ECHR Rules Supermarket Cameras Don’t Violate Right to Privacy

By: Genna Amick

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor 

MADRID, Spain — On October 17, 2019, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that the right to privacy of supermarket employees was not violated by the supermarket using visible and hidden cameras to record areas of the store where it suspected theft by employees.

The manager of a Spanish supermarket noticed that stock valued at upwards of €20,000 was missing. He decided to install cameras without informing any of his employees. The cameras focused on exits, entrances, and checkout counters. Based on the surveillance footage, the manager discovered that a number of his employees were taking goods without paying for them and helping customers to steal. He fired 14 of his employees, five of which are the applicants in this case.

The applicants argued that they were dismissed unfairly and that their right to privacy was violated by the installation of the cameras without their knowledge. The Spanish Employment Tribunal found that the dismissal was valid and that the applicant’s right to privacy had not been violated. After the Spanish High Court affirmed the Employment Tribunal’s ruling, the applicants submitted a complaint to the European Court of Human Rights.

In January 2018, a chamber of the European Court of Human Rights found that the employee’s right to privacy under Article 8 of the European Convention had been violated because they had not been informed of the installation of the cameras. However, the chamber did not find that the applicant’s right to a fair trial under Article 6 of the European Convention had been violated.

The case was then accepted and reviewed by the Grand Chamber which found that applicant’s Article 8 right to privacy was not violated nor was their Article 6 right to a fair trial. Delving into the right to privacy, the Grand Chamber held that employers are not required to notify employees of surveillance equipment if it was installed to protect a “significant” interest.

Applicant’s also argued that the State had a positive obligation to protect their rights against the actions of a private company. The Grand Chamber found that since there were a number of domestic laws in place intended to safeguard the applicant’s right to privacy which they could have sought legal remedies under, the State had acted within its margin of appreciation. The Grand Chamber concluded that the applicant’s Article 8 right to privacy had not been violated.

The Grand Chamber also concluded that applicant’s Article 6 right to a fair trial was not violated. In this case, the applicants attempted to argue that using their former employer’s video recordings of them stealing was inadmissible. The Grand Chamber held that using the videos as evidence did not undermine the fairness of the proceeding for two reasons. First, applicants had the ability to challenge the quality and accuracy of the videos. Second, the recordings were not the only evidence that was used by the Spanish domestic courts.

For further information, please see:

International Justice Resource Center – European Court Holds Secret Surveillance Did Not Violate Employees’ Privacy – 24 Oct. 2019

Warner Goodman – Employment Law Case Update: Lopez Ribalda and others v Spain – 24 May 2018

Separatist Movement In Cameroon has International Consequences

By: Jordan Broadbent

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

YAOUNDE, Cameroon —  On November 1, 2019, Cameroon language barriers and crackdowns incited violence and human rights abuses that have captured international attention. 

Map depicting the Anglophone region in Cameroon. Photo Courtesy of the Washington Post.

Cameroon, a former French colony, is divided between 80% French speakers and 20% English speakers and for decades the two lived in relative peace. However, since 2017 that peace has been disturbed. Along the Nigerian border an armed group of armed English-speaking separatists have demanded independence from Cameroon to form Ambazonia, an English-speaking country. The separatists claim that the Cameroon government has killed hundreds of unarmed civilians in a series of raids. They further claim that government troops came in to the area, burned down a village, killed hundreds of people and have displaced hundreds of others in an attempt to keep the anglophones under their control.

The UN embassy in Cameroon stated that in a series of raids in February and March 2019 the Cameroon government started to disappear several leaders in the separatists’ movement. The Cameroon government has claimed that these separatist groups have terrorized civilians and disrupted peace in the country that has sparked a government crackdown. The government has denied the claims of killing civilians and burning down villages, stating instead that the troops are stationed in the west to protect Cameroonians.

The United Nations and Amnesty International warned Cameroon that this military crackdown would lead to unrest. Since the warning, tens of thousands of refugees have fled to Nigeria to avoid the violence that is erupting in western Cameroon. The African Union has pleaded with both parties to end the violence as the influx of refugees continues to grow.

Cameroon is an ally of the United States and a key player in the fight against Boko Haram, a terrorist organization in western Africa. The United States Department of Defense issued a warning to Cameroon that the destabilization of the country could hurt the fight against the terrorist group.

The United States Department of Defense and State Department have worked with both groups in an attempt to end the violence in the region. Cameroon’s failure to make an attempt to stop the perceived human rights violations sparked reactions from the United States. As recently as at November 1, 2019, President Trump announced he will will remove Cameroon from a trade program that allows several African countries to trade duty free with the United States, citing human rights violations. If Cameroon does not take measures to change the current situation, Cameroon will be removed from the program on January 1, 2020. The Cameroon government has yet to respond to President Trump’s announcement. 

For further information, please see:

Washington Post- Trump Ends Trade Benefits for Cameroon over “persistent  human rights violations” – 1 Nov. 2019

Committee to Protect Justice – African Union Must Act on Cameroons Human Rights Violation – 29 Oct. 2019

Washington Post-Divided by Language – 5 Feb. 2019

Man In Turkmenistan Is Missing After Revealing Sexual Orientation

By: Melissa Berouty

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

ASHGABAT, Turkmenistan — According to Freedom House’s index of basic freedoms, Turkmenistan is rated below North Korea and only above Syria. Under Turkmen law, the government has the authority to regulate behavior in an attempt to “construct the model Turkmen citizen.” Turkmen authorities exercise its control by brutally punishing any form of religious or political expression that does not align with the Turkmen government. Additionally, the Turkmen government limits the nature of print and electronic media available to its citizens.

The Turkmen government has a long history of enforced disappearances, where individuals’ whereabouts or fates serving long sentences in Turkmenistan are unknown. For more than ten years, the Turkmen government has prohibited loved ones, lawyers, and the outside world access to the imprisoned. Prove They Are Alive, a campaign committed to ending enforced disappearances in Turkmenistan, has reported at least 121 cases of enforced disappearances. Of these 121 cases, many are suspected to be detained in the Ovadanepe prison, which has a reputation for extreme conditions.

On October 24, 2019, it was reported that Kasymberdy Garayev was feared to be missing after allegedly revealing his sexual orientation, under a pseudonym, on Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. In Turkmenistan, homosexual conduct is a criminal act that can result in up to a two-year prison sentence. Today, approximately sixty-eight countries have laws that criminalize homosexual conduct between consenting adults. According to Human Rights Watch, sentencing in these sixty-eight countries “range from fines to life imprisonment and even the death penalty.” Rachel Denber, the deputy Europe and Central Asia director at Human Rights Watch, expressed her extreme concern for Garayev stating that “given Turkmenistan’s appalling human rights record, including enforced disappearances, we have every reason to fear for his safety and well-being.”

Kasymberdy Garayev is a 24-year-old cardiologist, who was employed at an elite clinic in Turkmenistan. On October 21, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a narrative, where Garayev allegedly reflected on his life in Turkmenistan stating that “since childhood, I knew that I was gay and it was hard for me to accept.” In 2018, Garayev was allegedly detained by Turkmen authorities upon a scheduled meeting with an online male love interest, which turned out to be a police officer. Here, Garayev allegedly stated that on the way to the police station, officers beat him, used a stun gun, and demanded that he make a statement on camera confirming his sexual orientation.

On October 24, 2019, Turkmen authorities allegedly requested Garayev’s presence for a background check.  From October 24, 2019 to November 6, 2019, Garayev’s whereabouts were unknown. Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty was also unable to locate Garayev’s family. According to Human Rights Watch, when an individual summoned by Turkmen authorities goes missing, “there is a real risk they could be the victim of an enforced disappearance.”

On October 31, 2019, Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty released a video recording of Garayev2 speaking, where he disclosed his real name, expressed his fear of going missing, and begged for his family’s forgiveness.

During the time Garayev was feared to be missing, Gurbanguly Berdymukhamedov, the president of Turkmenistan, visited Rome. During Berdymukhamedov’s visit, several Italian LGBTQ+ activist groups urged Rome to speak out on Garayev’s disappearance. On November 6th, Italian Senator Monica Cirinna released a statement demanding the government press Berdymukhamedov on the details of Garayev’s disappearance. Later that day, Garayev returned home.

Since then, Garayev denies any communication with Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Garayev claims that the video farewell was recorded for a different purpose and sent mistakenly to Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. Additionally, after the release of Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty’s narrative, Garayev is no longer employed by the prestigious clinic in Turkmenistan where he once worked. Since Garayev’s alleged return home, several LGBTQ+ activist groups have started campaigns seeking to protect Garayev.

For further information, please see:

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan: Gay Man Missing After Coming Out Online – 1 Nov. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – ‘If I Disappear, Forgive Me’: Missing Gay Turkmen’s Plea – 31 Oct. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – Gay man from Turkmenistan wants to make a statement to start a discussion – 21 Oct. 2019

Radio Free Europe/Radio Free Liberty – The Turkmen President Is Alive, But What About His Prisoners? –  20 Aug. 2019

Human Rights Watch – Turkmenistan Events of 2018

Human Rights Watch –#OUTLAWED “THE LOVE THAT DARE NOT SPEAK ITS NAME”

UN Experts to Travel to Gambia Amid Increase in Human Trafficking Issues

By: Jordan Broadbent

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

BANJUL, Gambia — On June 20,2019, the Trafficking in Persons Report prepared by the U.S. Department of State ranked Gambia a Tier 3 country prompting the United Nations to send in experts to assess the situation.

Secretary of State Pompeo. Photo Courtesy of AP.

Tier 3 countries are those that do not comply with the minimum standards set by the U.S. Department of States’ Office to Monitor and Combat Trafficking in Persons and are not making significant efforts to meet those standards. The United States monitoring and ranking systems are internationally accepted.

Gambia was ranked Tier 3 after the publication of a five year long report that focuses on the use of Gambia as a central hub for human trafficking. Women and girls are trafficked through Gambia for the purposes of child marriages and sex trafficking and young boys are sold and trafficked through the country to be sold in to forced labor. The report shows that the number of people being trafficked through the country has increased in recent years.

Gambia’s capitol, Banjul, was highlighted in the report as a hotbed for child trafficking. The State Department’s study reported that tourists came to Banjul from all over the world to find child sex tourism rings.

Despite being continually criticized for the high rates of sex and human trafficking, the Gambian government has taken only modest steps in remedying the issue. In 2010, Gambia’s legislative body passed the Trafficking Persons Act which instituted a sentence ranging from 50 years to life in prison in addition to a fine as punishment to anyone found guilty of human trafficking. However, the Gambian government has failed to prosecute a single person for human trafficking in the past two years. The Gambian government has also failed to investigate child sex tourism, failed to identify and assist trafficking victims, and has not raised awareness on the issue on a national level for the past five years.

Due to the governments lack of action on the issue, the United Nations Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights sent a special reporter to Gambia to monitor the issue. The Special Reporter will issue a report at the end of the visit at the state of Gambia’s government actions on human trafficking and child sex tourism within the country. The report will be published at the end of October.

For further information, please see:

United Nations Human Rights Office of the High Commission- Sale and Sexual Exploitations of Children: UN Export Visits Gambia- 18 Oct. 2019

U.S. Department of State – 2019 Trafficking in Persons Report-  20 June 2019

United States Embassy in Gambia- Press Release: Trafficking in Persons Report 2019- 20 June 2019

Refworld – 2018 trafficking in Persons Report in Gambia- 28 June 2018

The ICC’s Pre-Trial Chamber Confirms Al Hassan’s Charges

By: Madison Kenyon

Impunity Watch Staff Writer 

TIMBUKTU, Mali — On September 30, 2019, the Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (“ICC”) issued a unanimous decision confirming the charges brought against Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz (“Al Hassan”). These charges include both crimes against humanity and war crimes. This decision, however, merely commits Al Hassan to trial before the Trial Chamber, it does not necessarily confirm he is guilty.

Al Hassan sitting before the International Criminal Court. Photo courtesy of the ICC.

These charges arise from Al Hassan’s involvement with the Islamic militant group, Ansar Dine. This rebel group took control of Timbuktu in 2012 and enforced strict religious rules, including the ban of music and the destruction of non-Muslim religious sites. Al Hassan became the de facto chief of police and oversaw the enforcement of these rules. While serving as chief of police, Al Hassan allegedly also forced hundreds of women into sexual slavery.

The ICC issued a warrant for Al Hassan’s arrest on March 27, 2018 and he surrendered to the ICC four days later, on March 31. The hearing in front of the Pre-Trial Chamber occurred between July 8 and July 17, 2019. During the hearing, the prosecutor introduced the specific crimes Al Hassan is charged with, most of which stem from the widespread and systematic attack by armed groups against the civilian population of Timbuktu between April 1, 2012 and January 28, 2013, and include torture, rape, sexual slavery, cruel treatment and other inhumane acts, such as forced marriages and persecution. The prosecutor emphasized that due to Al Hassan’s actions and Ansar Dine’s control of Timbuktu, the civilians of Timbuktu “were subjected to a climate of constant fear and repression.”

Many nonprofit organizations are quite happy with the Pre-Trial Chamber’s decision in confirming these charges. For example, Melinda Reed, the Executive Director of Women’s Initiative for Gender, stated, “[This decision] is another step in a positive evolution. Every decision matters. We are writing the jurisprudence of the future now, so every case and every step is extremely important with regards to gender based and sexual crimes.” However, many organizations believe the ICC is not doing enough, and rather they criticize the court for going after Al Hassan because he is an intermediate leader of Ansar Dine and not a high-level person of this rebel group.

Although a trial date has not yet been set, the Pre-Trial Chamber has authorized 880 victims to participate in the trial and provide testimony against Al Hassan. Thus, many should expect a long and emotional trial.

For further information, please see: 

ICC – Al Hassan Case: ICC Pre-Trial Chamber I Confirms Charges of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity and Commits Suspect to Trial – 30 Sept. 2019

ICC – Situation in the Republic of Mali: The Prosecutor v. Al Hassan Ag Abdoul Aziz Ag Mohamed Ag Mahmoud – 30 Sept. 2019

Reuters – International Criminal Court Puts Mali War Crimes Suspect to Trial – 30 Sept. 2019

Courthouse News Service – Timbuktu Man Fights War Crimes Charges in UN Criminal Court – 11 July 2019