Weekly News Recap (16-22 Nov 2020)

©Photo by ISAF Headquarters Public Affairs Office via Wikimedia Commons




ECtHR held that Swiss authorities failed to assess risks for gay man’s return to the Gambia

The 17 November judgment in the case B and C v. Switzerland concerned a homosexual couple, one of whom risked being returned to the Gambia following the rejection of his partner’s application for family reunification. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held, unanimously, that there would be a violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, because Gambian authorities were unwilling to provide protection for LGBTI people.


IACHR refers case on Ecuador to the IACtHR

On 18 November, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about its 6 November referral of the case of Joffre Antonio Aroca Palma and family, regarding Ecuador, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case concerned the illegal and arbitrary detention and extrajudicial execution of Joffre Antonio Aroca Palma in February 2001, as well as the situation of impunity in which the facts remain. IACHR considered that the use of lethal force employed constituted an extrajudicial execution and a violation of his right to life, and that his detention violated his rights to personal liberty, to judicial guarantees and judicial protection. Also, it observed that to date there continues to be a situation of impunity for the facts of the case and that the State has failed in its duty to guarantee an adequate investigation.


CJEU held that refusal to perform military service in Syria may give rise to entitlement to recognition as a refugee

The Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) found on 19 November that in the context of the civil war in Syria, there is a strong presumption that refusal to perform military service in Syria may give rise to entitlement to recognition as a refugee. In several situations, such refusal is an expression of political opinions or of religious beliefs or is motivated by membership of a particular social group. A Syrian conscript who fled the country is presently contesting before the Administrative Court in Hanover, Germany the decision of the German Federal Office for Migration and Refugees granting him subsidiary protection, but refusing to grant him refugee status. The Administrative Court in Hannover asked the CJEU to interpret the directive on international protection, according to which acts of persecution can take the form, inter alia, of prosecution or punishment for refusal to perform military service in conflict, where performing military service would include crimes or acts precluding recognition as a refugee, such as war crimes or crimes against humanity.


The Brereton report found Australian Special Forces involved in murder of 39 Afghan civilians

On 19 November, the Chief of the Defence Force of Australia announced the findings of the Afghanistan Inquiry report from the Inspector-General of the Australian Defence Force, major general Paul Brereton. The Brereton report has found that 39 Afghans were allegedly murdered by Australian special forces in 23 incidents, in some cases executing prisoners to “blood” junior soldiers before inventing cover stories and planting weapons on corpses. The report states that the conduct would constitute the war crime of murder. The Australian Defence is now exploring how it can make compensation payments to the families of the alleged victims.



ECtHR found Georgia in violation of the right to life for the death of a military officer in police custody

On 19 November, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) unanimously held that there has been a violation right to life in both its procedural and substantive aspects in the case of Shavadze v. Georgia. Following the five-day war between Georgian and Russian military forces in August 2008, the applicant’s husband was arrested on a street in Batumi by a unit of security forces of the Ministry of the Interior. The applicant’s husband had been killed by State agents of the Ministry of the Interior who had taken part in the arrest and escorting. The Court rejected the version presented by the Georgian Government that the law‑enforcement officers resorted to the use of force in an attempt to prevent the officer’s unlawful escape from police custody. The Court also took note of the eyewitness accounts of police brutality surrounding the arrest of the applicant’s husband and of the nature of the injuries clearly visible on the video-footage of the deceased’s body. The eyewitness accounts described mistreating the military officer as “a traitor to this country” and, apparently referring to the five‑day war, “a scam responsible for the death of scores of our boys”.


Prisoners convicted of terrorism-related crimes in Iraq face execution

On 20 November, it was reported that UN human rights experts expressed alarm at reports that some 50 prisoners convicted of terrorism-related crimes in Iraq face execution. The Iraqi government was urged to immediately halt all mass executions. The UN human rights experts expressed serious concerns about the conduct of the trials and the extraction of confessions under torture. Since October 2020, the Iraqi authorities have reportedly initiated a wave of executions of prisoners at the Nasiriyah central prison. The UN experts noted that death sentence carried out following an unfair trial or on the basis of an ambiguous law, amounts to an arbitrary deprivation of life and when carried out on a widespread and systematic basis, arbitrary executions may amount to crimes against humanity and may entail universal criminal responsibility for any official involved in such acts.



The Council of Europe’s Venice Commission published conclusions on electoral management in Europe

On 17 November, it was reported that following the 17th European Conference of Electoral Management Bodies organised by the Venice Commission of the Council of Europe on 12 and 13 November, the Venice Commission published conclusions to the conference held online on electoral law and electoral administration in Europe. Conference participants focused on two main issues. Firstly, recurrent challenges met and best practices used during electoral campaigns, voting operations, counting, tabulation and transmission of election results and secondly, holding elections during emergency situations: challenges met, and solutions found by electoral management bodies during the COVID-19 pandemic.


UN experts condemn Israel’s demolition of houses in Palestinian Bedouin community

On 19 November, it was reported that UN human rights experts condemned the demolition by Israel of the homes and property belonging to a Palestinian Bedouin community in the northern Jordan Valley of the West Bank, amid a significant rise in property demolitions across the occupied territory. In early November, at least 73 inhabitants, including 41 children, were displaced, and more than 75 structures – including tent homes, animal sheds and solar panels – were destroyed. According to the United Nations Office of the Coordinator for Humanitarian Affairs, due to property destruction by Israel, 869 Palestinians have been rendered homeless this year which is considered the largest numbers since 2016.


Conflict in Tigray, Ethiopia

On 19 November, the UN warned about the extreme conditions refugees fleeing to Sudan are facing. UNHCR spokesperson Babar Baloch, on 20 November, restated the need to assist the now 33 000 refugees, and announced thousands more to come. The conflict in Tigray is worsening, and four humanitarian camps’ routes are currently blocked. The 2018 peace agreement did not stop the flow of migrants, and the escalation between the national military (Ethiopian National Defence Force) and the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) will likely increase the number of refugees. The UN and its agencies are calling to all parties involved to protect the civilians as well as for a ceasefire.


https://www.unhcr.org/news/briefing/2020/11/5fb78cec4/urgent-support-needed-help-ethiopian-refugees-reaching-sudan.html https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/11/1078132



Declaration by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy on Nagorno-Karabakh

On 19 November, the High Representative welcome the cessation of hostilities following the agreement made between Azerbaijan and Armenia and also called on both parties to remain committed to the ceasefire. The EU stated its engagement to follow the implementation of the ceasefire and reminded that it is the first step to end the conflict. The High Representative also voiced its opposition to the use of violence, cluster ammunitions and incendiary weapons, and called for humanitarian law to be respected. In additoon, the EU called on the parties to implement the agreements on the exchange of prisoners of war and the repatriation of human remains reached within the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chairs format on 30 October in Geneva. More so, the EU stressed the importance of preserving and restoring the “cultural and religious heritage” in the region, and to investigate any war crimes.


UN experts call for probe into violence against protesters in Belarus

On 19 November, UN human rights experts expressed grave concerns about increased reports of mass detentions, intimidation and torture in Belarus, and called on authorities to conduct a prompt, independent and impartial investigation into the excessive use of force and unlawful retaliation at peaceful protests. The statement of the UN experts refers to the events of 15 November when at least 1200 peaceful protesters were reportedly detaineed in Minsk and throughout the country. The statement notes that security forces used stun missiles and tear gas against the protesters.


The UN General Assembly: Sixth Committee’s 75th session

On 20 November, the Sixth Committee of the UN General Assembly concluded its 75th session. Its work concerned various issues, from effective measures to enhance the protection, security and safety of diplomatic and consular missions and representatives to criminal accountability of the United Nations officials and experts on mission.  There were also provisions adopted in regard to international terrorism, crimes against humanity and the status of the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949. On crimes against humanity, the International Law Commission’s draft articles on prevention and punishment of crimes against humanity will be examined further, and included the item “Crimes against humanity” in the provisional agenda of its 76th session. Regarding the Protocols Additional to the Geneva Conventions of 1949, a resolution was adopted without a vote, thus calling upon all States to become Parties to the Additional Protocols, the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child on the involvement of children in armed conflict and other international treaties.



Council of the EU approved PESCO Strategic Review 2020

On 20 of November, the Council of the EU approved conclusions on the Permanent Structured Cooperation (PESCO) Strategic Review 2020. The review takes into account progress made and proposes guidance for the 2021-2025 phase, while highlighting 26 projects that can be fully operational or deliver results before the end of the next phase. There is still progress to be made: more binding commitments and concrete outputs are to be reached by 2025, to become a Full Spectrum Force Package. The aim is to form a strong and coherent EU’s military capacity, as PESCO is a voluntary framework for states to cooperate in the defense sector. As such, more visibility at the political level and transparency between the 25 member states are needed, especially since some non-European states can also join individual projects since the 5 of November.


Burkina Faso: Presidential and Legislative Elections

On 22 November, presidential and legislative elections were held in Burkina Faso. Extremist violence, mainly jihadis threats, may however block the democratic process, especially in regions in which people cannot register or cast ballots. Recent amendments to the electoral code indeed allow valid election results even if parts of the population could not vote. The government took measures to let citizens securely vote, as a safe and transparent process in these elections can weaken the influence of more extremist groups. Several initiatives have been set up to monitor irregularities, and the population has mobilized to participate in the democratic process.


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