‘Killer Robots’ and ‘Conversion Therapies’ – The Human Rights Round-up
14 April 2015
This week’s Round-up is brought to you by Alex Wessely.
In the news:
Military chiefs have criticised the influence of Human Rights law in a report published this week, arguing that the “need to arrest and detain enemy combatants in a conflict zone should not be expected to comply with peace-time standards”. This follows a series of cases over the years which found the Ministry of Defence liable for human rights violations abroad, culminating in allegations of unlawful killing in the Al-Sweady Inquiry that were judged “wholly without foundation” in December.
“Killer Robots”: In other military news, Human Rights Watch argues in a report that there is a “dangerous gap” in legal accountability for “Killer Robots” – fully autonomous weapons which possibly represent the future of conflict. HRW calls on these weapons to be banned under international law, as “a fully autonomous weapon could commit acts that would rise to the level of war crimes if a person carried them out, but victims would see no one punished for these crimes”.
The ‘privacy versus security’ debate has also been in the news. Tom Jackson asks whether African governments can successfully tackle cybercrime while still preserving their citizens’ human rights. Meanwhile, Amnesty International are taking the UK to the European Court of Human Rights over the government’s “indiscriminate” mass surveillance practices.
- Keeping up the fight: Law Society President Andrew Caplen commends the Society’s “relentless lobbying”, but warns that more work is needed after the general election on the issue of court fee increases.
- America: President Obama has called for an end to ‘conversion therapies’ for LGBT youths. The controversial therapies aim to “repair” young gay, lesbian and transgender Americans into changing their sexual orientation.
- Malaysia: the UN warns that anti-terror and sedition laws “curtail human rights”.
In the courts:
The applicant, who was convicted of murder in 2004, has an IQ of 62 which places him in the bottom 1% of the population, and an understanding of English equivalent to a six year-old. In his original trial the judge allowed the jury to draw adverse inferences from his refusal to give evidence in his defence. This week, the European Court of Human Rights ruled this was not a violation of Article 6 (right to a fair trial). There was such strong circumstantial evidence linking him to the crime (such as a bloody knife and clothing found at his home), that the conviction was not solely based on his refusal to testify.
Cestaro was protesting the G8 summit in 2001. While sitting with his back to a wall and arms raised, Italian police beat him with batons causing multiple and permanent injuries. The ECHR ruled this amounted to torture under Article 3, and also criticised Italy’s criminal justice system for failing to bring the perpetrators to account.
The applicant is a divorced Iraqi woman and member of a minority Gnostic religious group, appealing a deportation order as she had previously suffered threats in Iraq. The European Court rejected the appeal, as the situation had been resolved under Swedish law, but emphasised that single women who are members of ethnic or religious minorities are at risk of ill-treatment in Southern and Central Iraq. The case is analysed here and here.
RightsInfo – the new project set up by this Blog’s very own Adam Wagner, will be launched on Tuesday 21st April. An update on the project can be found here.
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