The Recent Evolution of Marriage Equality in Costa Rica

By: Alex Blake

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – In May 2020, Costa Rica became the first Central American Country, and sixth Latin-American country to Legalize same-sex marriage. The vast majority of Latin-American countries have been steadfast in suppressing the rights of LGBT people, recently, both Guatemala and Panama have filed legislation that explicitly defines marriage as between man and woman, keeping same-sex marriage illegal.

Costa Ricans March in the Streets of San Jose in Celebration of the Legalization of Same-Sex Marriage. Photo Courtesy of The Tico Times and Lindsay Fendt.

In 2016, the Costa Rican government began to show a serious interest in the legalization of same-sex marriage when it filed for the Inter-American Court of Human Rights to interpret the right to privacy and right to equal protection and whether these rights extended to same-sex couples. In its 2017 opinion, the Court held that governments “must recognize and guarantee all the rights that are derived from a family bond between people of the same-sex”, and that it was discriminatory and inadmissible for separate legal provisions to be established just for same-sex marriages, the Court further went on to demand that member-governments “guarantee access to all existing forms of domestic legal systems, including the right to marriage, in order to ensure the protection of all the rights of families formed by same-sex couples without discrimination”. Finally, the Court stated that transgender people should be allowed to change their name on identity documents. The Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ rulings apply to all countries that have signed the American Convention on Human Rights (the “Pact of San Jose, Costa Rica”, (1969)). When the Court delivered this opinion, it gave Costa Rica 18 months to adhere to its guidelines and adopt same-sex marriage.

While Costa Rica was making these incredible strides in Human Rights law toward acceptance of LGBT’s and legalizing same-sex marriage, there was still major opposition within the country. Evangelical candidate Fabricio Alvarado ran against the progressive candidate Carlos Alvarado Quesada.

Carlos Alvarado Quesada of the center-left Citizen’s Action Party campaigned on a pro-same-sex marriage platform and promised to implement the Inter-American Court of Human Rights’ ruling as required to recognize such unions. On the other hand, right-wing candidate Fabricio Alvarado pledged to ignore the requirement if he was elected.

While the polls indicated a close election and there was much protest on both sides of this debate, Mr. Alvarado Quesada, the progressive, won the election rather handily. A few short months after the election, in August 2018, the Supreme Court of Costa Rica said that the country’s ban on same-sex marriage was unconstitutional and started the 18t month grace period in which the country would have to legalize same-sex marriage, the Legislative body did not act, and in May 2020 the law was extinct. President Alvarado Quesada was quoted on the day of legalization saying, “Today we celebrate freedom, equality and democratic institutions”.

Costa Rica seems to intend to keep pushing the envelope and further progress its laws to empower those of different sexual orientations and sexual identities in the future. Costa Rica must serve as an example for the rest of Latin-America and Central America and urge all other governments to follow its lead.

For further information, please see:

BBC News – Inter-American Human Rights Court backs same-sex marriage – 10 Jan.  2018

CBS News – Costa Rica becomes the first country in Central America to legalize same-sex marriage – 27 May, 2020

Human Rights Watch – Costa Rica First in Central America to Legalize Same-Sex Marriage – 26 May, 2020

PBS News Hour – Costa Rica legalizes same-sex marriage – 26 May, 2020


The United States Election Was Not the Only Election the World Was Watching

By: Alexis Eka

Impunity Watch Staff Writer

DAR ES SALAAM, Tanzania – Democracy in Tanzania is being threatened. John Magufuli, the president who began his term in 2015, has faced public backlash for his decisions that have eroded civil liberties. In January 2020, President Magufuli promised that elections scheduled for October 28, 2020 would be free and fair. However, it soon became clear that President Magufuli had other plans in mind.

A supporter of Tanzania’s ruling party holds sign during the official launch of the party’s campaign. Photo Courtesy of Ericky Boniphace via Getty Images.

President Magufuli restricted local organizations from monitoring voter turnouts and harassed his opponents, several local newspapers, and journalists for their disparaging coverage of him in his presidential capacity. The sub-Saharan African representative for the Committee of Protect Journalists, Muthoki Mumo, stated that since January 2020, the government has restricted at least six different social media sources including Twitter and WhatsApp, ranging from periods of one week to one year. The authorities also directed telecommunication companies to censor longer messages and voice services in the midst of reports that cellphone users were restricted from loading and sending messages featuring the names of Magufili’s opposing candidates.

Several human rights organizations have been exempt from observing and publishing commentaries about the election. These groups include the Legal and Human Rights Center, a group that is tasked with coordinating non-governmental organizations that have traditionally overseen the Tanzania’s polls.

Numerous groups have made clear that police forces and governmental authorities have targeted them and accused them of hosting unauthorized meetings as well as conspiring against the president. These allegations have led to violence for individuals that have openly declared opposition to president Magufili. For example, authorities have created obstacles for opposing party members who have attempted to campaign in good faith. Many of these party members failed to obtain proper accreditation for their poll watchers who sought to help with the election. The United Nations secretary-general, António Guterres addressed Tanzania’s political leaders and their allies to “refrain from violence”.

As elections occurred on October 28, 2020, the presidential candidate for the opposing party, Tundu Lissu, stated that his agents were denied entrance to polling stations to cast their votes.  Lissu and his agents were detained by the police authorities after inducing street protests against the leaders in East Africa. Lissu sought refuge at the German ambassador’s residence in Dar es Salaam, claiming that his life was being threatened as a result of the contentious election. Lissu claims that telephone calls to the Dar es Salaam head of police Lazaro Mambosasa, remained unanswered. “I just want a safe passage out of the country, given the deterioration in the security situation for myself,” Lissu said. The police contend that Lissu was in safe conditions and that there were no threats or issues of election-related violence.

While political leaders from the opposing party have been scrutinized and arrested and with the current slow of social media outlets, many feared that the president’s win, will make the country inevitably lose. Dan Paget, a politics professor at the University of Aberdeen stated, “This is the election where any resemblance Tanzania bears to democracy probably ends”.

Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, more than 29 million citizens voted at more than 80,000 polling stations in Tanzania as they sought to elect a new president, appoint new lawmakers, and local counselors. There is a common fear amongst Tanzanians that president Magufili’s re-election would be accompanied by harsh political and constitutional changes that include the dismissal of term limits as well as additional restrictions on civil liberties. Large protests could derail the progress made by Tanzanians in their search for economic stability, but the government and president Magufili continue to put pressure on the backs of those seeking and advocating for change.     

For further information, please see:

Bloomberg – Tanzania Opposition Leader Seeks Refuge with German Ambassador – 07 Nov. 2020 

NYTimes As Tanzania Votes, Many See Democracy Itself on the Ballot 29 Oct. 2020

The Economist Democracy is faltering in Tanzania and Ivory Coast 5 Oct. 2020  

The Economist President Magufuli is likely to win an unfair vote in Tanzania 22 Oct. 2020

Supreme Court of India Temporarily Suspends Implementation of Farmer Laws

By: Reena Patel

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Associate Articles Editor

NEW DEHLI, India – On January 12th, 2021, the Supreme Court of India issued a judgment to suspend the implementation of three proposed “farmer” laws by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) until a committee of government officials and protestors meet to find a solution. The decision to suspend the farmer laws, for the time being, comes after weeks of national protest by Indian farmers, namely farmers from the northern states of Punjab and Haryana.

Farmers protesting at New Delhi’s border during the week of January 4th, 2021. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times.

Currently, Indian farmers sell their produce at government-controlled markets (mandis) that have guaranteed minimum prices for crops. With the mandi system, farmers have assured prices and the option to use the mandi system if prices by private buyers are not satisfactory. The three farmer laws passed by Parliament in September would strip the protections offered to farmers through the mandi system. Instead of using middlemen through the mandi system, the farmer laws would open up the agricultural business to the free market. Farmers see the laws as pro-market laws that would privatize their business and strip their livelihoods for the sake of corporate greed.

While Modi attempted to pass laws that would fundamentally change the quality of life for more than 60% of India’s population that depend on farming to make a living, the farmers have organized to defend their rights. The first protests began in July, mostly taking place in Haryana and Punjab. In November and the following weeks, thousands of farmers from Haryana and Punjab traveled to Delhi. Farmers blocked almost all entry points to Delhi and remain in protest even when police brutalized the protestors with tear gas and water cannons. The farmers have parked their tractors and trailers to remain in protest until the laws are repealed. The protestors have slept in tents and on the street at Delhi’s entry points and show no sign of moving, which raised health concerns for the Supreme Court given the current COVID-19 pandemic.

A protestor and a police officer clashing at a demonstration on Friday, November 27, 2020. Photo Courtesy of The New York Times.

The farmer protest is one of, if not the, biggest protests to take place in India. The reason that many individuals have risked their lives on behalf of the 150 million farmers in India to travel to Delhi during a pandemic and withstand police violence is due to the fact that this movement is more than just a farming issue. Modi and his Bharatiya Janata Party are known for their Hindu nationalist policies that exclude the freedoms and rights of religious minorities in India. Punjab and Haryana, states of individuals who are of the Sikh religion, fall into this category of religious monitories. Modi has not faced mass protests on this scale since his regime and has attempted to discredit many of the Sikh protestors as “anti-national.”

Farmers in India are “fearlessly taking on the powerful government” as a “revolution for their rights” because many farmers fear exploitation of their rights. Even now, farmers struggle with increasingly rising levels of debt, and many farmers have committed suicide due to unfair treatment. With so much on the line for farmers, they remain in protest until Modi repeals the three laws completely. 

For further information, please see:

Bar and Bench – Supreme Court Stays Implementation of Three Farm Laws, Forms 4-member Committee to hold Talks – 12 Jan. 2021

BBC News – Bharat Bandh: India Farmers Protest Against Law – 8 Dec. 2020

BBC News – How Narendra Modi Misread the mood of India’s Angry Farmers – 13 Jan. 2021

NY Times – Angry Farmers Choke India’s Capital in Giant Demonstrations – 30 Nov. 2020

NY Times – Indian Farmers vow to Continue Protest, Unappeased by Court Ruling – 12 Jan. 2021

NY Times – Why Are India’s Farmers Angry? – 14 Jan. 2021

ECHR Hit By Cyberattack Following Judgment Against The Republic of Turkey For Enduring Pre-Trial Imprisonment of Kurdish Opposition Leader

By: Benjamin Kaufman

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Senior Articles Editor

STRASBOURG, France – Following the publication of a ruling in which the ECHR reprimanded Turkey’s refusal to adhere to a 2018 judgment by the court, an as-of-yet unattributed cyberattack was carried out against the court’s website on December 22, 2020.

Supporter of Turkey’s Main pro-Kurdish Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) Holds Portrait of Jailed Former Leader Selahattin Demirtas During a Campaign Event in Istanbul, Turkey. Photo Courtesy of Reuters and Huseyin Aldemir.

The Grand Chamber’s decision, understood to have prompted the hack, came 4 years after the imprisonment of Selahattin Demirtaş, the leader of a pro-Kurdish political party called the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP) and former member of the Turkish Parliament.  HDP is one of the left-leaning opposition parties to President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s Justice and Development Party (AKP).  

HDP was alleged to have ties to the Kurdish Workers Party (PKK) based on contemporaneous tweets calling for public demonstrations from both organizations in October of 2014.  Those public demonstrations led to several dozen deaths and for which PKK was blamed.  In May 2016, the Turkish parliament voted to amend the Turkish Constitution to selectively suspend parliamentary immunity and permitted police to arrest Demirtaş along with 7 other HDP members of parliament for incitement among other terrorism-related offenses on November 4, 2016. Since that time, Demirtaş has remained imprisoned by Turkish authorities.

The first review by the ECHR of Demirtaş’s case came in 2018.  When the Grand Chamber heard his claim in 2020, it considered six alleged violations stemming from the pre-trial detention:  that the pre-trial detention violated his freedom of expression both by denying his ability to sit once elected and by invalidating parliamentary immunity owed to a member of parliament; that his imprisonment was intended to suppress and deter opposition, that his detention was supported by insufficient proof, that the Turkish Codes of Criminal Procedure lacked sufficient remedy for such complaints, and that the time taken to review his initial application was a violation of his right to a speedy trial.

In its judgment, the Grand Chamber largely dismissed the Government’s arguments in favor of Demirtaş’s claims calling his incarceration “a dangerous message to the entire population” to stifle civil society and deter opposition.  The Grand Chamber ordered Turkey to take all necessary measures to immediately release Demirtaş based on violations of his rights under Articles 10, 5 §§ 1 and 3 of the Convention, Article 3 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention, and Article 18 in conjunction with Article 5. 

For these violations, the Grand Chamber awarded Demirtaş EUR 3,500. Additionally, the Grand Chamber ordered the State to compensate Demirtaş for non-pecuniary damages assumed by virtue of his imprisonment in the amount of EUR 25,000.  Furthermore, the Grand Chamber awarded the full amount claimed for court expenses, totaling EUR 31,900 for his representatives’ hourly rate and translation costs.

Shortly after publishing its judgment, the ECHR’s website was subjected to a cyberattack that took it offline for roughly 16 hours.  The ECHR issued a statement noting that the cyberattack began shortly after the Demirtaş decision was published and “strongly deplor[ing] this serious incident.”

ECHR’s website is back online, though responsibility for the attack has not yet been claimed.

For further information, please see:

European Court of Human Rights, Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction): SELAHATTİN DEMİRTAŞ v. TURKEY (No. 2), Grand Chamber – 22 Dec. 2020

European Court of Human Rights, Press Releases: Cyberattack on the website of the European Court of Human Rights – 23 Dec. 2020

Human Rights Watch – Turkey: Opposition Politicians Detained for Four Years – 19 Nov. 2020

InfoSecurity Magazine – Sarah Coble: Cyber-attack on European Court of Human Rights – 23 Dec. 2020

Reuters – Ali Kucukgocmen: European Court of Human Rights says Turkey must free Demirtas – 22 Dec. 2020

Australia Has Violated Human Rights During The Pandemic

By: Dianne Jahangani

Journal of Global Rights and Organizations, Administrative Editor

AUSTRALIA – As the world continues to face the COVID-19 Pandemic, each country has been tasked with the duty of protecting the lives of its citizens. In the next few months, as the world enters the one-year anniversary of battling against this virus, individuals are growing more impatient by the day. Everyone is focused on surviving the Pandemic to the best of their ability, but what happens when the governments that you look to in times of protection are the same entities that are causing you more harm? Shocking as it may seem, Australia, a nation that has score of 97/100 on Freedom House, is one of these such governments that is causing harm.

Man Takes Photo in Front of Mural in Melbourne After the City Ended Lockdown. Photo Courtesy of The Washington Post and William West/Getty Images

COVID-19 is a scary reality that every single person in the world has been living with for almost a year now; as if that was not enough, when Sydney, Australia made the decision to lockdown more than 3,000 people in public housing towers to contain a COVID-19 outbreak in July 2020, its decision violated human rights. Eight of the nine public housing towers confined its residents in the apartments for a total of five days. Further exacerbating the situation, the ninth tower was under lockdown for a total of two weeks. During this time, residents were left without food and medicine.

Residents did not receive a warning before being required to lockdown. As such, the residents have since reported that they felt trapped and traumatized, and suspected discrimination since the towers consisted of residents who are minorities or immigrants.

Since this lockdown, the state government has conceded that mistakes were made; however, Australia has now placed restrictions on Australians wishing to return home from abroad, which is a violation of International Human Rights of Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The Article states, “No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of the right to enter his own country.” Tens of thousands of Australians have been stranded abroad because the government has capped the number of people allowed onto flights into the country.

Australia has been praised in the media for tackling COVID, as the nation of 26 million just defeated the second wave of surge of cases in Europe. In November of 2020, Australia recorded a total of 907 deaths, while the United States reported a death toll exceeding 234,000 at that time. It is without a doubt that Australia has been successful, but we are left with the question of “at what cost?” We have to wonder if the end goal of ensuring that no Australian is infected by the virus was worth all of the human rights violations that occurred – the lack of access to food and medicine and the restriction of re-entering the country that one is the citizen of.

For further information, please see:

CNA – Australia’s Victoria state violated human rights in COVID-19 lockdown: Report – 06 Jan. 2021

Freedom House – Australia – 06 Jan. 2021

Reuters – Australian State Violated Human Rights In COVID Lockdown-Report – 06 Jan. 2021

The Globe and Mail – Australian State Violated Human Rights In COVID Lockdown, Ombudsman says – 06 Jan. 2021

The New York Times – ‘Nightmare’ Australia Housing Lockdown Called Breach of Human Rights – 06 Jan. 2021

The New York Times – Stranded Overseas, Thousands Beg Australia to Let Them Come Home – 06 Jan. 2021

The Washington Post – Australia Has Almost Eliminated The Coronavirus – By Putting Faith In Science – 06 Jan. 2021

United Nations Human Rights – International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights – 06 Jan. 2021