Weekly News Recap (23-29 Nov 2020)




Myanmar’s genocide against Rohingya is allegedly continuing

It was reported on 23 November, that Myanmar’s genocide against the Rohingya is allegedly continuing despite the provisional measures ordered by the International Court of Justice (ICJ). While the ICJ ordered Myanmar to regularly report back to it until a final decision is rendered by the ICJ, Burma Rohingya Organisation UK stated on 23 November that “[t]he Myanmar government and military are calculating that they can safely ignore the provisional measures and not face any consequences”. The latest report has been submitted to the ICJ on time but lawyers and activists are urging the ICJ to force Myanmar to make the report public to allow full scrutiny, claiming the lack of transparency and noting that the Rohingya have been excluded from voting in the November’s elections. The New York-based Global Justice Center stated that “Myanmar has done nothing to address the root causes of discrimination and impunity that give rise to the ongoing risk of genocide against the Rohingya”.


DRC: Militia leader Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka sentenced for war crimes

On 23 November, Ntaberi Sheka was sentenced to life in prison by a military court in Goma for committing murder, rape, sexual slavery and enlisting children under the age of 15 by his militia, the Nduma Defense of Congo (NDC), in Walikale and Masisi territories in 2010 and between 2012 and 2014. In July 2017, Ntabo Ntaberi Sheka surrendered to UN peacekeepers in the DR Congo.

The court also sentenced an NDC fighter, Jean Claude Lukambo, alias “Kamutoto,” to 15 years in prison for insurrection and murder. Séraphin Nzitonda, alias “Lionceau,” a former leader of the Democratic Forces for the Liberation of Rwanda (FDLR) was found guilty of rape as a crime against humanity and sentenced to life in prison. Sheka’s nurse, Jean Ndoole Batechi, was acquitted.



ECtHR: No violation of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment in the case of Bardali v. Switzerland

The 24 November judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerned the applicant’s conditions of detention in Champ-Dollon Prison in the Canton of Geneva. The Court found that the lack of personal space for the applicant (less than the 4 m² standard established by the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment) could not on its own constitute a breach of the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment. In the light of the overall material conditions of detention, the Court concluded that the applicant had not been subjected to distress or to an ordeal of an intensity exceeding the unavoidable level of suffering inherent in detention.


ECtHR: Several violations on account of the pre-trial detention of the journalist Ahmet Şık

The 24 November judgment concerned the initial and continued pre-trial detention of the journalist Ahmet Şık, who was suspected of disseminating propaganda in favour of organizations considered to be terrorist organizations or of assisting them through articles and interviews published in the Turkish daily newspaper Cumhuriyet and social media posts, all of which criticized government policy. In particular, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) considered that the written material for which Mr Şık had been accused and placed in detention came within the scope of public debate on facts and events that were already known, that it amounted to the exercise of European Convention freedoms, and that it did not support or advocate the use of violence in the political sphere or indicate any wish on the applicant’s part to contribute to the illegal objectives of terrorist organizations.

The Court found that that there had been a violation of the right to liberty and security, that there had been a violation of freedom of expression, that there had been no violation of the right to speedy review of the lawfulness of detention and that there had been no violation of the limitation on use of restrictions on rights.


IACtHR: El Salvador complied with the Judgment in the Clindress Schonenber Case

It was reported on 25 November, that in accordance with the provisions of the Order on Monitoring Compliance with Judgment issued by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) on 18 November 2020, El Salvador complied with the execution of all the reparations ordered in the Judgment of 4 February 2019. In the judgment, the State was found in breach of its obligations due to the dismissal of Mr. Colindres Schonenberg from his post as Magistrate of the Supreme Electoral Court. The IACtHR decided to close and archive the case.


Iran: UN experts called on Iran halt execution of Ahmedraza Djalali

On 25 November, UN experts called on Iran to halt execution of a medical doctor and academic Ahmedraza Djalali sentenced to death in October 2017 on spurious espionage charges. Djalali has been transferred to solitary imprisonment in preparation for his execution. Consequently, UN experts claim that the decision of the Iranian Government and judiciary to execute Mr. Djalali is completely disgraceful as his trial was grossly unfair and he was tortured.


Cambodia: UN expert alarmed by reports of mass trial of activists

It was reported on 25 November, that the UN human rights expert on Cambodia expressed serious concerns about an imminent mass trial of individuals associated with the disbanded Cambodia National Rescue Party (CNRP). On 26 November 2020, the Phnom Penh Municipal Court have started trials of at least 113 individuals summoned by the Court. Most of the activists face charges of conspiracy and provocation to create serious chaos to social security, crimes punishable by up to 10 years in jail. Accordingly, UN expert claims that the judicial proceedings adopted by this Court seem to be part of a strategy to threaten and disgrace the government’s opponents. 


Nagorno-Karabakh: Azerbaijan investigates war crimes commited during the conflict

On 25 November, Azerbaijan’s Prosecutor General confirmed that Azerbaijan is investigating alleged war crimes committed by Armenian and Azerbaijani forces. The Prosecutor General stated that his office is also investigating the use of foreign fighters by Armenian separatists as well as allegations of inhumane treament of Armenian soldiers taken as prisoners.



African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights: Lack of temporal jurisdiction in a case concerning an indigenous people in Ghana

On 27 November, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights delivered a judgment in the case Akwasi Boateng and 351 Others v. Republic of Ghana concerning a land claim by indigenous people and members of the Twifo Hemang Community living in the Central Region of Ghana. However, since the confiscation of the land and the related laws occurred before the Respondent State became a party to the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and to the Protocol, the Court lacked temporal jurisdiction to consider the matter.



UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee: Increased Terrorism Risks due to the Covid Crisis

On 23 November, the UN Security Council Counter-Terrorism Committee expressed its concern over the risk of increased terrorist and violent extremist activities due to COVID-19. The global crisis could lead to more promotion via propaganda and fundraising, while the Security Council Committee strives to pursue its resolutions on ISIL, Al-Qaida and other associated threats.  The travel bans can be mitigated through the use of online technologies and an enhanced cooperation with outside experts, but many core activities were postponed until 2021 nonetheless, such as counter-terrorism assessments. The Committee stressed the threat these groups pose, particularly in the African and in the South and South-east Asian regions. The increase in terrorist acts is more often committed by lone actors, which is a departure from previous trends.


UN Security Council: 2021 Elections Plan in Somalia

On 23 November, the UN Security Council announced the plan to hold parliamentary and presidential elections through indirect voting in 2021. This agreement, adopted by consensus among Somalian officials, not only ends a two-years political stalemate, but also arrives at a time in which Somalia will take the lead on security matters, as the head of UN Assistance Mission in Somalia (UNISOM) stressed when discussing the need for a ”strategic vision”. The Federal Government, currently drafting a security transition plan, must take into account operational objectives, plans for force generation, coordination structures to be able to discuss cooperation with the Somali security forces, AMISOM, the UN, and bilateral security partners. There are indeed several hurdles before reaching that: attacks of Al-Shabaab remain a threat, especially in the electoral period the country will enter. While its partners support its democratic processes, Somalia’s model of voting received criticism, as it is not direct universal suffrage for parliamentary elections, and nominations to the electoral management were behind schedules.



At least 600 civilians killed in a massacre in Tigray, Ethiopia

On 24 November, responding to allegations that the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF) is stationing itself among civilians, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the parties to the conflict in Tigray to give clear and unambiguous orders to their forces to take constant care to spare and protect the civilian population from the effect of the hostilities. She reminded all parties to the conflict that the obligation to respect international law is not conditional on the other party’s behavior. Reports continued to emerge of arbitrary arrests and detentions, killings, as well as discrimination and stigmatization of ethnic Tigrays.

On 24 November, the Ethiopian Human Rights Commission released a report with preliminary findings, following an investigation which found that atrocities which may amount to crimes against humanity and war crimes were committed by “Samri”, a local youth group, aided and abetted by the local administration, police and militia. It is estimated that at least 600 identified as belonging to Amhara and Wolkait ethnic groups have been killed in Maikadra, a town in western Tigray on 9 November. Ethiopian Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed in a statement called the commission’s findings “heart-wrenching” and urged the international community “to condemn these atrocious acts of crimes against humanity.”





UN: Iraqi bilateral relations with Kuwait

On 24 November, the UN Security Council President welcomed the cooperation between Iraq and Kuwait on missing Kuwaiti and third-country nationals, including repatriation of human remains and the restitution of missing properties from the former to the latter. The UN Security Council, while appreciating the commitment of Iraqi authorities to their obligations, also expressed its concerns over the financial and economic crisis, which may lead to foreign-powers rivalries. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Iraq (UNAMI) discussed the numerous and interlinked crisis within the country, as well as the need for technical assistance and support for the coming June 2021 elections requested by the Iraqi government. The Special Representative stressed the importance of “Iraqi-owned and Iraqi-led” credible elections, not only for its citizens but also for regional stability. The federal Government in Baghdad and the Kurdistan Regional Government in Erbil were then urged to respect their engagements towards each other, despite the unclear constitutional guidance that paralyzed the political processes between the two.



The Council of Europe’s Advisory Committee on the Framework Convention for the Protection of National Minorities published biennial report for 2018-2020

In its biennial report for 2018-2020 published on 25 November, the Committee held that the populist xenophobic discourse in the name of the “majority” is seeking to limit the minorities’ spaces even further and it may threaten the inclusive nature of European societies. The Committee also stressed that acceptance of such discourse dissuades persons belonging to minorities to seek an active role in public debate and effectively participate in public affairs and in making decisions in the areas which affect them. The Committee noted that backsliding on minority rights weakens democracy.


UN Security Council: Constitutional Committee‘s work on Syria

On 25 November, the Constitutional Committee’s commitment to create a new Constitution and bring all involved actors in Syria together was discussed. Even though it presented opportunities for both sides to advance the political process, the Deputy Special Envoy Khawla Matar stated it had “not made the kind of progress we hoped for”, also noting that the Committee’s planned meeting still provides opportunities to build trust and confidence between the parties. During the meeting, a commemoration for the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women was made, as Syrian women are still subject to violence. Other topics discussed were the call for a national ceasefire following the resolution 2254 (2015) and the internal displacements concerning 6.7 million Syrian people, most of whom do not have their basic needs ensured at the beginning of winter. The ceasefire agreement between Russia and Turkey, however, allowed around 24 000 displaced people to return to their region, while violence is still ongoing.


UN Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights: Trinidad and Tobago’s deportation of 25 Venezuelans

On 25 November, the UN Rights Office spokesperson expressed concerns over the deportation of 25 Venezuelans. Trinidad and Tobago agreed on escorting nine adults and 16 children toward the Venezuelan coast, as the Trinidad and Tobago High Court considered they were outside of its jurisdiction. Arrived on 22 November, the group’s whereabouts remained unknown for 24 hours, and it is supposed the Venezuelans were returned to their country on 24 November.


The UN Committee on the Elimination of Racial Discrimination published guidance on fighting racial profiling

On 26 November, the Commitee published General recommendation No. 36 on Preventing and Combating Racial Profiling by Law Enforcement Officials, emphasizing the serious risk of algorithmic bias when artificial intelligence (AI) is used in law enforcement. The Committee noted that the increased use by law enforcement of big data, AI, facial recognition, and other new technology risks deepening racism, racial discrimination, xenophobia and consequently the violation of many human rights.



UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances: Impunity in Iraq

On 27 November, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances published a report on a pattern of enforced disappearances and impunity in Iraq. The Committee called on the country to add to its legislation the offence of enforced disappearance and make sure “that no person is held in secret detention”. The Committee, composed of 10 independent experts, previously welcomed the two fact-finding committees Iraq created in 2016 and 2018, as well as the drafted Bill on the Protection of Persons from Enforced Disappearance – despite the delays its adoption faces and its flaws. Moreover, the UN Committee expressed its concern over the lack of reliable data and the existence of several unidentified bodies and mass graves. They invited the Iraqi state to investigate 420 alleged facilities for secret detention, and, if they were to exist, to convert them into regular sites and actively fight secret detention.


UN: Egyptian Activists Detained

On 27 November, UN independent experts called on Egyptian government to release activists potentially arrested in retaliation for having discussed human rights issues with foreign actors. Within days of a meeting with 13 ambassadors on 3 November, activists from the Egyptian Initiative for Personal Rights (EIPR) were arrested and now face terrorism and public security charges. The UN experts denounce these acts, that started in 2016 with frozen accounts and travel bans out of the country for the founder of the EIPR. The four activists are detained in the Tora prison (Cairo), while the Egyptian state defends its actions under counter-terrorism. The experts, including special rapporteurs also working as part of the Working Group on Enforced or Involuntary Disappearances, call on Egypt to release them and drop charges against them.


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