Sharing the responsibility for refugees: A new global compact

An aerial view of the Za'atri refugee camp, Jordan, Wikimedia Commons

An aerial view of the Za’atri refugee camp, Jordan, Wikimedia Commons

Amnesty International, Sharing the responsibility for refugees: A new global compact, 9 May 2016, Index number: IOR 40/3906/2016

Wealthy states and the international community as a whole have failed to equitably share responsibility for managing the ongoing global refugee crisis. In his report In Safety and Dignity: Addressing Large Movements of Refugees and Migrants, published today, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has proposed a “Global Compact on responsibility-sharing” to create a more predictable and equitable way of responding to large movements of refugees.

This briefing urges states to use key upcoming international meetings to move from short-term stop-gap measures to long-term, proactive and globally coordinated solutions.

At the UN General Assembly High-Level Plenary on addressing large movements of refugees and migrants in September 2016, states should adopt a new Global Compact on predictable and equitable refugee responsibility-sharing, based on international human rights and refugee law. The Global Compact should include:

  • A permanent distribution system of resettlement places, based on objective criteria;
  • In cases of large movements of refugees, an additional distribution system to admit refugees through expedited safe and legal routes (“legal pathways” for admission) based on objective criteria;
  • Guaranteed full, flexible and predictable funding for refugee protection and meaningful financial support to countries hosting large numbers of refugees, over and above existing development assistance programmes;
  • Strengthened refugee status determination systems and increased use of prima facie recognition of refugee status;
  • Respect, protection and fulfilment of the rights of refugees in their country of asylum, including the enjoyment of an adequate standard of living, access to education, healthcare and other services, and economic self-reliance.

No Basic Rights for Palestinians in Hebron

In March 2016, the Israeli army renewed an order designating Al-Shuhada Street and parts of the archaeological site of Tel Rumeida in Hebron city a closed military zone; this order will be in place until at least mid-April. This was done to protect Israeli settlers, who are illegally living in the area, from possible assaults by Palestinians, or so the Israeli army told the media.

The military order was initially established at the end of October 2015, following a new wave of confrontations between Palestinians and Israeli forces and settlers, which began in mid-September 2015 in East Jerusalem and spread to Hebron in early October.

Under the military order, all entry is prohibited to Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida, with exceptions for Israeli settlers and Palestinian residents. Notably, the latter must prove their residency and undergo rigorous security inspections every time they pass through a checkpoint. Palestinian men are routinely asked by armed soldiers to remove their belts and shoes, lift their shirts and trousers legs, and remove their jackets. The bags of both men and women are regularly examined.

Describing the military order’s impact on Palestinians, one resident of Tel Rumeida told me, “I don’t feel safe. I don’t understand why they do this to us. We have been controlled even in the past, but now I feel that I am not treated as a human.” “Closing the area is preventing me from having international friends in my house. In the military zone you do not see an emergency ambulance, you become asocial, so you don’t think about visitors or birthday parties,” the man added.

 

Picture 1: “White line” checkpoint between Shuhada Street and the road to the Ibrahimi Mosque [Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci]

“White line” checkpoint between Shuhada Street and the road to the Ibrahimi Mosque (credit: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci).

Proving Residency

Before the military order, Palestinians were still prohibited from driving on any part of Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida, were routinely subjected to strict security checks, and often had to enter their homes through back entrances or from rooftops, because settlers or Israeli soldiers had blocked their main entrances. Nevertheless, anyone could enter the area, and the situation was relatively easier.

Now, international visitors and Palestinians residing in other areas are routinely turned away. Residents of Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida must register at checkpoints or with the Israeli Civil Administration for a number proving their residency. Those Palestinians who forget their residency number, or whose names are erroneously left off the registry list through no fault of their own, are denied access and forced to enter their homes through fields and alleyways.

Whatever the reason, it is both demeaning and outright dangerous to force Palestinians to access their homes this way. “Once I was turned back because the soldiers said I was not registered. They did not let me in but I tried again after a while and succeeded. This is very humiliating,” a resident of Shuhada Street told me. Others have had to endure hostile encounters with Israeli military personnel, including being shouted at or held for questioning.

Some Palestinian residents have chosen not to register with the new identification system, as a means of protesting the requirement.

Picture 3: Palestinians and Internationals protesting against the military zone in Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida [Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci]

Palestinians and Internationals protesting against the military zone in Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida (credit: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci).

A City Under Siege

Before October, only some of the nineteen checkpoints between the Old City and the Ibrahimi Mosque were staffed. Following confrontations between Palestinians and the Israeli army and settlers, more of these checkpoints have become operational.

At the end of December 2015, the Israeli military installed a new inspection machine at checkpoint 56, which forces Palestinian residents to go through two turnstiles and a room where they are searched and questioned. The machine also makes security checks lengthier.

Checkpoint 56 is in a key location in Hebron. It controls access to Shuhada Street, which leads to Ibrahimi Mosque, and separates the Israeli controlled side of Hebron (known as “H2”), from the Palestinian Authority controlled part of the city (known as “H1”).

Picture 2: New inspection machine at checkpoint 56 controlling access to Shuhada Street [Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci]

New inspection machine at checkpoint 56 controlling access to Shuhada Street (credit: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci).

For Palestinians, restrictions on movement in Shuhada Street are not new. The street was once one of the main commercial hubs in Hebron’s Old City. Access to the thoroughfare was restricted for the first time in 1994, after an American Jew, Baruch Goldstein, killed twenty-nine Palestinians and injured more than 100 additional worshippers at the Ibrahimi Mosque. In response, Israeli authorities banned Palestinian vehicles from accessing Shuhada Street, supposedly to prevent possible Palestinian retaliation. Israeli authorities also began limiting Palestinian access to the commercial district, which forced many shops to close down.

The 1997 Hebron Protocol, which divided the city into H1 and H2, reopened Shuhada Street to traffic, but not to commerce. During the Second Intifada, access to the area was completely closed off to Palestinians, leading to the permanent closure of Palestinian shops. Since the end of the Second Intifada, restrictions on Palestinian movement into and out of the area have only increased.

Resistance to Israeli Measures

According to Human Rights Watch and B’Tselem, during this latest round of violence, Israeli forces throughout the West Bank, Hebron included, have systematically engaged in the unlawful killing of Palestinians, who they view as a threat, regardless of whether the threat is real.

To protest this continuing oppression of the Palestinian community, the Hebron-based Palestinian human rights organization Youth Against Settlements (YAS) launched its seventh annual Open Shuhada Street Campaign on February 20. The campaign encourages people worldwide to pressure the Israeli government to open Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida to everyone. As part of the campaign, from February 20-28, YAS hosted various events in Hebron, including press conferences, photo exhibitions, film screenings, and memorials. The week’s events culminated on Friday February 26 with a demonstration demanding the opening of Shuhada Street.

The Hebron Defense Committee, a non-violent movement working to resist the presence of Israeli settlements and closure practices in the Hebron area, also organized a sit in at the north entrance to Shuhada Street earlier in February, to protest the closures. As part of these efforts, the organization launched the Dismantle the Ghetto, take the settlers out of Hebron campaign on February 20, which called for the removal of all illegal Israeli settlements from Hebron and an immediate end to the ‘closed military zone’ order in Tel Rumeida and Shuhada Street.

Picture 4: Banner calling for an end to the closed military zone [Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci]

A banner calling for an end to the closed military zone (credit: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci).

A Pathway to Settlements

The restrictions imposed on Palestinian residents of Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida have had devastating ramifications on their lives, careers, and health. According to the Ramallah-based human rights organization Al Haq, Israel’s closure of businesses, as well as main commercial and residential streets, has created harsh and restrictive living conditions for Palestinians living in H2. For these Palestinians, going to school, work, or even the hospital is an extremely arduous process.

Palestinians attempting to enter Shuhada Street held outside checkpoint 59 [Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci]

Palestinians attempting to enter Shuhada Street held outside checkpoint 59 (credit:  EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci).

With Palestinian ambulances prohibited from accessing the area, those in need of medical care must travel on foot from H2 to the Palestinian side of the city. This can be a fatal journey for some. In October 2015, Hashem Azzeh, a well-known non-violent Palestinian activist and resident of Tel Rumeida, died of a heart attack because he could not receive urgent medical care in H2.

As confirmed by the United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, movement restrictions, along with on-gong settler violence, reduced income, and restricted access to services and resources, has led to a reduction in the area’s Palestinian population. “This is a way to complete the settlement project and push people out and take over more houses. They want people to leave voluntarily. If this continues, they will succeed,” a man from Shuhada Street explained to me. “People cannot even renovate their houses so eventually they will feel [that] ‘Ok, Khalas’, this is enough. They will leave, if not today, maybe tomorrow,” he said.

Graffiti on door in Tel Rumedia [Photo: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci]

Graffiti on door in Tel Rumedia (credit: EAPPI/Sabrina Tucci).

No Basic Rights for Residents

Israel’s restrictions on Palestinians in Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida violate various principles of international law. These include the right to freedom without discrimination (Article 2 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights), the right to freedom of movement (Article 12 of the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights) and the right to an adequate standard of living and the continuous improvement of their living conditions (Article 11 of the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights). The restrictions, based on the false premise that all Palestinians are inherently dangerous, also violate the prohibition against collective punishment (Article 33 of theFourth Geneva Convention).

Israel’s practices in Shuhada Street and Tel Rumeida represent some of its most appalling human rights violations. As many human rights organizations have been asking and as Palestinians themselves are demanding, it is imperative that Israeli authorities fulfill their responsibilities under international law and lift the closed military zone, without further delay.

This article was originally published on Muftah.

Mr Cogito on the Need for Precision, Zbigniew Herbert, 1983

This post is dedicated to the memory of the refugees and migrants who died en route

Polish poet Zbigniew Herbert (1924-1998) first included Mr Cogito on the Need for Precision (Pan Cogito o potrzebie ścisłości) in the 1983 collection Report From The Besieged City and Other Poems (Raport z obłężonego miasta i inne wiersze). A commentary on the situation in Poland following the imposition of the martial law on 13 December 1981, the book was published in Paris and did not become officially available in Poland until 1992.

Mr Cogito on the Need for Precision is often quoted in works on the role of memory in the aftermath of widespread serious human rights violations (see, for example, this blog post by Patrick Krup). More practically, I like to think about it as a manifesto for accuracy and documentation in human rights work.


 

1

Mr Cogito
is alarmed by a problem
in the domain of applied mathematics

the difficulties we encounter
with operations of simple arithmetic

children are lucky
they add apple to apple
subtract grain from grain
the sum is correct
the kindergarten of the world
pulsates with a safe warmth

particles of matter have been measured
heavenly bodies weighed
and only in human affairs
inexcusable carelessness reigns supreme
the lack of precise information

over the immensity of history
wheels a spectre
the spectre of indefiniteness

How many Greeks were killed at Troy
– we don’t know

to give the exact casualties
on both sides
in the Battle of Gaugamela
at Agincourt
Leipzig
Kutno

And also the number of victims
of terror
of the white
the red
the brown
– O colours innocent colours –

– we don’t know
truly we don’t know

Mr Cogito
rejects the sensible explanation
that it was long ago
the wind has thoroughly mixed the ashes
the blood flowed to the sea

sensible explanations
intensify the alarm
of Mr Cogito

because even what
is happening under our eyes
evades numbers
loses the human dimension

somewhere there must be an error
a fatal defect in our tools
or a sin of memory

2

a few simple examples
from the accounting of victims

in an aeroplane disaster
it is easy to establish
the exact number of the dead

important for heirs
and those plunged in grief
the insurance companies

We take the list of passengers
and the crew
next to each name
we place a little cross

it is slightly harder
in the case
of train accidents

bodies torn to pieces
have to be put back together
so no head
remains ownerless

during elemental
catastrophes
the arithmetic
becomes complicated

we count those who are saved
but the unknown remainder
neither alive
nor definitely dead
is described by a strange term
the missing

they still have the chance
to return to us
from fire
from water
the interior of the earth

if they return – that’s fine
if they don’t – too bad

 

3

now Mr Cogito
climbs
to the highest tottering
step of indefiniteness

how difficult it is to establish the names
of all those who perished
in the struggle with inhuman power

the official statistics
reduce their number
once again pitilessly
they decimate those who have died a violent death
and their bodies disappear
in the abysmal cellars
of huge police buildings

eyewitnesses
blinded by gas
deafened by salvos
by fear and despair
are inclined toward exaggeration

accidental observers
give doubtful figures
accompanied by the shameful
word ‘about’

and yet in these matters
accuracy is essential
we must not be wrong
even by a single one

we are despite everything
the guardians of our brothers

ignorance about those who have disappeared
undermines the reality of the world

it thrusts into the hell of appearances
the devilish net of dialectics
proclaiming there is no difference
between the substance and the spectre

therefore we have to know
to count exactly
call by the first name
provide for a journey

in a bowl of clay
millet poppy seeds
a bone comb
arrowheads
and a ring of faithfulness

amulets

Zbigniew Herbert, ‘Mr Cogito on the Need for Precision’, in Report from the Besieged City and Other Poems, Translated with and Introduction and Notes by John Carpenter and Bogdana Carpenter, Oxford University Press 1987


 

For additional information on the human rights violations during the Polish martial law, see Amnesty International’s Annual Report 1982 (p280-285) and Annual Report 1983 (p265-270).

Litigating human rights 1/2: Amnesty International’s interventions before international tribunals

Faroe_stamp_131_amnesty_international FREE COPYRIGHTAmnesty International is known for being a vocal organisation: many of its activities are carried out publicly, via petitions, demonstrations, declarations. A large part of Amnesty International’s work, however, happens quietly, in backstage meetings and private conversations. Or before national and international courts and tribunals, where Amnesty International often appears as a third party or amicus curiae.

This post lists selected international cases in which Amnesty International has intervened, most often as a third party or an amicus curiae. It is a tribute to all the women and men who have contributed their vision and passion to this work, as well as to the lawyers who have lent their professional skills to human rights, representing Amnesty International pro bono.

Fore more info, have a look at: Dean Zagorac, “International Courts and Compliance Bodies: The Experience of Amnesty International”, in Tullio Treves (ed.), Civil Society, International Courts and Compliance Bodies (T.M.C. Asser Press, 2005), p11 ff.

International Courts

African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Amnesty International submitted several communications to the African Commission under Article 55 of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights

Amnesty International v Zambia, communication no. 212/98

Amnesty International and others v Mauritania, Communications no. 54/91, 61/91, 96/93, 98/93, 164/97, 196/97, 210/98

  • Decision, 27th Ordinary Session, Algiers, 27 April – 11 May 2000

Amnesty International and others v Sudan, Communcations Nos. 48/90, 50/91, 52/91 and 89/93

  • Decision, 26th Session, Kigali, 1–15 November 1999

Amnesty International v Tunisia, Communications no. 69/92 and 79/92

  • Decision, 13th Ordinary Session, Banjul, 29 March – 7 April 1993

Chutan (on behalf of Banda) and Amnesty International (on behalf of Orton and Vera Chirwa) v Malawi, Communications Nos. 64/92, 68/92, AND 78/92

  • Decision, 17th Session, Lomé, 13–22 March 1995

Community Court of Justice of the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS)

Civil Society Associations Gambia (CSAG) v Gambia

 SERAP v Federal Republic of Nigeria

Court of Justice of the European Union

X, Y and Z v Minister voor Immigratie, Integratie en Asiel (Minister for Immigration, Integration and Asylum), Joined Cases C-199/12, C-200/12, C-201/12

N.S. v Secretary of State for the Home Department (Case C-411/10) and M.E. & Others v ORAC (Case C-493/10)

European Court of Human Rights

Husayn (Abu Zubaydah) v Poland, Application No. 7511/13

A. P. and others v France, application no. 79885/12

  • Written comments submitted jointly by Amnesty International, ILGA Europe and Transgender Europe (TGEU), 24 July 2015

M.E. v Sweden, application no. 71398/12

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International, 11 April 2013 [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Fifth Section), 26 June 2014

Alekhina and others v Russia, application no. 38004/12

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch, 14 April 2014 [on file with Amnesty International]

Al Nashiri v Romania, application no. 33234/12

Tarakhel v. Switzerland, application no. 29217/12

Abu Zubaydah v Lithuania, application no. 46454/11

S.A.S. v. France, Application No. 43835/11

Al Nashiri v Poland, Application No. 28761/11

El-Masri v. the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, application no. 39630/09

Hämäläinen v. Finland, application no. 37359/09

  • Written observations of Amnesty International, 13 September 2013 [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 16 July 2014

M.S.S. v Belgium and Greece, Application No. 30696/09

Hirsi Jamaa and Others v Italy, application no. 27765/09

  • Written submissions on behalf of the AIRE Centre (Advice on Individual Rights in Europe), Amnesty International and the Fédération internationale des ligues des droits de l’Homme (FIDH) [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 23 February 2012
  • Amnesty International, Italy: ‘Historic’ European Court judgment upholds migrants’ rights, public statement, 23 February 2012

Sharifi and Others v. Italy and Greece, application no. 16643/09

Othman (Abu Qatada) v. the United Kingdom, application no. 8139/09

P and S v Poland, Application No. 57375/08

Z v Poland, Application No. 46132/08

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [on file with Amnesty International]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction)  of the Court (Fourth Section), 13 November 2012

Janowiec and Others v. Russia, application Nos. 55508/07 and 29520/09

X and others v. Austria, application No. 19010/07

Jones and Others v the United Kingdom, applications no. 34356/06 and 40528/06

  • See below for the UK proceedings
  • Written comments by Redress, Amnesty International, Interights and Justice, 20 February 2010
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Fourth Section), 14 January 2014

Ramzy v the Netherlands, Application No. 25424/05

  • Written comments by Amnesty International and six others, 22 November 2005
  • Judgment (Struck out of the List) of the Court (Third Section), 20 July 2010

BAYATYAN V. ARMENIA, APPLICATION NO. 23459/03

  • Written comments submitted by Amnesty International, Conscience and Peace Tax International, Friends World Committee for Consultation (Quakers), International Commission of Jurists, War Resisters’ International, Index POL 31/001/2010, 15 July 2010
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 7 July 2011

Tahsin Acar v Turkey, application no. 26307/95

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Preliminary Objection) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 6 May 2003

Assenov and Others v Bulgaria, application no. 24760/94

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International, 13 February 1998 [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Chamber), 28 October 1998

Kurt v Turkey, application no. 24276/94

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Chamber), 25 May 1998

AYDIN V TURKEY, APPLICATION NO.23178/94

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 25 September 1997

Chahal v the United Kingdom, Application no. 22414/93

Akdivar and Others v Turkey, Application No. 21893/93

  • Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber) 16 September 1996

McCann and others v the United Kingdom, application no.18984/91

John Murray v the United Kingdom, application no. 18731/91

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International and Justice [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Grand Chamber), 8 February 1996

Brannigan and McBride v the United Kingdom, application nos. 14553/89 and 14554/89

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Plenary), 26 May 1993

Soering v United Kingdom, Application No. 14038/88

  • Written comments on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment (Merits and Just Satisfaction) of the Court (Plenary), 7 July 1989

Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia

Case No.: 002/19-09-2007-ECCC-OCIJ-PTC

Inter-American Commission on Human Rights

Paloma Angélica Escobar Ledezma and others v Mexico, case 12.551

  • Amicus curiae brief on behalf of Amnesty International, 10 July 2007 [not available]
  • Report No. 51/13, 12 July 2013

Hul’qumi’num Treaty Group v. Canada, Petition 592-07

Luis Gabriel Caldas León v Colombia, case 11.596

  • Amicus curiae brief on behalf of Amnesty International [not available]
  • Report No. 137/10, 23 November 2010

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, contentious cases

Mendoza et al. v. Argentina

  • Amicus curiae brief presented by Amnesty International [not available]
  • Judgment of 14 May 2013 (Preliminary Objections, Merits and Reparations), Series C No. 260

Karen Atala Riffo and daughters v Chile (Case 12.502)

  • Amici curiae brief presented by Amnesty International and fifteen others, 8 September 2011
  • Judgment of 24 February 2012 (Merits, Reparations and Costs), Series C No. 239

Radilla Pacheco v. Mexico

González et al. (“Cotton Field”) v. Mexico

  • Amici curiae brief in support of petitioners presented by Amnesty International and others, 7 July 2009
  • Judgment of 16 November 2009 (Preliminary Objection, Merits, Reparations and Costs), Series C No. 205

Ronald Ernesto Raxcacó Reyes v Guatemala

Cayara v. Peru

  • Amnesty International joined Americas Watch as co-complainant in the case before the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights
  • Judgment of the Court (Preliminary Objections), 3 February 1993, Series C No. 14

Fairen-Garbi and Solis-Corrales v Honduras

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae, 7 January 1988 [not available]
  • Judgment of the Court (Merits), 15 March 1989, Series C No. 6

Godinez-Cruz v Honduras

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae, 7 January 1988 [not available]
  • Judgment of the Court (Merits), 20 January 1989, Series C No. 5

Velasquez-Rodriguez v Honduras

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae, 7 January 1988 [not available]
  • Judgment of the Court (Merits), 29 July 1988, Series C No. 4

Inter-American Court of Human Rights, Advisory Opinions

Request of Advisory Opinion submitted by the State of Panama

  • Request of Advisory Opinion submitted by the State of Panama, 28 April 2014
  • Written observations by Amnesty International submitted pursuant to Article 73(3) of the Rules of Procedure of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights, 30 March 2015

Legislative measures concerning the mandatory imposition of the death penalty and related matters

  • Request of Advisory Opinion presented by the Inter-American Commission of Human Rights, 20 April 2004
  • Written observations presented by Amnesty International, Index IOR 62/005/2004, 8 December 2004
  • Order of the Court, 24 June 2005 (Spanish only)

The Right to Information on Consular Assistance in the Framework of the Guarantees of the due Process of Law

  • Brief of Amnesty International as amicus curiae [not available]
  • Advisory Opinion OC-16/99 of 1 October 1999, Series A No.16

Judicial Guarantees in States of Emergency (Arts. 27(2), 25 and (8) American Convention on Human Rights)

International Court of Justice

Jurisdictional Immunities of the State (Germany v. Italy: Greece intervening)

International Criminal Court

The Prosecutor v Jean-Pierre Bemba Gombo, case no. ICC-01/05 -01/08

  • Amnesty International’s Application for leave to submit amicus curiae observations pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, no. ICC-01/05-01/08-399, 6 April 2009
  • Decision on Application for leave to submit amicus curiae observations
    pursuant to Rule 103 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence of the Pre-Trial Chamber II, no. ICC-01/05-01/08-401, 9 April 2009
  • Amnesty International’s Amicus curiae observations on superior responsibility, No. ICC-01/05-01/08-406, 20 April 2009

Special Court for Sierra Leone

Prosecutor v. Brima et al., Case No.SCSL-2004-16-AR73

  • Order of the Appeals Chamber on the appointment of amicus curiae, 2 December 2005
  • Corrigendum to the Order of the Appeals Chamber on the appointment of amicus curiae, 2 December 2005
  • Amicus curiae brief of Amnesty International concerning the public interest information privilege, 16 December 2005
  • Decision of the Appeals Chamber on Prosecution appeal against Decision on oral application for witness TF1-150 to testify without being compelled to answer questions on grounds of confidentiality

The EU is in dangerous territory with “safe” country lists for asylum-seekers

Lampedusa (Photo: noborder network/ Sara Prestianni)

Lampedusa (Photo: noborder network/ Sara Prestianni)

On 20 July the EU Justice and Home Affairs Council recommended that EU member states assess whether to include Western Balkan countries (Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, the former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Kosovo) in a possible common EU list of “safe countries of origin”. However, the “safe countries of origin” concept has little to do either with EU member states’ human rights obligations or with an evidence-based, rational assessment of the current reality of asylum in Europe.

Since 2005, EU law allows member states to designate certain countries as “safe” to make the asylum process quicker and cheaper. The asylum applications of those from “safe” countries can be examined at the border or in transit zones and in fast-track procedures. But quick and cheap can come at the expense of legality and fairness.

“Safe countries of origin” procedures are inherently unfair. The general presumption is that a country on the “safe” list does not “normally” produce refugees, so its nationals’ asylum claims are unfounded. It is up to the asylum seeker to prove otherwise – which is difficult to do, since documents and other evidence are often lost during long and turbulent journeys. The task becomes almost impossible since national accelerated procedures for “safe” countries impose strict time limits, which can be as short as two or three days.

Not only is this unfair; it is inherently discriminatory. What “safe countries of origin” procedures ultimately boil down to is that some asylum seekers are presumed to be bogus solely on the basis of their nationality. The prohibition of discrimination based on nationality is one of the most fundamental principles of international law, recognized in the EU Charter of Fundamental Rights and numerous others international agreements. Only three days after the EU decision, Canada’s Federal Court struck down as unconstitutional and discriminatory a government decision to designate 26 EU countries and the USA as “safe countries of origin” (2015 FC 892).

The assumption that people coming from certain countries do not need protection because their country is inherently “safe” runs against one of the key foundations of refugee law, i.e. the individual nature of the need for international protection. The idea that someone’s risk of being persecuted may be assessed on the basis of whether or not there is “generally” persecution in their country is simplistic. In fact, specific individuals (journalists, lawyers, opposition leaders, human rights defenders or members of ethnic or religious minorities) face persecution exactly because of what makes them the individual that they are: their gender, race, ethnicity, political and religious beliefs, sexual orientation, etc.

For this reason, even countries that portray themselves as “generally safe” can produce asylum seekers and refugees. EU countries are no exception. According to the UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR), at the end of 2014 nearly 50,000 people from the 28 EU member states had been recognized as refugees around the world, while a further 3,000 EU nationals were waiting for their asylum case to be decided (source: UNHCR Global Trends 2014).

With respect to Western Balkan countries, the EU decision ignores that in 2014 the French Conseil d’Etat and the Belgian Conseil d’Etat respectively withdrew Kosovo and Albania from their country’s list of “safe countries of origin”. The decision also ignores the fact that in certain states within the Balkans, specific groups may be at real risk of persecution. Few countries are, for example, able to provide LGBTI people or independent journalists whose lives are at risk with adequate protection. In Kosovo, UNHCR has identified a number of groups at “particular risk of persecution or serious harm… including through cumulative discriminatory acts”, including Serbs and Albanians in a minority situation and Roma.

So, if there is no such thing as a “safe country of origin”, what was behind the EU decision to potentially consider Western Balkan states as “safe”? The decision mentions these countries’ “European perspective” and the fact that their nationals are exempt from visa requirements. In other words, Western Balkans countries may be considered to be “safe” merely because they are or may become candidates for EU accession, not because of their ability to respect, protect and promote human rights. The arbitrary nature of any determination of “safe countries of origin”, either at the EU or at the national level, is evident.

In sum, “safe countries of origin” procedures are unfair, unlawful and absurd. The possible selection of Western Balkans countries is superficial and arbitrary. The very substantive danger of returning to persecution someone whose asylum claim is valid should outweigh any consideration based on expediency.

Thank you to: Nicola Delvino, Conor Fortune, Sian Jones and Anna Shea.

How to cite this article:
Francesca Pizzutelli, “The EU is in dangerous territory with “safe” country list for asylum-seekers”, The Rights Angle, https://therightsangle.wordpress.com/, 24 July 2015.

Litigating human rights: Amnesty International in the Pinochet case

Between 1998 and 2000, Amnesty International was directly involved in the legal proceedings to bring former Chilean President Augusto Pinochet to trial for his alleged involvement in the commission of crimes under international law.

General Pinochet’s arrest in the United Kingdom was the culmination of years of campaigning by the families of the victims.

 

Litigation in the Pinochet case was also the culmination of years of research by Amnesty International into the crimes under international law committed in Chile since 1973.

 

This post lists the public documents published by Amnesty International in relation to the proceedings of the Pinochet case in the United Kingdom. A timeline of key developments in the several strands of the Pinochet case can be found here.

This post is dedicated to the memory of Christopher Keith Hall

 

Phase I: Proceedings before the High Court and the House of Lords

Proceedings before the High Court

17 October 1998: General Pinochet is arrested in London

Proceedings before the House of Lords

25 November 1998: first House of Lords judgment – Judgment of the House of Lords, Regina v. Bartle and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others, Ex Parte Pinochet (on appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division); Regina v. Evans and another and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and others, Ex Parte Pinochet (on appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division), 25 November 1998

24 March 1999: second House of Lords judgment – Judgment of the House of Lords, Regina v. Bartle and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others Ex Parte Pinochet; Regina v. Evans and Another and the Commissioner of Police for the Metropolis and Others Ex Parte Pinochet (On Appeal from a Divisional Court of the Queen’s Bench Division), 24 March 1999

8 October 1999: A UK court orders the extradition of General Pinochet to Spain

3 December 1999: High Court of Justice, Queen’s Bench Division, In the matter of Augusto Pinochet Ugarte and In the matter of an application for a writ of habeas corpus ad subjiciendum, Decision, 3 December 1999

Chile - desaparecidos

Phase II: Judicial review case

Link

Written submissions on behalf of Amnesty International acting as amicus curiae in the case of Amjad Hussein v Labour Court before the Supreme Court of Ireland

The issue of principle which Amnesty International wishes to address is whether an irregular migrant worker is prohibited from obtaining redress against his or her employer where their contract of employment was not permitted under domestic legislation. Amnesty International submits that the common law doctrine of illegality does allow for the protection of irregular migrant workers in contract and/or tort law where they are exploited by their employer.