IACHR Orders Release of Nicaraguan Indigenous Leaders

By: Carlos Dominguez Scheid

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – The Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) mandated on February 1, 2024, that Nicaragua immediately release Brooklyn Rivera Bryan and Nancy Elizabeth Henríquez James, indigenous political figures and congresspersons from the Yapti Tasba Masraka Nanih Aslatakanka (YATAMA) party, who have been detained since late 2023.

 
Nancy Henríquez (left) and Brooklyn Rivera (right). | Photo courtesy of primeraorden.com.
 

The resolution comes amid serious concerns about Henríquez and Rivera’s detention conditions and the wider suppression of political opposition within the country. This decision came in response to a petition from the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR), advocating for the establishment of precautionary steps to safeguard Brooklyn Rivera and Henríquez, who both serve in the Nicaraguan National Assembly, affiliated with the YATAMA, an indigenous-focused political organization. They are both identified as facing a sharp and actualized threat of severe and lasting harm to their personal rights.

The Court’s decision underscores the urgent need to protect the rights and safety of Rivera and Henríquez, who have been targeted in what appears to be a sustained effort to quell dissent against Daniel Ortega’s regime. Despite their status as elected officials representing indigenous communities, their involvement in opposition activities has led to their arbitrary detention and the stripping of their parliamentary seats, a move that has drawn international condemnation. Rivera, a prominent Miskitu leader and key figure in YATAMA, vanished after a raid on his home in September 2023, with no legal warrants presented during his arrest. Similarly, Henríquez’s whereabouts became a mystery following her detention in October 2023, with reports suggesting she is being held in isolation under dire conditions. 

The Court’s resolution also extends protective measures to Rivera and Henríquez’s families, acknowledging the threats and reprisals they have faced, including those that have been forced into exile. The resolution aligns with the Court’s historical stance on safeguarding political freedoms and human rights, reflecting deep concerns over Nicaragua’s political climate, particularly the persecution of opposition parties and the erosion of democratic institutions since 2018. 

Nicaragua, having ignored the Court’s previous orders and not communicated since April 11, 2022, has been declared in permanent contempt. The Court’s latest resolution not only demands the immediate and unconditional release of the detained leaders but also insists on the restoration of their rights to participate in political activities as regional deputies, marking a critical stance against the suppression of political dissent in Nicaragua. 

This ruling highlights the ongoing crisis in Nicaragua, characterized by the government’s harsh response to protests and opposition, leading to widespread human rights abuses. The Court’s intervention underscores the international community’s commitment to upholding human rights and the rule of law, even as Nicaragua faces deepening isolation due to its actions against political opponents and indigenous leaders.

For further information, please see:

AGENCIA EFE – CorteIDH ordena liberar a dirigentes de Yatama – 15 Feb. 2024

CorteIDH ordena a Nicaragua liberar a dos líderes políticos indígenas opositores – 14 Feb. 2014

IACHR – MEDIDAS PROVISIONALES – 1 Feb. 2024

IACHR – IACHR Requests that IA Court Grant Provisional Measures in Favor of Indigenous YATAMA Representatives in Nicaragua – 19 Dec. 2023

Primerordencom – CorteIDH ordena a dictadura liberar de inmediato a Brooklyn Rivera y Nancy Henríquez – 15 Feb. 2024

 

ECHR Halts Deportation of Iraqi Family Fleeing ISIS, Citing Human Rights Violations

By: Rabiya Shamim

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On 6 February 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) issued a landmark ruling in J.A. and A.A. v Turkey regarding the rights of asylum seekers. The case involves a family seeking asylum in Turkey, fearing persecution and violence if returned to their home country of Iraq.

 
Convening of the European Court of Human Rights. | Photo courtesy of Bianet.
 

The applicants, an Iraqi husband and wife with four children, voiced serious concerns over the security situation in Iraq, especially considering that they fled due to ongoing armed conflict, terrorism, and sectarian strife. In support of their claim for international protection, the family highlighted the presence of ISIS (Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) and the targeted brutality against civilians, especially those perceived to have collaborated with Iraqi security forces.

The ECHR emphasized Article 2 of the Convention, which protects the right to life, as one of the fundamental provisions. Similarly, Article 3 embodies a fundamental principle of the democratic societies forming the Council of Europe. Central to the ECHR’s ruling was the applicant’s claim that their expulsion to Iraq would breach their fundamental rights outlined in Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention, which safeguards the right to life and freedom from torture and inhuman treatment. The Court stressed that these protections are absolute, particularly when people are at genuine risk of persecution or violence upon return to their home country.

The ECHR reviewed the evidence presented by both applicants, and Turkish authorities, acknowledging the complexity of asylum petitions and the difficulties faced by people in substantiating their fears within a short timeframe. The ruling emphasized that states must thoroughly evaluate asylum petitions, particularly in cases where there is a risk of persecution or violence.

Despite the applicants’ diligent efforts to establish the imminent danger they would face in Iraq, the Court found shortcomings in the domestic authorities’ evaluation of their claims. While the Turkish Constitutional Court initially acknowledged the credible basis of the applicants’ fears, subsequent decisions failed to sufficiently address the consequences of the situation in Iraq, especially in the Ninewa region.

The ECHR’s decision reaffirmed the idea that the right to life includes not only protection from immediate harm but also the obligations of states to prevent foreseeable risks to individuals within their jurisdiction. The Court underscored the need to promptly address the plausible threat to the applicants’ safety by granting an interim measure that will prohibit their expulsion until further evaluation.

The ECHR concluded that the applicants’ rights under Articles 2 and 3 of the Convention would be violated if they were deported to Iraq without first undergoing a thorough reassessment of the risks they face. The ruling emphasizes the critical role of international human rights law in safeguarding security and dignity, especially in times of conflict and persecution. 

For further information, please see:

Bianet – ECtHR: Deportation of Iraqi Family fleeing ISIS constitutes violation of right to life – 8 Feb. 2024

Council of Europe – European Convention on Human Rights – 1950

ECHR – CASE OF J.A. AND A.A. v. TÜRKİYE- 09 Jan 2024

Syriac Press – European Court halts deportation of Iraqi family fleeing ISIS citing human rights violations – 9 Feb. 2024

 

 

IACHR Files Case with Inter-American Court of Human Rights Regarding Illegal Detention and Treatment of Human Rights Activist

By: Rafael Sbeghen Freitas

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

VENEZUELA – On December 20, 2023, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) submitted Venezuela’s case No. 14.168 to the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IDH Court). The case highlights the illegal and arbitrary detention of human rights defender Carlos Enrique Graffe Henríquez, along with healthcare concerns and claims of violations of judicial guarantees and protections throughout the legal proceedings against him.

 
Carlos Graffe being interviewed by the media in 2017, among the anti-government protests in Venezuela. | Photo courtesy of PanAm Post.
 

2017 was marked by massive protests against President Nicolás Maduro and his administration. Carlos Enrique Graffe Henríquez was one of the most notorious opposing figures. He was labeled as a dangerous “terrorist” during a national television show by a government deputy who also stated that Graffe should undergo the “Tun-Tun operation,” an arbitrary search and detention of those who dissent from the national government. Graffe was, and remains today, a prominent figure in opposing Maduro’s administration. In 2010 he founded the “A World Without Censorship” association, dedicated to defending freedom of expression and denouncing human rights violations in Venezuela. 

In October 2017, Graffe was arrested while leaving a medical appointment. He was intercepted by unidentified men who forced him into a vehicle with military plates. The agents were not wearing the standard police uniform and did not have official identification. Further, there was no judicial order against him, and no situation of flagrancy was identified. However, the official Twitter account of the Carabobo Police announced that the prisoner had been detained “with C4 explosive, detonating cord, and rockets with nails attached with adhesive tape”.

Graffe’s preliminary hearing was held in a military court, rather than a civilian one. Records indicate that Graffe was not afforded due process; lawyers were not notified of the proceeding, and they were not allowed access to the formal accusation. Oswaldo Graffe, Carlos Graffe’s father, reported to the media that Graffe’s parents were not notified of the “irregular” hearing. 

The legality of the arrest was not the only concern since the conditions inside the prison where Carlos was incarcerated are infamously horrible. He was subject to solitary confinement and inhuman conditions and was restricted from visitation with his family. Despite his poor health due to previous kidney surgery, he did not receive medical attention. The Ombudsman’s request for intervention to guarantee medical care and allow family visits did not receive a response.

After investigating the case, the IACHR found that the detention of Carlos Graffe was illegal and arbitrary, pointing out that it resembled other cases of criminalization of human rights defenders at the same time. Regarding the rights to personal integrity and health, the IACHR found that Graffe suffered cruel, inhuman, and degrading treatment during his detention in conditions of isolation, poor ventilation, lack of sunlight, and inadequate sanitary and hygiene services. Likewise, the Commission found that the state’s failure to provide medical care generated permanent consequences for his health.

For further information, please see:

 

ECHR Rules Russia Violated Journalists’ Rights to Life and Freedom of Expression

By: Firdevs Okatan

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

STRASBOURG, France – On January 30, 2024, the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) ruled that Russia breached fundamental rights of journalists Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev and Khadzhimurad Kamalov, whose murders in Dagestan, Russia highlighted critical systemic failures and underscored the ongoing risks to press freedom.

 
Media coverage of of the death of journalists Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev and Khadzhimurad Kamalov | Photo Courtesy of Anadolu Ajansi.
 

The case before the ECHR, which was brought by relatives Mutaelum Akhmednabiyev and Ali Akhmedovich Kamalov, sought justice for the journalists and highlighted systemic failures in the Russian judicial system. Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev, Deputy Editor of Novoye Delo and Correspondent for Kavkazskiy Uzel, was included on a death threat leaflet in September 2009. On July 9, 2013, he was assassinated near his home in Semender, Russia. Khadzhimurad Kamalov, founder and editor of the Dagestan newspaper Chernovik was named also in the leaflet that targeted journalists, human rights defenders, and lawyers. Kamalov was murdered in Makhachkala, Russia on December 15, 2011.

In December 2011, Russian authorities initiated criminal investigations into the murders. The investigations sought to uncover the motives behind these crimes, which was seemingly linked to the journalists’ professional activities and their criticisms of local authorities. Akhmednabiyev and Kamalov’s families experienced numerous challenges throughout the legal process, including perceived inadequacies in the investigations’ thoroughness and pace, leading to claims of procedural violations. The investigations were marked by delays, suspensions, and allegations of ineffectiveness, raising serious concerns about the commitment to fully uncover the truth and bring the perpetrators to justice.

The ECHR found Russia violated of Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights (the right to life) in both procedural and substantive aspects of Akhmednabiyev’s case, and only in the procedural aspect of Kamalov’s case. The Court underscored the lack of effective investigation by Russian authorities and the failure to provide adequate protection to the journalists, despite known threats to their lives.

The Court ordered Russia to pay EUR 26,000 to Akhmednabiyev’s family and EUR 20,000 to Kamalov’s, acknowledging the resulting non-pecuniary damage suffered from the state’s failure to protect their rights.

For further information, please see:

Caucasian Knot – ECtHR’s decision in case of Dagestani journalist Akhmednabiev becomes moral victory– 01 Feb. 2024

Committee To Protect Journalists – Akhmednabi Akhmednabiyev Killed – 09 Jul. 2013

ECHR – Case of Akhmednabiyev and Kamalov V. Russia – 30 Jan.  2024

European Convention on Human Rights – 1950

 

 

ICJ Partially Rules in Favor of Ukraine in Case on Russia’s Activity in Crimea

By: Christina Bradic

Impunity Watch News Staff Writer

THE HAGUE, The Netherlands – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) ruled on January 31, 2024, that Russia failed to comply with certain requirements of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism (ICSFT) when the government failed to investigate terrorist funding going into Ukraine. However, the Court stopped short of a declaration that Russia violated both the ICSFT and the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (ICERD). The court also did not order associated prosecutions, as Ukraine requested.

 
The flag of the Donetsk People’s Republic, one of the groups named in this case, is displayed during a protest in Ukraine. | Photo courtesy of AFP PHOTO / ALEXANDER KHUDOTEPLY.
 

The government of Ukraine brought this case before the ICJ in 2017 based on the 2014 annexation of Crimea and ongoing Russian aggression, including “a multifaceted attack on the people of Ukraine for which the Russian Federation is responsible under international law.” Ukraine’s suit included concerns that, “the Russian Federation has used its control over the Crimean Peninsula to impose a policy of Russian ethnic dominance, pursuing the cultural erasure of non-Russian communities through a systematic and ongoing campaign of discrimination.”

The case against the Russian Federation included evidence of targeted attacks on civilians, systematic oppression of the Crimean Tatar community through banning cultural activities and suppressing its political systems and leaders, and supplying weapons, funding, and training to three pro-Russian terrorist groups in the region, the “Donetsk People’s Republic” (“DPR”), the “Luhansk People’s Republic” (“LPR”), the “Partisans of the Kharkiv People’s Republic” (“Kharkiv Partisans”).

The ICJ voted thirteen to two that the Russian Federation violated Article 2 of the ICFT which bars state conduct where the “purpose of the act, by its nature or context, is to intimidate a population, or to compel a government or an international organization to do or to abstain from doing any act.” The Court also found that Russia violated Article 9 of the ICFT, which states that “upon receiving information that a person who has committed or who is alleged to have committed an offence set forth in article 2 may be present in its territory, the State Party concerned shall take such measures as may be necessary under its domestic law to investigate the facts contained in the information.”

With a vote of ten to five, the Court rejected all other submissions made by Ukraine with respect to the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and all submissions made by Ukraine regarding the International Convention on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination.

For further information, please see:

American Society of International Law – ICJ Delivers Judgment in Ukraine v. Russia Case Concerning Terrorism Financing and CERD – 31 Jan 2024

International Court of Justice – Press Release: Application of the International Convention for the Suppression of the Financing of Terrorism and of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination (Ukraine v. Russian

International Court of Justice – Request for The Indication Of Provisional Measures Of Protection Submitted By Ukraine – 13 Jan. 2017

Jurist – ICJ mostly rejects Ukraine claims of Russia discrimination, terrorism financing – 31 Jan 2024

United Nations – The International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivers its judgment in the case Ukraine v. Russian Federation – 31 Jan. 2024