Responsibility for Human Rights Violations Arising from the Use of Privately Contracted Armed Security Personnel against Piracy. Re-Emphasizing the Primary Role and Obligations of Flag States

Jessica N.M. Schechinger

Maritime piracy is an ancient problem that harms, either directly or indirectly, many states as well as non-state actors. Although the law on piracy seems in principle adequately equipped to deal with the problem, states have not been able to … Read more


SHARES Briefing Paper – A New Framework for Allocating International Responsibility: the EU Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights

This briefing paper reflects on the manner in which the Draft Agreement on the Accession of the European Union (EU) to the European Convention on Human Rights (ECHR) allocates international responsibility between the EU and its member States. In particular, … Read more


The Relationship between the International Criminal Court and its Host State: Impact on Human Rights

Emma Irving

When an international criminal tribunal establishes its headquarters in a State, its legal relationship with that State must be carved out. This legal relationship has the potential to exclude the applicability of human rights protection by curtailing the host State’s … Read more


The Right to Development and State Responsibility

Nienke van der Have

The right to development is still largely viewed as aspirational and not as a ‘proper’ legal right. This chapter explores if and how a rights-based approach to development could ever be carried to its logical conclusion; by holding states accountable … Read more


Issues of Shared Responsibility before the European Court of Human Rights

Maarten den Heijer

The European Court of Human Rights is probably the international court with the most extensive case law on situations involving a single injury and multiple contributing States. This paper examines how the ECtHR decides such cases and explores to what … Read more


Responsibility to Protect: From Principle to Practice

Julia Hoffmann & André Nollkaemper (eds.)

The tragic events in the 1990s in Rwanda, Srebrenica and Kosovo, and the crisis in Libya in 2011 have triggered a fundamental rethinking of the role and responsibility of the international community. It is now accepted that while individual states … Read more


8 March 2017

PhD Defence Nienke van der Have

On Wednesday 8 March 2017 at 14:00, Nienke van der Have will publicly defend her doctoral thesis entitled “The Prevention of Gross Human Rights Violations under International Human Rights Law”.

The public ceremony takes place at the Agnietenkapel, University of Amsterdam (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229-231, Amsterdam).

18 October 2013

SHARES Seminar: A New Framework for Allocating International Responsibility: the EU Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights

On 18 October 2013, a seminar will be held in Amsterdam entitled A New Framework for Allocating International Responsibility: the EU Accession to the European Convention on Human Rights.

On 5 April 2013, a draft agreement was concluded on the modalities for the accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights. The seminar critically reflects on one key aspect of the draft agreement: the allocation of international responsibility between the EU and its member states, as well as between the member states. In particular, it reviews whether the agreement adequately addresses the gaps in human rights protection that presently arise from the specific relationship between the EU and its member states.

During this seminar, the issues of attribution and responsibility; the co-respondent mechanism; and the allocation of responsibility within the legal order of the EU will be discussed. (more…)

6 June 2013

SHARES Lecture: ‘Allocation of human rights duties (and responsibilities) to multiple duty-bearers’, by Samantha Besson

On Thursday 6 June 2013, Professor Samantha Besson will give a lecture entitled: ‘Allocation of human rights duties (and responsibilities) to multiple duty-bearers’.

Professor Besson is Professor of public international law and European law, co-director of the European Law Institute, and head of the department of international and commercial law at the University of Fribourg (Switzerland). (more…)

16 May 2013

SHARES Seminar: Practice of Shared Responsibility in International Refugee Law

This SHARES Seminar will discuss papers reviewing the practice of shared responsibility in the field of international refugee law. (more…)

14 February 2013

SHARES Lecture: ‘Shared responsibility in relation to the right to food’, by Olivier de Schutter

On 14 February 2013, Professor Olivier de Schutter will give a lecture on ‘Shared responsibility in relation to the right to food’.

Olivier de Schutter is the UN Special Rapporteur on the right to food and human rights expert. He is Professor of Law at the Université catholique de Louvain (UCL) and the College of Europe. (more…)

3 December 2012

SHARES Debate: External Processing of Asylum Seekers outside the EU: Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

On Monday 3 December, the second SHARES Debate is organized in cooperation with SPUI25, the academic centre of the University of Amsterdam.

SHARES Debates are organized throughout the year to provide a platform for discussions with a broader audience on questions of shared responsibility.

This debate, entitled External Processing of Asylym Seekers outside the EU: Out of Sight, Out of Mind? will address the possibility of external processing of asylum seekers outside the territory of the European Union, and whether the policy proposals on external processing of asylum seekers provide a basis for the ‘sharing’ or ‘shifting’ of responsibility. (more…)

6 September 2012

SHARES Lecture: ‘Extraterritorial application of human rights treaties and shared responsibility’, by Marko Milanovic

On 6 September 2012, Dr Marko Milanovic will give a SHARES Lecture on the topic of ‘Extraterritorial application of human rights treaties and shared responsibility’.

Marko Milanovic is lecturer in law at the University of Nottingham School of Law. (more…)

30 May 2011

Expert Seminar: Shared Responsibility in International Refugee Protection

The Expert Seminar addressed the allocation of responsibility in respect of refugee protection. Collective or shared responsibility for refugees is highly topical. The regime is based on the recognition that problems of refugees (both the causes of refugee flows and the protection of refugees) are international problems that require international cooperation.

The meeting focused on three aspects of the refugee regime that are of particular interest from the perspective of SHARES: (1) collective responsibility (obligations) of states for the protection of refugees; (2) shared responsibilities arising out of extra-territorial refugee policies; and (3) shared responsibilities arising out of the practice of refoulement. The aim of the seminar was to examine and discuss what principles of collective and shared responsibility have emerged in the area of refugee protection.

On the basis of the presentations and discussions during the meeting, a report is currently being prepared on issues of shared responsibility in the context of refugee law that will be made publicly available on this website.


19 February 2014

Olympic Games turned Blame Games: Responsibility for Abuse of Migrant Workers in Sochi

© Sochi 2014 Olympic Logo

© Sochi 2014 Olympic Logo

The 2014 Winter Olympics are in full swing. The games, which take place in the Black Sea coastal city of Sochi, should have been a prestige project of huge importance for Russia’s image at home and abroad. Instead, they are turning out to become the most criticized games ever. The controversies surrounding the Sochi games are many: flagrant discrimination against the gay community, forced evictions of homeowners to make way for Olympic venues and infrastructure, environmental destruction of the surrounding land and, of course, the staggering costs of the whole enterprise, totaling an estimated 50 billion dollars. An issue that has received far less media attention is the abuse of migrant workers on whose backs the Olympic sites are built. (more…)

20 December 2013

Jurisdiction and the Allocation of Obligations under Human Rights Law to Multiple States

© Getty Images, BBC

© Getty Images, BBC

Much has been said and done in recent decades to explore and exploit extraterritorial applicability of human rights. Whether in court cases or scholarly works, the debate has usually revolved around the concept of “jurisdiction”, as used in human rights treaties to demarcate their applicability. Jurisdiction, first and foremost, functions as a threshold for applicability of human rights treaties. Many opinions have been heard on the criteria that should be met before a state has jurisdiction and whether jurisdiction should form a high or low threshold. Without wanting to dwell on this issue too much, suffice it to say that international legal discourse has moved towards an understanding of jurisdiction as based on factual control exercised by a state over people. As explained by the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the 2011 Al-Skeini case this factual control can either be exercised in the form of effective control over territory or in the form of authority and control over people. In this blog, I submit that an important function of jurisdiction that is yet to be further explored is its role in the allocation of human rights obligations. (more…)

28 October 2013

The Legal Limbo Continues: Update on the Detained Witnesses at the ICC

ICC, ©

ICC, ©

In October 2012 and January of this year the SHARES blog posted about the situation of Congolese witnesses detained at the International Criminal Court (ICC) in The Hague. Their detention continues, and while the resolution of their legal status is one step closer, it is also as illusive as ever, due to a decision of the Amsterdam District Court.

A detailed background to the situation can be found here, but can be briefly summarised as follows. Four individuals, detained in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) on charges relating to the on going armed conflict in the country, were transferred to the ICC detention unit in May 2011 in order to give evidence as witnesses. (more…)

14 June 2013

‘The Allocation of International Human Rights Duties (and Responsibilities) to Multiple Duty-bearers’, A Discussion of Samantha Besson’s SHARES Lecture

During a SHARES lecture on 6 June, Prof. Samantha Besson presented a recently published chapter on the allocation of international human rights duties and responsibilities for human rights in SHARES context. Building on the work of Henry Shue, among others, she offers a theory to bring our understanding of the supply side of human rights to the next level. Due to the complexity of this task, other human rights theorists have so far largely resorted to pragmatic and strategic reasoning instead of forwarding a morally coherent approach. Besson clarifies the steps to be taken as: (i) identification of human rights duties (ii) identification and justification of human rights duty-bearers; and (iii) allocation of human rights duties to human rights duty-bearers. (more…)

1 June 2013

Transfer of vulnerable asylum seeker to Italy not in violation of ECHR

The European Court of Human Rights declared inadmissible a complaint brought against Italy and the Netherlands of an asylum seeker whose transfer to Italy was ordered by the Dutch authorities pursuant to the EU Dublin Regulation (Mohammed Hussein a.o. v the Netherlands and Italy). The Court’s rigorous scrutiny of the treatment of asylum seekers in Italy suggests that it aimed to set a standard for similar cases.

After the European Court had declared the intra-EU transfer of an asylum seeker to Greece in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights in January 2011 (the case of M.S.S., see also here), litigation in several Member States shifted to other allegedly unsafe countries for asylum seekers, in particular Italy. Some NGOs highlighted failures in the Italian protection system and advised to refrain from deporting asylum seekers to Italy (see here and here). (more…)

19 March 2013

Prisoner transfer agreements – reverse refoulement?

Refoulement describes the act of removing a person to a country where he or she is in danger of being subjected to serious human rights violations. It is a well-established legal concept in refugee law as well as extradition law and codified in a range of treaties. As transpires from the recent case of Willcox and Hurford v the United Kingdom before the European Court of Human Rights, the reverse scenario may also be possible: the removal of a person from one country to another one, where the receiving country’s responsibility may be engaged on account of previous wrongful conduct in the transferring State.

The Court’s inadmissibility decision sets a human rights standard for the implementation of prisoner transfer agreements. On a more fundamental note, it raises the question whether and in what way the absolute character of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights should allow for taking into account the generally beneficial purpose of Prisoner Transfer Agreements (or PTAs). (more…)

25 February 2013

The Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations in the area of ESC rights – Comments to a Commentary

MaastrichtPrinciplesIMGThe extraterritorial applicability of human rights obligations is still a hotly debated topic. As most human rights treaties contain a jurisdiction clause which limits their effect to territories or people over which a state has some form of authority or control, the discussion tends to focus on the proper interpretation of the term jurisdiction. Courts and supervisory bodies confronted with interpreting the outer limits of jurisdiction clauses, for instance pertaining to situations of foreign occupation or arrests conducted by state agents abroad, have conceded that jurisdiction does not mean that a state’s human rights obligations end at its borders. The question that remains is when states are required to secure human rights for people outside their borders and to what extent.

Until recently, most of the discussion focused on instruments which by and large contain civil and political rights (CP rights). This can perhaps be explained by the simple fact that these instruments have explicit jurisdiction clauses and, quite importantly, also have international supervisory bodies competent to decide on (individual) complaints, thus creating a body of case-law on the subject. Therefore, a lacuna was filled when in 2011 a group of experts adopted the Maastricht Principles on Extraterritorial Obligations in the Area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. (more…)

24 January 2013

Update – The Dutch Courts and Asylum at the ICC: From Shared Obligations to Obligations of No One

In October 2012, the SHARES Blog carried a post that discussed a September Dutch Court decision concerning the on-going asylum situation at the ICC. Since then there are have been two important developments: the matter has been taken to the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) and the original Dutch decision has been overturned on appeal. (more…)

24 December 2012

The ECtHR Finds Macedonia Responsible in Connection with Torture by the CIA, but on What Basis?

Cross-posted from EJIL: Talk!

On 13 December 2012, the European Court of Human Rights (‘the Court’) found that the Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia (‘Macedonia’) was responsible in connection with the ill-treatment and torture of Khaled El-Masri. The judgment adds a further chapter to the Court’s rich case law on situations where a state party is held responsible in connection with the (wrongful) acts of another state.


8 October 2012

From Shared Obligations to Individual Obligations: The Hague District Court and Asylum at the ICC

On 27 September 2012, the District Court of The Hague handed down this important decision in an ongoing situation regarding three detained witnesses of the International Criminal Court (ICC) who have sought asylum in the Netherlands. The decision raises a number of fundamental issues concerning the relationship between ICC jurisdiction as opposed to the Netherlands jurisdiction, as well as important human rights issues. (more…)

3 July 2012

Europe’s torture watchdog on shared responsibility of Belgium and the Netherlands for Tilburg prison

Belgium has for many years been struggling with significant prison overcrowding. The Netherlands, on the other hand, has in recent years seen its prisons gradually emptying due to a decline in crime, forcing the Dutch government to close eight of its prisons. The two countries came up with the obvious solution, although one never adopted before in Europe: Belgium would rent an already staffed and equipped prison in the Netherlands. The location chosen was Tilburg prison, which is quite close to the border with Belgium. (more…)

30 March 2012

‘Left to die’ boat reveals collective failure to rescue migrants at sea

This week, a committee of the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe released a draft resolution and report on the fateful voyage of what has been dubbed the ‘left to die’ boat – a story that was first picked up by The Guardian. The tragedy involved a boat carrying 72 Sub-Saharan migrants who fled from the conflict in Libya in March 2011, but ran into trouble and, despite a distress call by satellite from the ship’s Ghanaian “captain” to an Eritrean priest living in Italy who alerted the Rome Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (Rome MRCC), eventually washed up on the shores of Libya 15 days later. By then, only 11 people were still alive. (more…)

21 March 2012

From Nicaragua to R2P: Continuity and Change

Cross posted on Opinio Juris

The ICJ’s decision in Nicaragua surely is one of its most cited judgments. It remains the leading authority on attribution of conduct of non-state actors and on (collective) self-defense. It also is a popular point of reference in analyses of the formation of customary law and on the jurisdiction of the Court. In his excellent The Principle of Non-Intervention 25 Years after the Nicaragua Judgment, Marcelo Kohen points out that the Judgment also is a relevant source for understanding the concept of responsibility to protect (R2P), even though that concept only came into existence some twenty years after the judgment. (more…)

12 March 2012

The Responsibility to Protect: Why Libya but not Syria? – Panel Discussion and Book Launch

On the 8 March, the book “The Responsibility to Protect: From Principle to Practice” was launched at Spui25 in the center of Amsterdam. The launch could not have been more timely in light of the continuing reports of atrocities being committed in Syria and the discussions surrounding the inaction of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Appropriately so, the topic for discussion was: Why Libya but not Syria? The panel consisted of Prof. André Nollkaemper, Prof. Ko Colijn and Frank Majoor and was moderated by Juurd Eijsvoogel.


7 February 2012

Who’s responsible for protecting terrorist suspects?

In its recent judgment in Othman, the European Court of Human Rights held that the United Kingdom could not expel a Muslim cleric suspected of ties to Al-Qaeda to Jordan. The judgment is of interest for our SHARES project, as the Court on the one hand cautions against international cooperation in the sphere of extradition of terrorist suspects – stressing the responsibilities under human rights law of expelling States – but on the other hand urges States that definitely wish to expel or extradite to do so only in close cooperation with receiving States so as to protect against maltreatment and to ensure a fair trial.


30 October 2011

Dublin and Beyond: ‘Each According to Its Abilities’?

Refugees are legally and morally entitled to some form of protection. This is generally undisputed. The disagreement begins when we ask the question which state will be called upon to provide that protection? (more…)

25 October 2011

The Responsibility to Protect Temporarily Stranded in Syria

On 14 October , High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay publicly stated that the ‘onus to take protective action’ for the benefit of the Syrian people now lies with the international community. This reference to the international community is a moderate formulation of what seem to be forceful intentions. In concrete terms, the statement can be seen as a call for action by the international community of states under a mandate of the United Nations Security Council (UNSC) based on the responsibility to protect (R2P). (more…)

4 April 2011

The MSS Case: Shifting Burdens and Evading Responsibilities?

The European Court of Human Rights issued a landmark ruling in the case of M.S.S. v. Belgium and Greece on 21 January 2011. The case concerned the expulsion of an asylum seeker to Greece by the Belgian authorities in application of European asylum law. Not only is this judgment extraordinarily rich, it also exposes serious flaws in the current European asylum regime.


1 April 2011

Business, Human Rights and Shared Responsibility

On the 21 March 2011, after six years of research, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General on the issue of human rights and transnational corporations issued its final report which includes its guiding principles on Business and Human Rights. The general idea of the guidelines is to guarantee the implementation of the UN “Protect, Respect and Remedy” Framework. In this sense, the guidelines are a combination of references to “hard rules” and recommendations to improve prevention of violations of human rights.

A few brief points of interest, both in general and in relation to Shared Responsibility. (more…)


6 March 2017

PhD Defence Nienke van der Have

On Wednesday 8 March 2017 at 14:00, Nienke van der Have will publicly defend her doctoral thesis entitled “The Prevention of Gross Human Rights Violations under International Human Rights Law”.

The public ceremony takes place at the Agnietenkapel, University of Amsterdam (Oudezijds Voorburgwal 229-231, Amsterdam).

6 March 2017

Publication third edited volume (The Practice of Shared Responsibility in International Law) and discount

We are very happy to announce that the third edited volume of the SHARES book series entitled The Practice of Shared Responsibility in International Law has been published.

More information concerning the book can be found here. The book is available for purchase via CUP. By using this Flyer, you can get a 20% discount (this offer expires 31 January 2018)!

Source: CUP | The Practice of Shared Responsibility in International Law

20 February 2014

Call for papers: AHRI 2014 Human Rights Conference

A call for papers and panel proposals has been issued for the Association of Human Rights Institutes (AHRI) 2014 Human Rights Conference entitled Human Rights under Pressure: Exploring norms, institutions and policies, which will be held on 29-30 September 2014 in Copenhagen.

See for the call here.

29 July 2013

UNHCR: Australia has shared responsibility with PNG to ensure legal standards

The UN Refugee Agency expressed concerns over Australia’s Regional Resettlement Agreement (RRA) with Papua New Guinea in a written statement citing the absence of adequate protection standards for asylum seekers and refugees in Papua New Guinea.

According to UNHCR, Australia maintains a shared responsibility with its developing neighbour to ensure appropriate legal standards for asylum seekers, which includes access to sustainable solutions within Australia. The agency said the RRA raises serious protection questions as there are significant shortcomings in the legal framework in Papua New Guinea for receiving and processing asylum seekers. These include lacking national capacity and poor physical conditions within open-ended and arbitrary detention settings.

Source: UNHCR News & Media | UNHCR: Australia-Papua New Guinea asylum agreement presents protection challenges

26 July 2013

UN official urges European states to help share the refugee burden

The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees António Guterres addressed gaps in the protection of Syrian refugees who are fleeing to Europe, and urged European states to burden-share and maintain a more generous and consistent approach.

Mr. Guterres said it should be a priority for every EU member state to ensure adequate standards of treatment for Syrian refugees who seek safety in Europe. He observed that only two European states, Sweden and Germany, have received almost two-thirds of the Syrians who are seeking protection in the entire European Union, and highlighted Turkey, which has received more than ten times as many Syrians as have claimed asylum in other countries in Europe.

In order to ‘demonstrate concretely the European commitment to responsibility-sharing with Turkey and other host countries’, it is crucial to find means to ensure that those who seek protection at the borders of the EU have access to procedures, safety and territory, according to Guterres.

He urged that the ‘EU must engage in more burden-sharing initiatives so as to help mitigate the crushing impact which the refugee crisis is having on Syria’s immediate neighbours’.

Source: UN News Centre | As Syrian exodus continues, UN official urges Europe to help shoulder refugee burden
Source: UNHCR News | UN's High Commissioner for Refugees urges Europe to do more for Syrian asylum-seekers

22 July 2013

Australia intercepts boat with Iranian asylum seekers, violent riots in Nauru detention camp

A boat carrying 89, mainly Iranian, asylum-seekers was intercepted off the coast of northern Australia. This occurred a day after the country announced that asylum seekers arriving by boat can no longer be resettled in Australia as refugees. The Australian Immigration Minister Tony Burke stated that the group can either press an asylum claim in Papua New Guinea, or be transferred to a third state.

The announcement of the new immigration policy was reportedly followed by violent riots in an Australian-run immigration detention camp in Nauru over the weekend where hundreds of asylum seekers escaped detention.

Source: Al Jazeera | Australia intercepts boat with asylum-seekers

19 July 2013

Australia sends asylum seekers to Papua New Guinea in attempt to curb influx

Australia and Papua New Guinea have signed an agreement that allows Australia to send all asylum seekers arriving in Australia by boat to a refugee processing centre in its developing neighbour Papua New Guinea.

The policy was immediately condemned by refugee and human rights advocates as disregarding legal and moral obligations towards asylum seekers, the New York Times reports. The Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd, while admitting the move was ‘very hard line’, insisted it met Australia’s obligations under the UN Refugee Convention. Under the arrangement, those who are found to be genuine refugees would be resettled in Papua New Guinea or in another state, while forfeiting any right to asylum in Australia.

Source: The New York Times | Australia Adopts Tough Measures to Curb Asylum Seekers
Source: AP | Australia to sent refugees to Papua New Guinea

11 June 2013

Israel and unidentified state reach agreement for transfer of migrants

According to a court document that surfaced on 3 June 2013, Israel has reached an agreement to send thousands of African migrants to an unidentified country. It was also disclosed that Israel is holding talks with two other countries to secure similar agreements.

Most of the migrants have come from Eritrea or Sudan. Some “infiltrators”, as Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu calls them, have fled oppressive regimes. Others are looking for work. Critics of the agreement said it reflects “an abdication of responsibility” and that Israel may not be able to monitor the migrants’ conditions once they are transferred.

Source: The Washington Post | Court document: Israel makes deal to send thousands of African migrants to unidentified state

11 June 2013

Unaccompanied children with no family in the EU may not be sent to another Member State under the Dublin system

On 6 June 2013, the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) ruled that unaccompanied children who have applied for asylum in more than one EU Member State, and who do not have relatives legally residing in the EU, shall remain in the country where their most recent asylum application was lodged.

The CJEU concluded that it was in the best interest of the child that the country where their most recent asylum application was lodged takes responsibility for the examination of their claim. Therefore, unaccompanied children should not be sent back under the Dublin regulation to the country where they filed the first asylum application.

Source: Court of Justice of the European Union | Case C‑648/11 | Judgment | 6 June 2013

11 June 2013

Austria condemned for not providing effective remedy to challenge Dublin transfers

On 6 June 2013, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that Austria violated an asylum seeker’s right to an effective remedy (Article 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights) against the decision to be sent back to Hungary under the Dublin regulation.

The applicant, a Sudanese asylum seeker, had also presented a claim of possible ill-treatment and refoulement (Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights) in Hungary if returned under the Dublin regulation. The ECtHR held that his transfer would not violate Article 3.

Source: European Court of Human Rights | Case of Mohammed v. Austria | Application no. 2283/12 | Judgment | 6 June 2013

8 May 2013

Entry into force of the Optional Protocol to the ICESCR

On 5 May, the Optional Protocol to the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights, allowing for individual complaints to be brought to the Committee on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights entered into force. The entry into force took place more than four years after the adoption of the Protocol and three months after Uruguay became the required tenth country to ratify it, joining Argentina, Bolivia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Ecuador, El Salvador, Mongolia, Portugal, Slovakia and Spain. The entry into force of the Protocol has been hailed for its potential to increase the justiciable character of economic, social and cultural rights and placing them on an equal footing with civil and political rights. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay stated: “With the entry into force of the Optional Protocol, a jurisprudence will now be developed that will help define the scope of application of economic, social and cultural rights and outline adequate remedies for victims.” Of special interest will be the Committee’s future findings with regard to the extraterritorial applicability of the Covenant. Unlike many other human rights treaties, it does not contain a jurisdiction clause and the treaty places a strong emphasis on the role of international cooperation.

For some background on this topic, see here.

Source: OHCHR | News | Pillay welcomes major breakthrough enabling individual complaints on economic, social and cultural rights
Source: UNOG | News | Pillay hails new step in protection of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights

30 April 2013

Petition filed on black carbon emissions by First Nation group

The Arctic Athabaskan Council filed a petition on black carbon emissions  with the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. Ruth Massie, the Grand Chief of the Yukon Council of First Nations, and member of the council representing First Nations in Alaska, Yukon and N.W.T., would like the Commission to declare that Canada is violating the human rights of Athabaskan peoples because of the inadequate regulation of emissions on black carbon, or soot, in the Arctic.

Canada should make black carbon emissions a priority, since the Arctic is warming fast and scientists think that reducing black carbon emissions is the most important way to slow climate change in the Arctic, according to Massie.

Source: CBC News | First Nation group files petition on black carbon emissions

9 April 2013

On anniversary Rwandan genocide, Ban Ki-moon stresses shared responsibility to prevent mass atrocities

UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon honoured the memory of the more than 800.000 people who lost their lives during the Rwandan genocide in 1994, and stressed that countries have a ‘shared responsibility’ to prevent mass atrocities from happening again. Mr. Ban said ‘Collectively, we must go beyond words and effectively safeguard people at risk. And individually, we must nurture the courage to care – and the resolve to act.’

He also stressed that since the Rwandan genocide occured, the United Nations has worked every day to prevent a recurrence of such horror, with the Responsibility to Protect having become a global principle.

Source: UN News Centre | On anniversary, Ban honours victims and survivors of Rwanda genocide

29 March 2013

Report published on ‘enablers’ of the Syrian Conflict

The NGO Human Rights First has published a report that documents the supply chain that enables the atrocities committed by the Assad regime. The report Enablers of the Syrian Conflict How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria contains information indicating that enablers of Syrian atrocities include the country’s large allies, but also smaller countries and commercial entities.

Source: Human Rights First | Stop the Atrocity Supply Chain
Source: Human Rights First | Enablers of the Syrian Conflict How Targeting Third Parties Can Slow the Atrocities in Syria | March 2013

19 March 2013

UN Conference on the Arms Trade Treaty starts negotiations

Over 150 states have started negotiations on a draft Arms Trade Treaty, that amongst others seeks to restrict export of arms that would be used to violate international human rights or humanitarian law by other states.

At the opening the Conference, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon said that ‘We owe this landmark UN treaty to those who have fallen victim to armed conflict and violence, to all the children deprived of a better future, and to all those risking their lives to build peace and make this a better world.’ The UN General Assembly has set 28 March as a deadline for reaching agreement on the treaty.

Source: UN News Centre | UN chief urges consensus on robust arms trade treaty as conference begins
Source: Al Jazeera | UN chief urges approval of arms trade treaty

8 March 2013

Argentinian trial begins on human rights violations by joint operation involving Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Brazil

On 5 March, a human rights trial began in Argentina to investigate the crimes committed during the so-called ‘Operation Condor, involving six states, in response to the populist and socialist movements emerging throughout Latin America in the 1960s and 1970s.

The six participating states were Bolivia, Paraguay, Uruguay, Chile, Argentina and Brazil. The operation resulted in tens of thousands of people being kidnapped, tortured and killed by military regimes across the continent. Those who fled repression in one state were often targeted in another state. Al Jazeera quotes from a United States (US) intelligence report from 1976: ‘Intelligence representatives from Bolivia, Uruguay, Paraguay, Brazil, Chile and Argentina decided at a meeting in Santiago early in June to set up a computerised intelligence data bank – known as “Operation Condor”…’ Al Jazeera also notes that Operation Condor was executed with knowledge of the United States.

Source: Al Jazeera | Tracing the shadows of 'Operation Condor'

1 February 2013

Fact Finding Mission of the UN Human Rights Council calls on states to act in relation to Israel’s violations of international law in the occupied territories

States should not recognise an unlawful situation resulting from Israel’s violations of international law in the occupied territories, and states should take appropriate measures to make sure that business enterprises that are domiciled in their territory – that conduct activities in or related to the settlements – respect human rights. These are some of the recommendations in the advance copy of the Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem.

The report also calls on private companies to assess the human rights impact of their activities, and to take all necessary steps to ensure they are not adversely impacting the human rights of the Palestinian People, in accordance with international law, as well as the Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights.

Source: Human Rights Council | Report of the independent international fact-finding mission to investigate the implications of the Israeli settlements on the civil, political, economic, social and cultural rights of the Palestinian people throughout the Occupied Palestinian Territory, including East Jerusalem

21 January 2013

UN documents torture of detainees transferred by foreign governments to Afghanistan

A new United Nations (UN) report states that Afghan authorities are still torturing prisoners who had been transferred by foreign governments. Even though the international military force was making a serious effort to delay transfers if there was risk of torture, about 30 percent of 79 detainees who had been transferred to Afghan custody by foreign governments ended up being tortured, the report said. That is higher than in 2011, when the UN found that 24 percent of transferred detainees were tortured.

Source: The New York Times | UN: Prisoners Still Tortured in Afghan Custody

18 January 2013

New report on the legality of hydropower project on Mekong river

The International Rivers Network published a report examining the legality of the controversial Xayaburi Hydropower Project undertaken by Laos on the Lower Mekong River. While Cambodia and Vietnam have voiced concerns about the project’s transboundary impacts, Thailand has financed the project and agreed to purchase its electricity.

Source: International Rivers | Xayaburi Dam: How Laos Violated the 1995 Mekong Agreement | Report by Kirk Herbertson | January 2013
Source: International Rivers | Xayaburi Dam: How Laos Violated the 1995 Mekong Agreement | Blog post by Kirk Herbertson | 13 January 2013
Source: VOA | Laos Dam Project Tests Credibility of Mekong River Commission

15 January 2013

UK settles Libya rendition claim by paying 2.2 million pound

On 13 December 2012, it was announced that the United Kingdom (UK) agreed to pay 2.2 million pound to Mr. al-Saadi, a Libyan dissident who was forcibly transferred together with his family from Hong Kong to Gaddafi’s Libya in 2004, where Mr. al-Saadi was imprisoned and tortured.

The al-Saadi family argued MI6 was ‘instrumental in their kidnap’ and claim their rendition was a ‘joint UK-US-Libyan operation.’ Documents saying the UK helped to organise the rendition were found in the office of Gaddafi’s spy chief in Libya after the overthrow of Gaddafi. The UK government confirmed the settlement, but stated there was ‘no admission of liability and no finding by any court of liability.’

Source: BBC | UK pays £2.2m to settle Libyan rendition claim
Source: Al Jazeera | UK pays $3.5m to settle Libya rendition claim

12 January 2013

Renditions continue under Obama, despite due-process concerns

The Washington Post reports that renditions — the practice of holding and interrogating terrorism suspects in other countries without due process — continue under the Obama administration, despite due-process concerns. Renditions are taking on renewed significance because the administration and Congress have not reached agreement on a consistent legal pathway for apprehending terrorism suspects overseas and bringing them to justice.

Source: The Washington Post | Renditions continue under Obama, despite due-process concerns
Source: Lawfare Blog | Additional Thoughts on Washington Post “Renditions” Story
Source: Lawfare Blog | False Continuity Continued: Today’s WaPo on “Renditions” Under the Obama Administration

17 December 2012

Judgment in the case concerning El Masiri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia

On 13 December, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously decided in the case of El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, that Macedonia was responsible for different human rights violations committed in relation to Mr. El-Masri’s capture in Macedonia, and subsequent transfer to CIA detention facilities in Afghanistan.

The Court found that Macedonia had violated Articles 3, 5, 8 and 13 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Source: The Guardian | European court of human rights finds against CIA abuse of Khaled el-Masri
Source: Grand Chamber judgment El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia | 13.12.2012 | Press Release
Source: Council of Europe | Human Rights Europe | Khaled El-Masri: Macedonian government responsible for torture, ill-treatment and secret rendition

23 November 2012

Amnesty International condemns Australia’s offshore processing of refugees in Nauru

In a report published on 23 November 2012, Amnesty International condemns Australia’s newly reinstated policy of offshore processing of asylum seekers in Nauru. During a three-day inspection of the facility, it found a toxic mix of uncertainty, unlawful detention and inhumane conditions creating an increasingly volatile situation on Nauru, amounting to breaches of international human rights law by both the Australian and Nauruan government. According to Amnesty, the dire circumstances that the asylum seekers are facing further highlights why a developed country with a functioning refugee processing system should never send asylum seekers to a country without existing capacity to care for, process and protect them.

Source: Amnesty International | Nauru Camp A Human Rights Catastrophe With No End In Sight
Source: BBC | Australia asylum camp in Nauru 'cruel and degrading'

7 November 2012

European Parliament approves Food Assistance Convention

On 25 October, the European Parliament gave its permission for the European Union (EU) to approve the Food Assistance Convention. It is expected that the EU deposits the instrument of ratification before 30 November. The Convention will enter into force on 1 January 2013 if five signatories will deposit instruments of ratification, acceptance or approval by 30 November 2012.

The Food Assistance Convention was adopted on 25 April 2012 and seeks to improve the effectiveness and quality of food assistance to the most vulnerable populations, by strengthening international cooperation and coordination. A key provision is that each party agrees to make an annual commitment of food assistance (article 5).

Source: European Commission News | The European Parliament gives its consent on the new Food Assistance Convention
Source: Food Assistance Convention

10 September 2012

HRW publishes report on torture and rendition to Libya

On 6 September 2012, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published a report on torture and rendition to Libya during Gaddafi’s regime, entitled Delivered Into Enemy Hands: US-led Abuse and Rendition of Opponents to Gaddafi’s Libya.

The report is based on secret documents that were found after the fall of Tripoli, showing ‘a high level of cooperation between the Gaddafi government in Libya and US and the UK in the renditions discussed in the report.’

According to HRW, the documents and interviews ‘establish that, following the September 11, 2001 attacks, the US, with aid from the United Kingdom and countries in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia, arrested and held without charge a number of LIFG [Libyan Islamic Fighting Group] members living outside Libya, and eventually rendered them to the Libyan government.’

Source: Human Rights Watch | US: Torture and Rendition to Gaddafi’s Libya

3 September 2012

Turkish Request for Refugee Camps in Syria divides UN Security Council

Turkey’s foreign minister has requested the UN Security Council (SC) to set up refugee camps in Syria, stating that Turkey will soon not be able to cope with the large number of refugees crossing its borders. Setting up safe zones in Syria would require military intervention and installing no-fly zones. Russia and China remain opposed to such measures, blocking SC action. During an emergency session of the SC, France and the United Kingdom nevertheless indicated that they would not rule out following up on Turkey’s request. This has caused media to speculate that they may intervene even without a SC mandate, already comparing the situation with the intervention in Kosovo in the 1990s.

Source: New York Times | Threat to Syrian Civilians Is Growing, Officials Say
Source: BBC | 'Difficult' demand for refugee camps in Syria vexes UN

22 August 2012

UN Secretary-General publishes 4th report on RtoP

Ban Ki-moon, the Secretary-General of United Nations (UN) published his 4th report on the Responsibility to Protect (RtoP), entitled Responsibility to protect: timely and decisive response. The report, published for the upcoming dialogue of the UN General Assembly, discusses measures that are available to States in order to implement the ‘third pillar’ of RtoP, meaning the responsibility of the international community to respond and take collective action, ‘in a timely and decisive manner’, if a State is manifestly failing to protect its population or perpetrates atrocity crimes itself. The report also discusses the necessity to protect and act responsibly during the implementation of RtoP, building on the concept of ‘responsibility while protecting’.

Source: UN | Responsibility to protect: timely and decisive response

4 July 2012

Human Rights Watch publishes detailed report on torture in Syria

In its report “Torture Archipelago“, Human Rights Watch (HRW) published the locations of 27 torture facilities in Syria and the names of persons that allegedly tortured on behalf on the Syrian government. The report is based on interviews with more than 200 torture victims conducted by HRW since Arpil 2011.

HRW calls on the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Syria to the International Criminal Court and to adopt targeted sanctions against Syrian officials implicated in torture.

Source: Human Rights Watch | Torture Archipelago: Arbitrary Arrests, Torture, and Enforced Disappearances in Syria’s Underground Prisons since March 2011

3 July 2012

Negotiations begin on proposed UN arms treaty

On 2 July, talks began at the United Nations over a proposed treaty on global trade in conventional weapons, particularly small arms and ammunition, valued in 2010 at $411 billion. The treaty could ban weapons shipments to conflict areas, as well as areas where they would lead to serious human rights violations.

Source: The Independent | UN talks could finally rein in lawless trade in killing
Source: The Guardian | Why this arms trade treaty is essential

24 June 2012

Italian agreement with Libya on cooperation to curb irregular migration

The Italian paper La Stampa has made public the text of the agreement, signed between Libya and Italy in April 2012 to prevent undocumented migrants from leaving Libya. The agreement states that Libya should reinforce its land and maritime borders in order to counter the departure of migrants from its territory.

Various forms of collaboration between Italy and Libya are foreseen in the agreement, for instance, training of Libyan police and border personnel by Italy and Italian assistance in strengthening controls of Libya’s borders and coastal patrols, through providing technical means and equipment. Libya’s borders will be manned and operated by the Libyan authorities. Furthermore, according to the agreement, procedures facilitating voluntary return of irregular migrants would be coordinated with the International Organisation for Migration.

Source: Amnesty International | Italy must sink agreements with Libya on migration control

14 June 2012

Amnesty International accuses EU member states of human rights violations of migrants

Amnesty International published a report on 13 June 2012, urging the European Union (EU) and its member states, especially Italy, to protect the rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers ‘according to international standards’.

According to Amnesty, human rights are violated as a result of migration control policies and practices, such as outsourcing border security. An online petition was opened in order to urge members of the European Parliament to hold institutions of the EU and national governments accountable for the way migrants are treated.

Source: Newsday | Amnesty International: Europe endangers migrants

12 June 2012

Amnesty International urges Security Council to take action regarding Sudan

Amnesty International published a report on 7 June 2012, urging the United Nations Security Council to take action regarding the situation in Sudan.

The Security Council ‘must fulfil its duty to protect civilians in Sudan’ and make an end to the current air strikes that are carried out by the Sudanese Armed Forces. China and Russia are called upon to support a stronger response of the Council.

Amnesty calls upon the Security Council to expand the UN arms embargo to cover Sudan entirely, and emphasises the need of access for humanitarian organizations to the affected areas in both Sudan’s South Kordofan and Blue Nile state, which is currently denied by the government of Sudan. 

An employee from Amnesty’s advocacy, policy and research department stated the international community has ‘done little to improve the situation on the ground’. The Security Council has done ‘very little’ and knew for months of ‘the full extent of the crimes occurring in South Kordofan’.

Source: Al Jazeera | Amnesty urges UN to protect Sudan civilians

23 April 2012

United Nations Security Council Unanimously Passes Resolution to send 300 Observers to Syria

On April 14th, the UN Security Council unanimously adopted resolution 2042(2012) which authorized 30 unarmed military observers to support a mission that will monitor the ceasefire brokered by former UN Secretary General Kofi Annan in Syria. On Saturday April 21, resolution 2043(2012) was passed allowing for an additional 300 observers to join the mission.

Reports of assaults and killings have continued since the deadline for the ceasefire passed, although on a decreased level. A representative of Russia, which vetoed two earlier resolutions addressing the conflict in Syria, expressed hope that the observer mission will have a further stabilizing effect.

Source: Security Council | Security Council Establishes UN Supervision Mission in Syria, with 300 Observers to Monitor Cessation of Violence, Implementation of Special Envoy’s Plan

19 April 2012

US Supreme Court rules that victims of torture can only bring claims against individuals, not against organizations

On April 18 the US Supreme Court ruled unanimously that the family of an American citizen killed during a visit to the West Bank may not sue the Palestinian Authority and the Palestine Liberation Organization under the 1991 Torture Victim Protection Act.

The case was brought by the family of Azzam Rahim, a naturalized American citizen. According to their lawsuit, Mr. Rahim was arrested by intelligence officers of the Palestinian Authority during a 1995 visit to the West Bank. The officers took him to a prison in Jericho, where he was tortured and killed.

Justice Sotomayor recognized that it is sometimes hard to identify those who torture and kill on behalf of organizations, much less to find them, sue them and collect damages. However, she wrote that the limits in the law were a product of deliberate choices by Congress.

Source: New York Times | Justices Limit Suits Under Law on Torture

18 April 2012

Jack Straw faces legal action over Libya rendition claims

Lawyers representing a Libyan military commander, Abdel Hakim Belhadj, initiated legal action against Jack Straw (former British foreign secretary, now a Labour MP) after reports suggested he had signed documents that allowed the military commander to be sent back to Libya in 2004.

Mr. Belhadj, then leader of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group (LIFG), opposing the Gaddafi regime, claims CIA agents took him and his wife from Thailand to Gaddafi-led Libya, via UK-controlled Diego Garcia. Mr Belhadj and his wife allege Mr Straw was complicit in the “torture, inhuman and degrading treatment, batteries and assaults” they say were perpetrated on them by Thai and US agents, as well as Libyan authorities.

UK ministers have denied any complicity in rendition or torture. A police investigation into the UK’s alleged role in illegal rendition is ongoing.

Source: The Guardian | Jack Straw faces legal action over Libya rendition claims
Source: BBC | Jack Straw faces legal action over 'rendition'

13 April 2012

President Obama Recalls ‘Shared Responsibility’ of States to Protect Civilians and Prevent Genocide

On April 06, 2012, on the 18th Anniversary of the genocide in Rwanda, the President of the U.S. Barack Obama issued a statement in which he refers to the ‘haunting’ memory of the extermination of about 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. He further mentions a shared responsibility of all States to protect populations and to prevent the occurrence of genocide. More specifically, he affirms that the anniversary of the Rwandan genocide ‘reminds the nations of the world of our shared responsibility to do all we can to protect civilians and to ensure that evil of this magnitude never happens again’.

Source: The White House | Statement by the President on the 18th Anniversary of the Genocide in Rwanda

10 April 2012

Dutch court awards claim against 12 former Libyan government officials for torture

On 21 March 2012, the District Court of the Hague awarded €1 million ($1.33 million) in compensation to a Palestinian doctor tortured and jailed in Libya along with five Bulgarian nurses for purportedly infecting children with the AIDS virus, the doctor’s lawyer said Tuesday. The award is directed against 12 former Libyan government officials who were responsible for the torture.

Initially the claim was also directed at Gadaffi, but the Dutch government took the position that he had immunity and the complaint thus could not be served to him, after which his name was removed from the claim. As to the others, no issue of immunity was raised by either the government or the court, and the defendants did not appear. A parallel claim against Libya, that until now has refused to pay compensation, is pending before the Human Rights Committee (raising interesting questions of shared responsibility between states and individuals).

Source: Khaleej Times | Palestinian medic gets Libyan jail compensation
Source: The Guardian | Dutch court compensates Palestinian for Libya jail

29 March 2012

‘Left to die’ boat disaster: those responsible ‘could face legal action’

The European rapporteur charged with investigating the case of 63 African migrants who were “left to die” in the Mediterranean last year has warned those responsible could end up in court. On Wednesday, the Guardian revealed the findings of a damning official report into the fateful voyage, which saw the sub-Saharan refugees drifting in the sea for two weeks while dying of thirst and starvation, even though their boat had been located by European authorities and emergency distress calls had been issued to all other ships in the area. The report blamed a collective set of “human, institutional and legal” failures for the inaction, labelling it a “dark day for Europe” and concluding that large loss of life could have been avoided if the various agencies in the area – NATO, its warships, the Italian coastguard and individual European states – had fulfilled their basic obligations.

Source: The Guardian | Migrant boat disaster: those responsible 'could face legal action'

18 March 2012

African Commission to consider case against 15 SADC states

This week, the African Commission on Human Rights decided that it was seized of a case against 16 member states of the South African Development Community (SADC) for their decision to suspend the SADC Tribunal. The SADC Tribunal had held in 2008 that the decision by Zimbabwe to take land from white farmers was in violation of the SADC Treaty. Zimbabwe declined to implement that judgment, and the SADC member states suspended the Court. This left persons who already had filed applications with the SADC at the time of the decision without recourse, as they petitioned the African Commission, arguing that all SADC states (who had all voted in favour the suspension of the Court) had violated the African Convention on Human and People’s Rights.

Source: The Zimbabwean | Breakthrough in fight to restore Southern Africa rights court

16 March 2012

European Ombudsman opens inquiry into Frontex’s respect for human rights

The European Ombudsman, P. Nikiforos Diamandouros, has opened an inquiry into how Frontex implements its fundamental rights obligations. Frontex is an EU agency based in Warsaw that assists EU Member States in the field of border security. The inquiry follows concerns voiced by civil society that Frontex would be ‘complicit’ in the violation of human rights, in particular because of its cooperation with Greece, where migrants are, according to the European Court of Human Rights, systematically treated in violation of human rights. One of the questions asked by the Ombudsman to Frontex is which party, Frontex and/or the Member State, is responsible for possible failures to respect fundamental rights in joint operations of border control. Further, the Ombudsman wants to know whether Frontex envisages the establishment of a mechanism by which migrants may complain to Frontex about possible human rights violations. The Ombudsman has asked Frontex to submit an opinion by 31 May 2012. The letter which opens the inquiry can be found here.

Source: European Ombudsman | Ombudsman investigates Frontex’s fundamental rights implementation

14 February 2012

Arab League Calls for Joint Peace Mission

After the latest double veto against a Security Council (SC) Resolution to take action against the crackdown in Syria, the Arab League has now called for a joint UN-Arab peace mission. In doing so, the League stated that a “special responsibility” rests on the League, due to the failure of the SC to reach an agreement. On the UN side, the General Assembly (GA) has taken up discussion of a resolution similar to the one which was vetoed in the SC. High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, addressed the GA on Monday and again stressed that Syria has manifestly failed to assume its responsibility to protect and responsibility now lies with the international community. She added that it is likely that crimes against humanity are taking place and that she has requested the SC to refer the situation to the International Criminal Court.

Source: UN News Centre | UN human rights chief urges General Assembly to act now to protect Syrians
Source: BBC | Syria unrest: Arab League observer mission head quits

11 February 2012

The Activity of the European Court of Human Rights in 2011

On 26 January 2012 the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held its annual press conference.  On this occasion, Sir Nicolas Bratza, the President of the Court, presented a summary of the Court’s activities and its statistics for 2011. Among others he said that the European governments must assume their part of the shared responsibility for the protection of human rights across the continent. The 2011 Annual Report of the ECtHR can be accessed here.

Source: ECHR | Annual Report 2011

7 February 2012

Russia and China veto Security Council Resolution on Syria

Last Saturday, Russia and China vetoed the Arab-backed Security Council Resolution proposal condemning the violence in Syria and calling for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down. Representatives of other states have reacted strongly to the veto, stating to be ‘disappointed in’ or even ‘disgusted by’ particularly the stance of Russia. Russia made clear that it is opposed to the resolution’s implied call for regime change and is afraid the resolution would be the first step towards military intervention.

Source: Guardian | Russia and China veto UN resolution against Syrian regime
Source: BBC | Syria resolution: The diplomatic trainwreck
Source: New York Times | Russia and China Block U.N. Action on Crisis in Syria

1 February 2012

Russia opposes to proposed Security Council Resolution calling for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down

The Arab League has requested the United Nations Security Council’s support for a plan condemning the violence in Syria and calling for President Bashar al-Assad to stand down. Last Saturday, the League suspended the work of its monitoring mission in Syria after violence continued uninterruptedly. During the first day of debate on Tuesday, Russia, backed by China and India, stated that it will not support any resolution which would imply calling for a regime change. Also, the opponents fear that such a resolution would lead to a repetition of the sequence of events in Libya, including military intervention. The proposed resolution will likely be voted on on Friday.

Source: New York Times | At U.N., Pressure Is on Russia for Refusal to Condemn Syria
Source: BBC News | Impasse at UN Security Council debate on Syria violence

23 January 2012

Russia to deliver combat jets to Syria

Russia has signed a contract to sell combat jets to Syria in a show of support for President Bashar Assad’s regime, as reported on Monday by the Russian business newspaper Kommersant. The UN says that more than 5,400 have died during the civil unrest in Syria over the past 10 months.


22 December 2011

ECJ Judgment on Dublin II

On 21 December 2011, the European Court of Justice delivered its judgment in the joint cases of N.S. v Secretary of State for the Home Department and M.E. and others v. Refugee Applications Commissioner under the preliminary ruling procedure. (more…)

21 December 2011

Violence of Military Regime in Egypt Challenged

The great challenges facing Egypt after the recent revolution, which led to the departure of former president Hosni Mubarak, are currently only exacerbated by reported violence under the military rule. The spreading of images of disproportionate acts of violence against protesters has sparked public outrage and the acts have been condemned by the United States. On December 20th, a large group of women took to the streets to protest against the continued military rule.

Source: NY Times - Egypt’s Military Masters

21 December 2011

Syria Agrees to Observer Mission

On December 19th, Syrian representatives signed an agreement with the Arab League to allow an observer mission to access the country. The observer mission was accepted on a number of conditions, including the cancellation of certain sanctions taken by the Arab League against Syria and a ban to visit “sensitive military sites”. Since the agreement was signed, an increase in violence has been reported.

Source 1: BBC News - Syria crisis: 'Nearly 200 lives lost' in last two days
Source 2: NY Times - Syria Offers to Allow Observers, With Strings

13 December 2011

UN High Commissioner Pillay recommends Syria’s referral to the ICC

Speaking at a closed session of the UN Security Council, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said that the situation in Syria should be referred to the International Criminal Court over its crackdown on anti-government protests. Pillay estimated the number of those killed by Syrian security forces at 5,000, including 300 children.

Source: – Syria should be referred to ICC, UN’s Navi Pillay says

9 December 2011

German court finds the transfer of Somali pirates to Kenya to be in violation of Germany’s obligations under international law

On 11 November 2011 a German administrative court in Cologne decided that Germany violated the prohibition of torture, inhuman and degrading treatment (Articles 3 ECHR and 7 ICCPR) by transferring Somali pirates captured by the German fregate “Rheinland-Pfalz” in the framework of the EU anti-piracy mission ATALANTA to Kenya. The German court rejected two other claims by plaintiffs that the capture and detention on the “Rheinland-Pfalz” were in violation of international and German constitutional law.

Decision (in German): link

28 November 2011

Arab League Adopts Sanctions Against Syria

Yesterday, the Arab League approved a series of sanctions against the Syrian regime, thereby accepting the responsibility to respond to the violence of the Syrian government against its people. These include an asset freeze, an investment embargo and halting transactions with the Syrian central bank. Direct neighbour-states Iraq and Lebanon abstained from voting. The sanctions follow a deadline which passed last Friday to allow hundreds of observers into the country as part of a peace deal.

Source 1:
Source 2:

24 November 2011

Russia guilty of violations of human rights concerning men unlawfully detained in solitary confinement in Transdnistria

On 15 November 2011, the European Court of Human Rights issued its judgment in the case of Ivanţoc and Others v. Moldova and Russia, following up on the case of Ilaşcu and Others v. Moldova and Russia.

The case concerned the continued detention of two men in the unrecognised state known as the ‘Moldovan Republic of Transdnistria’ (MRT) for terrorist activities allegedly committed during the Transdniestrian armed conflict of 1991-1992, despite the 2004 Ilaşcu judgment holding that Russia and Moldova should ensure their immediate release. They were ultimately released in June 2007. The current case concerned the men’s continued detention after 8 July 2004 as well as restrictions on contact with their family.

The Court found that Russia has violated Articles 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment), 5 (right to liberty and security), 13 (right to an effective remedy) and 8 (right to respect for correspondence and private and family life). No violations were found against Moldova.


23 November 2011

UN General Assembly Third Committee Approves Resolution Condemning the Human Rights Violations in Syria

After the suspension of Syria from the Arab League a week earlier, yesterday a large majority of states in the Third Committee (human rights) of the UN General Assembly voted in favour of a resolution condemning the crackdown of the Syrian government on its people (122 states in favour, 13 against and 41 abstentions). The resolution was introduced by Britain, France and Germany and received strong regional support from Bahrain, Jordan, Kuwait, Morocco, Qatar and Saudi Arabia. The resolution is not legally binding, but puts great diplomatic pressure on Syria to reassume its responsibility to protect and immediately end the grave human rights violations which have been taking place since the start of the uprising against the regime.


1 November 2011

ECHR case of shared responsibility in procedural obligations

On 27 October 2011, the European Court of Human Rights, in the case of Stijkovic v France and Belgium, found that France had violated the rights to a fair trial of a Serb national who had been interrogated, at France’s demand, in Belgium, in relation to events that had taken place in France. Belgium did not provide for the presence of a lawyer. While the Court recognises that Belgium was primarily responsible for the violation of the Convention by not allowing for a lawyer in its legislation and even recognizing that France was bound, under international law, to respect the Belgium procedure when asking for an interrogation in that country, it still found that France should have taken measure to “cure” the violation in Belgium by not taking into account the declarations he had made in the absence of his lawyers. The case was declared inadmissible against Belgium because the request before the Court in relation to that country was filed more than 6 months after the violation. The decision (in French) is available here.

21 October 2011

Principles on Extra-Territorial Human Rights Obligations Adopted

The Maastricht Centre for Human Rights of Maastricht University and the International Commission of Jurists are pleased to announce the adoption of the Maastricht Principles on Extra-Territorial Obligations (ETOs) of States in the area of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. These international legal principles clarify the human rights obligations of States beyond their own borders.

The Maastricht Principles complement and build on the 1986 Limburg Principles for the implementation of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights and on the 1997 Maastricht Guidelines on Violations of Economic, Social and Cultural Rights. They constitute a significant contribution towards the achievement of the historic promise made by States in the Charter of the United Nations to promote universal respect for, and observance of, human rights and fundamental freedoms for all.


14 October 2011

UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Urges International Action to Protect Syrians

The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, made a public statement urging the international community to take action to protect the Syrian population. She refers to the excessive use of force and killings by the Syrian government as constituting crimes against humanity and stresses that the ‘onus to take protective action’ now rests upon the international community. A finding of crimes against humanity is one of the four grounds for operationalization of the Responsibility to Protect, accepted by the international community in the 2005 World Summit Outcome Document (see paras. 138-39).


27 September 2011

Netherlands urges Security Council to agree on action against Syrian leaders

In an address to the Security Council the Dutch Minister of Foreign Affairs, Uri Rosenthal, urged its members to come to an agreement on sanctions against the regime in Syria. He stressed that the Council’s indecision is costing human lives as the crackdown on protestors continues.


21 September 2011

Update: Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights

The final version of the draft legal instruments on the Accession of the European Union to the European Convention on Human Rights, released on 19 July 2011, can be found on the website of the Council of Europe.


8 September 2011

Torture Allegations Move NATO To Suspend Prisoner Transfers to Afghanistan

A pending U.N. report alleges that prisoners at some Afghan detention facilities have been beaten and, in some cases, given electric shocks. As a result, NATO has suspended detainee transfers to a number of questionable facilities until it can verify if the allegations are true.


6 September 2011

China offered Gadhafi huge stockpiles of arms: Libyan memos

China offered huge stockpiles of weapons to Colonel Moammar Gadhafi during the final months of his regime, according to papers that describe secret talks about shipments via Algeria and South Africa. Documents obtained by The Globe and Mail show that state-controlled Chinese arms manufacturers were prepared to sell weapons and ammunition worth at least $200-million to the embattled Col. Gadhafi in late July, a violation of United Nations sanctions.


6 September 2011

Rape in Haiti and The Recurring Problem of Crimes Committed by Peacekeepers

Haitian citizens are outraged at the rape of a young Haitian man by five Uruguayan UN Peacekeepers from the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH). The five men were arrested after a video-clip of the crime, which was committed within the confounds of a UN base, was published online. In cases where UN peacekeepers commit crimes, difficult questions on dual attribution between the troop-contributing nation and the UN, which enjoys immunity from local prosecution, may arise.



5 September 2011

US Transfer of Terrorism Suspects to Libya for Interrogation

Documents found at the abandoned office of Libya’s former spymaster appear to provide new details of the close relations the Central Intelligence Agency shared with the Libyan intelligence service — most notably suggesting that the Americans sent terrorism suspects at least eight times for questioning in Libya despite that country’s reputation for torture.


21 July 2011

Mau Mau Kenyans allowed to sue UK government

The UK High Court today permitted Kenyan nationals to sue the government of the United Kingdom for acts of torture that occurred during the 1950s and 1960s in the former UK colony of Kenya. It therewith rejected the Government’s position that it could not be liable because the torture happened outside of the UK and that Kenya had its own legal colonial government, which was responsible for the camps. Although not yet decided on merits, the case already seems relevant to the question of sharing responsibility between local governments and States that act as colonial or mandated powers.


14 July 2011

Goldhagen’s article on the special obligation of Jews in relation to genocide

In his latest article ‘In Sudan, Say ‘Never Again’, and Mean It’, Daniel Jonah Goldhagen, author of the book ‘Worse Than War: Genocide, Eliminationism, and the Ongoing Assault on Humanity’, observes that the perceived special obligation of Jews to combat genocide has long been linked to Jews having been the victims of the Holocaust. While their sympathy may be more quickly roused in the face of injustice, he argues that Jews do not have a moral duty greater than others. In fact, Jews and non-Jews alike share an absolute, universal duty to stop genocide.


2 June 2011

Special Advisers Issue Press Release on the Situation in Syria

The Special Advisers on the Responsibility to Protect and the Prevention of Genocide have issued a statement in which they express their concern over the increasing loss of life in Syria as a result of the continued violent suppression of anti-government protests. Reminding the Syrian government of its responsibility to protect their population, the question into the responsibility of the international community may also arise.


18 April 2011

Court’s Opinion for the Upcoming Izmir Conference

The European Court of Human Rights has issued an ‘Opinion’ in the run-up to the Izmir conference on the reforms of the European system of human rights protection. The Court emphasizes that human rights should first and foremost be ensured at the national level. However, based on the principle of subsidiarity, the Court also refers to a ‘shared responsibility for human rights’.


24 March 2011

UN Guiding Principles for Business & Human Rights Published

The UN has released its Guiding Principles for Business and Human Rights after 6 years of research. The principles are now expected to be discussed by the UN Rights Council in its next session. The document outlines the obligations of both States and businesses in relation to the protection of human rights.