term.  Her CV is available here and the nomination letter from the U.S. Permanent Mission to the OAS is available here.

Thank you to Professor Sarah Paoletti for this info!

April 18, 2021 in IACHR, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 14, 2021

New Article: Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States: A Call to Action for Inspired Advocacy in Indian Country

Kristen Carpenter, Edyael Casaperalta, and Danielle Lazore-Thompson, Implementing the United Nations Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States: A Call to Action for Inspired Advocacy in Indian Country, U. Colo. L. Rev. Forum (Mar. 6, 2020). Introduction excerpt below:

In 2007, following decades of advocacy by indigenous peoples, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples (Declaration). This is a standard-setting document supported by the 148 member nations, including the United States, committing to the individual and collective rights of indigenous peoples. These rights include the right to self-determination, equality, property, culture, and economic well-being. John Echohawk, Executive Director of the Native American Rights Fund (NARF), has said that the Declaration affirms many of the rights for which American Indians have been fighting throughout generations.[2] It “recognizes the rights of [indigenous] people to self determination, their traditional lands, and their cultures and religions,” all central aspects of tribal sovereignty. According to Echohawk, it was the tribal leaders who pushed President Barack Obama to express national support for the Declaration in hope that it would “help the tribes prevail in the U.S. judicial, legislative, and administrative forums.”

Today’s challenge is to realize the promises of the Declaration in the lives of indigenous peoples. In 2018, the University of Colorado Law School (CU Law) and NARF committed to working on this challenge in the context of American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian rights. Together they launched the joint “Project to Implement the U.N. Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous Peoples in the United States” (Project). In 2019, CU Law and NARF held a joint conference to set the groundwork for the Project (the Conference), gathering tribal leaders, attorneys, scholars, students, activists, and others to share ideas about the current state of federal Indian law and how the Declaration might be used to inform advocacy in the field. This Report provides a summary of the Conference and suggests next steps for assessing and advancing use of the Declaration in advocacy regarding indigenous peoples’ rights in the United States.

April 14, 2021 in Indigenous People, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 13, 2021

New White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council

Congratulations to the members of the newly established White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council

Establishing the White House Environmental Justice Advisory Council (WHEJAC) is a historic step towards expanding environmental human rights in the U.S. and  I am so pleased to see human rights friends and advocates Catherine Flowers, Michele Roberts, Juan Parras, Dr. Robert Bullard, and Dr. Beverly Wright  appointed as WHEJAC members!

The new WHEJAC is tasked with increasing the Federal Government’s efforts to address environmental injustice and its efforts are to include "a broad range of strategic, scientific, technological, regulatory, community engagement, and economic issues related to environmental justice." WHEJAC held its first meeting on March 30, 2021. Be on the look out for future WHEJAC meetings to be announced here.

This news follows shortly after UN human rights experts again raised concerns about "Cancer Alley" in Louisiana in a joint statement released last week.  In that joint statement, several UN human rights experts applauded Biden's executive order on Tackling the Climate Crisis, which establishing WHEJAC.

 

April 13, 2021 in Environment, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, April 8, 2021

April-May 2021 Deadlines - Calls for Inputs by UN Human Rights Mechanisms

The following UN Human Rights Mechanisms have issued calls for inputs with deadlines in April and May 2021 and law professors whose research and scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:

Special Rapporteur on Contemporary Forms of Slavery – Call for inputs on the role of organized criminal groups with regard to contemporary forms of slavery. Deadline April 16, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights – Call for inputs from States and Stakeholders to inform a thematic report on the lifecycle of plastics and human rights. Deadline April 21, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on violence against women – Call for inputs to inform the Special Rapporteur’s report on femicide. Deadline April 30, 2021. Read more.

Independent Expert on human rights and the environment – Call for inputs on healthy and sustainable food: reducing the environmental impacts of the global food system on human rights. Deadline May 1, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the sale of children – Call for inputs on the gender dimensions of the sale and sexual exploitation of children and the importance of integrating a human rights-based and a non-binary approach to combating and eradicating sale and sexual exploitation of children. Deadline May 10, 2021. Read more.

This information was compiled from https://ohchr.org/EN/Pages/calls-for-input.aspx.

April 8, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, April 7, 2021

Five States and Counting: The Story Behind Washington Farmworkers’ Overtime Wage Victory

Abigail Ramos  Image_03-X2By Abigail Ramos, 2L at the City University of New York School of Law.

Little has changed for farmworkers since the original enactment of the Federal Labor Standards Act (“FLSA”) in 1938. Along with domestic workers, Congress carved out farmworkers from the legislation’s bedrock promise of overtime. As a result, people who cultivate, pick, and package our food do not get fairly compensated for their backbreaking work and about 30 percent live below the poverty line.

At the time of passage, Black people comprised the majority of farmworkers. The bill was unlikely to pass without the support of southern Democrats, who required the racially motivated exclusion for their vote on the bill to maintain white farmers’ exploitive labor practices. Presently, there are more than 3 million migrant and seasonal farmworkers in the United States, 68 percent of whom are from Mexico. Even now, their continued exclusion is rooted in the country’s reliance on unethical and racialized labor.

No federal court has moved the needle in reversing the statute’s harm. For this reason, states have played a crucial role in guaranteeing overtime pay. Currently, only six states have some form of overtime protections for farmworkers. In New York, overtime is considered after 60 hours worked whereas in California, phase-in legislation provided for overtime after 45 hours worked starting in 2021. Last November, the Washington state supreme court in Martinez-Cuevas v. DeRuyter Bros. Dairy, 475 P.3d 164 (2020), held that farmworkers were entitled to overtime after 40 hours worked under the state constitution.

The 5-4 decision interpreted Article II, Section 35 of the state’s constitution, which requires the legislature to pass “necessary laws for the protection of” workers in employment “dangerous to life or deleterious to health.” Dairy workers argued that they fell under this classification. The court firmly concluded that dairy workers were protected by the state constitution, citing 24-hour milking for 3,000 cows every day as an example of their grueling work conditions. Additionally, the defendant DeRuyter Brothers Dairy forced workers to stay until all cows were milked. The court relied on statistics regarding the injury rate for dairy workers, which in 2015 was “121 percent higher than all other state industries combined and 19 percent higher than the entire agricultural sector.”

The legal victory was the result a unique collaboration between Familias Unidas Por La Justicia (FUJ), Columbia Legal Services (CLS), and Frank Freed Subit & Thomas LLP. FUJ is an “independent farmworker union of indigenous families” formed in 2013 in the west side of Washington state. The union has been a catalyst in pushing for political and cultural shifts in farmworker issues. It has frequently partnered with CLS since its creation, also winning the right to paid rest breaks for farmworkers and requiring employers to provide reasonable access to bathrooms and toilet facilities for farmworkers.

There are more than 100,000 farmworkers in Washington state who benefit from the decision. “Our union has stepped up to it almost unintentionally, but the opportunities are there for us to do more than just a contract,” Edgar Franks, Political Director of FUJ, told HRAH Blog. “A contract [is] awesome because we helped 500 farmworkers here in Skagit [County]. But these lawsuits have the potential of helping hundreds of thousands.”

The celebratory win for this historic decision was cut short, after state Republicans responded with SB 5172, proposed legislation that would have overturned the decision. Originally, in reaction to the agricultural industry’s cry that it would be unable to pay overtime costs, the bill would have limited the court’s ability to grant overtime pay when it would “create a substantially inequitable result.” It was proposed by two state Senators with close ties to the pro-farmer group Washington Farm Bureau. But after FUJ intervened, the proposal was amended to include the compromise of a three-year phase-in period, similar to California’s, and is pending in the state house.

 “We didn’t want the phase-in. We wanted it straight out to get implemented,” Franks responded. “[F]or 60 years, workers were denied these benefits intentionally and that was to the benefit to the industry.”

As Washington joins the small list of states remedying nearly a century of injustice, Franks hopes more people will not only become aware of the challenges farmworkers face in their own communities but will partake in the workers’ movements. He said, “Everybody has a role to play in supporting farmworkers, whether it be just community people or churches or students and lawyers: all of us have a role.”

April 7, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett, Workplace | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, April 6, 2021

Event: Strategies to Combat U.S. Solitary Confinement: Domestic and International Legal Approaches

On April 8th and 9th, 2021, the American University Washington College of Law International Human Rights Law Clinic will hold live Zoom panels discussing advocacy and litigation efforts against solitary confinement in the United States.  This event will feature stories from solitary confinement survivors and provide a platform for attorneys and human rights advocates to present their work fighting against solitary confinement.  Attendance is free, but registration is required.  Registration is available:

April 8, 2021, 12-1:30pm ET - Day 1 Strategies to Combat U.S. Solitary Confinement: Domestic Legal Approaches https://bit.ly/31EhGrd

April 9, 2021, 12-1:30pm ET - Day 2 Strategies to Combat U.S. Solitary Confinement: International Legal Approaches https://bit.ly/3wmiglc

April 6, 2021 in Criminal Justice, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, April 4, 2021

Event: Virtual Symposium on International Law & COVID-19

On April 12 and 16, 2021, the University of Miami School of Law International and Graduate Law Programs and Human Rights Clinic, in collaboration with the Human Rights Society, Health Law Association, and University of Miami International and Comparative Law Review —will examine the impact of COVID-19 on international law through a virtual symposium. Speakers include:

  • Claudio Grossman, Professor of Law, Dean Emeritus, Raymond I. Geraldson Scholar for International and Humanitarian Law, American University Washington College of Law; Member, UN International Law Commission
  • Leilani Farha, former UN Special Rapporteur on Adequate Housing; Global Director, The Shift
  • Charles C. Jalloh, Professor of Law, Florida International University College of Law; Member, UN International Law Commission
  • Antonia Urrejola Noguera, President, Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Nilüfer Oral, Law Faculty, Istanbul Bilgi University; Member, UN International Law Commission  
  • More

To register and for more information please visit: https://www.law.miami.edu/academics/clinics/human-rights-clinic/international-law-covid19-symposium

April 4, 2021 in Health, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 29, 2021

News: 20 Years of Detention: Decision Time for Biden on Guantanamo Bay

Nancy Kelehar, 20 Years of Detention: Decision Time for Biden on Guantanamo Bay, Human Rights Pulse (March 22, 2021). An excerpt:

"As we approach the 20th anniversary since almost 3,000 people lost their lives in the 9/11 attacks, the 19 years of human rights abuses and crimes under international law committed at Guantánamo Bay should be recognised and ended..."

 

 

 

 

March 29, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 28, 2021

Teaching Resource: Legal Interviewing and Language Access Videos

The Legal Interviewing and Language Access videos produced by Professors Laila Hlass of Tulane University Law School and Lindsay Harris of UDC David A. Clarke School of Law are a terrific resource for law professors teaching interviewing, especially in the context of interviewing survivors of trauma and using interpreters in interviews.

I have been assigning these videos each semester to my Human Rights at Home Litigation Clinic students at St. Louis University School of Law as part of a unit on interviewing.  All of our clients are survivors of trauma and we often use interpreters in our interviews.  My students also always interview in teams.   My students tell me that they often go back and watch the videos again and again to help them prepare for interviews.  They also often specifically mention these videos in their midsemester and final evaluations.  Here are a couple of examples from student evaluations:

"The videos emphasized for me the importance of being prepared for the client interview, planning with my clinic partner regarding who will ask which questions and who will take notes, having a clear plan regarding next steps so the client knows what to expect, and being conscientious of cultural differences and implicit biases. I am using all of this information as I prepare for my client interview, especially as my clinic partner and I plan the division of labor for the interview itself. From that class, I now appreciate the impact of effective preparation on client interviews and am aware of how unprofessional we could come across if we’re not well-prepared."

"The class on interviewing was especially helpful in the x matter. We have made many client phone calls and learned the difficulties of using interpreters first hand. The class helped us shape our interview outlines to be less “Yes or No” focused, ask more probing questions, be more prepared as a team, and also add more client specific questions. We had a few clients who jumped at the opportunity to tell their story, which also required a lot of active listening. By having one partner take notes and the other conduct the interview, it allowed the interviewing partner to actively listen to what our client is telling us and easily create follow-up questions based on what we are hearing (making the entire experience more like a conversation)."

"I was never really trained on translating. It had never crossed my mind how the using the third-party pronouns could confuse a client and different ways to better serve both the attorney and the client."

You can access the videos through youtube. If you would like the teaching guides, email lhlass@tulane.edu and lindsay.harris@udc.edu stating your affiliation and planned purpose for the videos. They have also created a short video explaining how you might use their videos. 

March 28, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (1)

Wednesday, March 24, 2021

Evanston, Illinois, Approves Reparations Program for Black Residents

On Monday March 22, 2021, the Evanston, Illinois, City Council approved a $400,000 allocation towards the City's Local Reparations Restorative Housing Program.  This is the first government reparations program for African Americans established in the US. 

The Evanston Reparations Program will initially make $25,000 homeownership and improvement grants and provide mortgage assistance for Black residents.  Eligibility requirements include individuals who have lived in Evanston between 1919 and 1969 or be a direct descendant of an individual harmed by discriminatory housing policies or practices during this time period. Individuals who have lived in Evanston after 1969 and can demonstrate discriminatory housing practices by the City may also be eligible.  This program accounts for $400,000 – or 4 percent – of the $10 million in funding designated by the City Council to support local reparations programs and initiatives in Evanston.

A video of the historic City Council meeting in Evanston on Monday is available here

Hopefully this give other US cities, and maybe even the Federal Government, the boost they need to soon establish reparations of their own.

 

March 24, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 23, 2021

Call for Papers: Yale Law Journal invites submissions on the Law of the Territories

The Yale Law Journal invites submissions on the Law of the Territories, covering the broad range of local, federal, and international issues arising out of and affecting the U.S. territories and their people, for Volume 131’s Special Issue. The deadline for submissions is July 15, 2021. From the Journal's Managing Editors:

The Law of the Territories is an emerging field that explores novel legal questions facing residents of the U.S. territories. More than 3.5 million people—98% of whom are racial or ethnic minorities—live in American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, the Northern Mariana Islands, and the U.S. Virgin Islands. They are unable to vote for President and lack voting representation in Congress, even though Congress exercises plenary power over their communities. In the last five years, the Law of the Territories has experienced a resurgence of activity before the Supreme Court not seen since the Insular Cases, a series of controversial decisions from the early 1900s that endorsed the United States’s annexation and governance of its colonies. The Court’s holdings in the Insular Cases have received broad criticism for their racist underpinnings and departure from foundational constitutional principles. But the Court has hesitated to either overrule them or fundamentally reconsider its territorial jurisprudence. Meanwhile, each of the territories has developed its own distinct body of law—and the people of the territories have pressed with increasing urgency for self-determination and decolonization through both domestic and international processes.

We seek Articles and Essays that address unresolved debates, emerging controversies, and unexplored problems related to the Law of the Territories, including, but not limited to: 

  • the relationship between federalism and empire;
  • the challenge of cultural accommodation within the United States’s constitutional framework;
  • the relevance of international models of association to the debate over territorial decolonization, and more broadly, the light that comparative perspectives might shed on the issues surrounding self-determination;
  • the intersection of race, gender, and class inequality in the context of U.S. colonial governance;
  • and the promises and pitfalls of territorial autonomy.

March 23, 2021 in Books and articles, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 22, 2021

News: Is there a New Era For Human Rights on the Horizon?

JoAnn Kamuf Ward and Jamil Dakwar, Is there a New Era For Human Rights on the Horizon? What We Can Learn from the Biden-Harris Administration’s First UN Appearance, Just Security (March 19, 2021), https://www.justsecurity.org/75429/is-there-a-new-era-for-human-rights-on-the-horizon/

"It’s been a busy week for the Biden-Harris administration on the global stage. On Tuesday, Vice President Kamala Harris made the first official administration statement to the United Nations, speaking at the annual U.N. Commission on the Status of Women to underscore U.S. commitments to democracy and gender equality. Wednesday morning, the new administration made its first formal appearance at the U.N. Human Rights Council, as part of a review of the U.S. human rights record, known as the Universal Periodic Review, or UPR. This appearance was followed by an unprecedented racial justice event, co-sponsored by the U.S. Mission in Geneva and featuring prominent racial justice advocates, including Black Lives Matter founder Opal Tometi and Gay MacDougall, the current U.S. nominee to the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination.

...This week’s UPR appearance is significant because the Biden-Harris administration is representing the United States to articulate which of the recommendations the government is committed to implementing, which recommendations it will reject, and why."

March 22, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett, United Nations, Universal Periodic Reviews | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 21, 2021

Event: IACHR Hearing on Internet Content Moderation and the Freedom of Expression in the Americas

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) is in the middle of its 179th Period of Sessions, which is being held again in an all-virtual format.  While there are no hearings scheduled this week focusing solely on the US, of interest may be the hearing on "Internet content moderation and freedom of expression in the Americas" scheduled for Thursday March 25, 2021, from 2-3:30pm ET. This hearing was called by the IACHR on its own initiative (an ex officio hearing).

To register to watch the virtual hearing on Internet Content Moderation, visit: https://cidh-org.zoom.us/j/85942567179?pwd=SWY1cTVTOUp6MmhyTjR6bFNPZTV1Zz09

March 21, 2021 in IACHR, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Tuesday, March 16, 2021

Biden Administration Rejects UN Recommendations to End Life Without Parole for Juveniles

The US response to the UPR Recommendations issued by the UN Human Rights Council was posted by the OHCHR last week.  The US response makes reference to some of the positive actions that the Biden administration has taken regarding human rights since the new president's inauguration in January, including depositing the instrument to rejoin the Paris Agreement on climate change, efforts to reengage with the UN Human Rights Council, and more.

It is wonderful to see that the new administration supports recommendations to ratify the Convention on the Rights of the Child (CRC), especially given that the US is the only UN Member nation that has not ratified the CRC.  However, it's disheartening to see the US refuse to support recommendations to end sentencing juvenile offenders to life without parole.  The US response notes that "[j]uveniles may receive only non-mandatory life sentences and only for particularly severe homicide offenses when warranted in a particular case. These sentences are intended to be rare and are subject to review on appeal."  

Whereas the US couched its response to the recommendations to abolish the death penalty with statements such as "President Biden supports legislatively ending the death penalty at the federal level and incentivizing states to follow the federal government’s example," there was no indication of any support for ending the practice of sentencing juveniles to life without parole.  This is very disappointing for those of us working with clients sentenced to life without parole as juveniles. 

For the past year, my clinic students and I have been representing offenders in Missouri who were sentenced to life without parole as juveniles for the purposes of parole hearings.  After legislation was enacted and a lawsuit filed by the Macarthur Justice Center, juveniles sentenced to life without parole in Missouri have been given a chance at release for the first time ever.  Under the new legislation and court orders obtained by the Macarthur Justice Center, the Missouri Board of Probation and Parole has to consider mitigation factors in its decision whether or not to grant parole, including the client’s: age, maturity, intellectual capacity, and mental and emotional health and development at the time of the offense; family, home and community environment; familial or peer pressure; characteristics attributable to youth on judgment; and more.  The first juvenile life without parole hearings under the new legislation and court orders began last summer and continue today. Under the new process, the juvenile parole hearings have gone from an 86% denial rate to a 100% grant rate.  While this is good news, children in the US deserve so much better than spending more than thirty years in a cage without hope. 

Article 37 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child requires that the arrest, detention or imprisonment of a child shall be used only as a measure of last resort and for the shortest appropriate period of time.  Moreover, Article 40 of the convention states that every child alleged as, accused of or recognized as having infringed criminal law should always be treated in a manner consistent with the promotion of the child’s sense of dignity and worth. Science supports this approach. Research shows that more than 90% of all juvenile offenders desist from crime by their mid-20s and predicting future violence from adolescent criminal behavior, even serious criminal behavior, is unreliable and prone to error. Even the U.S. Supreme Court has noted that personality traits of adolescents are less fixed than in adults, and this makes it difficult to infer that even heinous criminal behavior during adolescence is evidence of an “irretrievably depraved” character. Moreover, the Court has also noted that adolescents are better candidates for rehabilitation because of their ability to grow and mature.  

Our juvenile life without parole clients are amazing.  They are working on college degrees, volunteering thousands of hours to restorative justice programs and puppies for parole, helping friends through crises, and holding the hands of friends as they pass away from COVID in prison.  One of our clients was released last month after 30 years in prison and he is thriving.  Others are still waiting for release.  In the meantime, they dream of driving a car, owning a food truck, flying on an airplane, having children, seeing the new ferris wheel in St. Louis, eating Kentucky Fried Chicken, and more. 

In 2019, the UN Committee on the Rights of the Child released General Comment 24 on children's rights in the justice system.  The Committee recognized the need for a new comment as a "result of the promulgation of international and regional standards, the Committee’s jurisprudence, new knowledge about child and adolescent development, and evidence of effective practices, including those relating to restorative justice."  In General Comment 24, the Committee recommended strictly limiting the deprivation of liberty for children only as a last resort.  The US is far, far from that wonderful vision for juvenile justice.  But, at least the Biden administration could move the US in the right direction by supporting recommendations to end juvenile life without parole sentences.

 

March 16, 2021 in Criminal Justice, Juveniles, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 15, 2021

Event: Reparation for Gross Violations of International Human Rights Law and Grave Breaches of International Humanitarian Law

On Wednesday March 17, 2021, from 9am-3:15pm ET, a virtual conference will take place on reparation for gross violations of international human rights law and grave breaches of international humanitarian law. Experts in international law on two panels will discuss the right to reparation under international law.  This conference is co-hosed by the Center for Human Rights & Humanitarian Law at American University Washington College of Law, Geneva Academy, Robert F. Kennedy Human Rights, and the International Law Students Association.

For more information and to register, please visit https://www.wcl.american.edu/news-events/events/detail/9196/

March 15, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Wednesday, March 10, 2021

For Hope for Human Rights, Look to Implementation

By Christian De Vos

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.

March 10, 2021 in Global Human Rights, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Monday, March 8, 2021

March 2021 Deadlines - Calls for Inputs by UN Human Rights Mechanisms

The following UN Human Rights Mechanisms have issued calls for inputs with deadlines in March 2021 and law professors whose scholarship touches on these topics may be interested in submission:

Working Group on the use of mercenaries - Call for inputs for report on the role of private military and security companies (PMSCs) in humanitarian action (to be presented to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Sep 2021). Deadline March 9, 2021. Read more.

Independent Expert on sexual orientation and gender identity - Call for inputs for report on gender, sexual orientation and gender identity (to be presented to the 47th session of the Human Rights Council, June 2021). Deadline March 14, 2021.  Read more.

Special Rapporteur on contemporary forms of slavery - Call for inputs for report on the nexus between forced displacement and contemporary forms of slavery (to be presented to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Sep 2021). Deadline March 15, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights - Call for input for report the right to benefit from scientific progress and its applications (to be presented to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Sep 2021). Deadline March 15, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples - Call for inputs for report on the situation of indigenous peoples living in urban areas (to be presented to the 76th session of the General Assembly, Oct 2021). Deadline March 17, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the rights of indigenous peoples - Call for inputs for report on Covid-19 recovery and indigenous peoples’ rights (to be presented to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Sep 2021). Deadline March 17, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders – Call for inputs for report on the long-term detention of human rights defenders (to be presented to the 76th session of the General Assembly, Oct 2021). Deadline March 19, 2021. Read more.

Working Group of experts on people of African descent - Call for inputs for public session and report on Environmental Justice, the Climate Crisis and people of African descent (to be presented to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Sep 2021). Deadline March 22, 2021. Read more.

Independent Expert on older persons - Call for inputs for report on the causes, manifestations and prevalence of ageism and age discrimination (to be presented to the 48th session of the Human Rights Council, Sep 2021). Deadline March 22, 2021. Read more.

Independent Expert on older persons - Call for inputs for report on the intersection between ageing and gender and the specific human rights concerns and challenges faced by older women (to be presented to the 76th session of the General Assembly, Sep 2021). Deadline March 22, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on the right to development - Call for inputs for report on the Climate change related policies and projects from a right to development perspective (to be presented to the Human Rights Council and the General Assembly in 2021). Deadline March 28, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights - Call for inputs for impact analysis of the International Maritime Organization (IMO) (a series of meetings with the IMO in Dec 2020). Deadline March 31, 2021. Read more.

Special Rapporteur on toxics and human rights - Call for inputs for report on the lifecycle of plastics and human rights (to be presented to the 76th session of the General Assembly, Sep 2021). Deadline March 31, 2021. Read more.

This list was compiled by the International Lesbian Gay, Bisexual, Trans, and Intersex Association (ILGA).  To access wonderful monthly updates on UN Human Rights Mechanisms calls for inputs and country visits schedule, visit: https://ilga.org/newsletters.

March 8, 2021 in Lauren Bartlett, United Nations | Permalink | Comments (0)

Sunday, March 7, 2021

Event: Role for Human Rights Institutions in Support of Rights-Based Implementation of the Paris Agreement

On March 24, 2021, from 9am-11am ET, the UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Center for International Environmental Law, Earth Justice, and Natural Justice, are hosting a high-level virtual meeting to discuss the role for human rights institutions to support rights-based implementation of the Paris Agreement

Discussants will exchange ideas for concrete actions and commitments that could be achieved in 2021 to promote human rights-based climate responses and to promote cooperation between relevant actors and institutions. This event will take place in the form of two consecutive discussions bringing together a diverse group of high-level climate decision makers as well as representatives from key human rights bodies and relevant international fora.

For more information and to register to attend this virtual meeting, please click here

March 7, 2021 in Environment, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)

Thursday, March 4, 2021

New Article: Of American Fragility: Public Rituals, Human Rights, and the End of Invisible Man

Etienne C. Toussaint, Of American Fragility: Public Rituals, Human Rights and the End of Invisible Man, 52 Colum. Hum. Rts. L. Rev. 826 (2021). Abstract below.

The COVID-19 pandemic has exposed the fragility of American democracy in at least two important ways. First, the coronavirus has ravaged Black communities across the United States, unmasking decades of inequitable laws and public policies that have rendered Black lives socially and economically isolated from adequate health care services, educational resources, housing stability, environmental security, stable and living wage jobs, generational wealth, and other institutional structures necessary for resilience. Second, government-mandated social distancing in response to the coronavirus has failed to dampen America’s racially biased, violent, and supervisory policing culture, reigniting demands from the Movement for Black Lives for police abolition and, more generally, the dismantling of white supremacy in seociopolitical life. In response, scholars have called for a radical (re)imagination of American democracy.

This Article argues that resolving the fragility of American democracy amidst the terrors of COVID-19 warrants a renewed commitment to the emancipatory language of human rights. This assertion rests on three claims, using the challenges of housing insecurity as a guiding explanatory thread. First, the geography of health inequity in Black communities across the United States embodies not merely governmental neglect, but more poignantly, the rituals of white supremacy that create and reconstitute the racial social order. As a result, beyond coordinated public health measures and short-term economic stimulus plans to address human vulnerability, the future of American democracy demands new tools to confront racial ritualization in everyday life. Second, human rights discourse challenges the normative underpinnings of contemporary public policy, which are shaped by liberal assumptions about the human condition that enshrine structural inequality and propagate economic power. Third, human rights discourse expands the social imagination, fostering innovation in lawmaking by deconstructing antiquated valuations of equality and reconstructing contextualized notions of liberty. Taken together, these insights reveal human rights discourse as a project of reimagining legal subjectivity and state
responsibility. 

To further elucidate the benefits of human rights discourse in view of compelling arguments to move beyond rights-based framings of equality and discrimination, this Article places Martha Fineman’s theory of vulnerability in conversation with Ralph Ellison’s articulation of the Black American experience during Jim Crow segregation in his novel, Invisible Man. This dialogue reveals the erasure of “sacrifice” from ongoing discussions of social and economic inequality. As this Article argues, sacrifice is a critical dimension of democratic citizenship that has been rendered invisible in contemporary rights-based discourse and emergent strategies for poverty alleviation. Drawing insights from the Movement for Black Lives and contemporary theorists of political philosophy, this dialogue clarifies the central role of “dignity” in establishing the preconditions for an engaged citizenry in the context of American racial capitalism.

March 4, 2021 in Books and articles, Lauren Bartlett | Permalink | Comments (0)