Weekly News Recap (30 Nov-6 Dec 2020)




ECtHR: 33 European States ordered to respond to youth activists’ climate lawsuit

It was reported on 30 November that the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has taken an infrequent step of fast-tracking the climate case, requesting 33 European governments to reply to a landmark climate litigation lodged by six youth campaigners. 33 governments are obliged to respond by 23 February 2021. The case concerns the slow movement of governments to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that are threatening the climate and was filed after the shocking forest fires in Portugal in 2017 that killed almost more than 120 people.




British mercenaries investigated over Sri Lanka war crimes

It was reported on 30 November that the UK’s Metropolitan Police is investigating British mercenaries who were involved in the Sri Lankan civil war during the 1980s when a private security company Keenie Meenie Services (KMS) trained an elite unit of the Sri Lankan police called the Special Task Force (STF) to fight Tamil separatists. The STF has been implicated in a number of human rights abuses including executions without trial and killings of Tamil civilians. The investigation is believed to be the first time British mercenaries have been investigated by the Metropolitan Police.


ECtHR: Police failed to protect LGBTI demonstrators from homophobic attacks in the case Berkman v. Russia

The 1 December judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerned a public LGBTI meeting in St Petersburg and the authorities’ failure to protect participants from aggressive counter-demonstrators. The Court stressed that the authorities’ duty to take steps to facilitate and protect had been all the more important in the case of the applicant, who belonged to a vulnerable minority group towards whom there had been a history of public hostility in Russia. The Court found a violation of the right to liberty and security, a violation of the State’s obligations under the freedom of assembly and a violation of the State’s obligations under the freedom of assembly in conjunction with the prohibition of discrimination.


ECtHR: State-secrets treason trial lacked impartiality in the case Danilov v. Russia

The 1 December judgment concerned a physicist who had been found guilty of treason for giving away State secrets. The Court found that the composition of the jury had at least had objective issues around its impartiality, as some of the jurors had State security clearance. In addition, the failure to thoroughly examine that matter had breached the European Convention. The Court furthermore found that the applicant’s fair-trial rights had been breached when denied the right to cross-examine prosecution experts.


ICC’s Trust Fund for Victims to Open Assistance Programme in Georgia

It was announced on 1 December that the Board of Directors of the Trust Fund for Victims (TFV) at the International Criminal Court (ICC) has approved on 10 November 2020 an assistance programme for Georgia. The TFV Board’s decision was informed by the findings and recommendations of the thorough harm-based and victim-centred assessment conducted in 2019/2020. The assessment included wide-ranging consultations with victims, affected communities, Government, and civil society organisations. The objective of the situation assessment was to examine whether victims continue to suffer to date from persistent injuries resulting from the 2008 conflict and whether reparation or assistance interventions have been sponsored by Government, charities, or civil society. The ICC Prosecutor was authorised to open proprio motu investigation into the Situation in Georgia in January 2016.


ECtHR: Decision to lift the interim measure previously indicated in the case of Armenia v. Turkey

On 6 October 2020, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) called on all States directly or indirectly involved in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict, including Turkey, to refrain from actions that would contribute to breaches of the Convention rights of civilians and to respect their obligations under the Convention. On 17 November 2020, the Government of Turkey requested that the Court reconsider its decision and lift the interim measure, referring to the statement signed on 9 November 2020 by the President of the Republic of Azerbaijan, the Prime Minister of the Republic of Armenia and the President of the Russian Federation, declaring an end to hostilities in the Nagorno-Karabakh conflict with effect from midnight on 10 November 2020. On 1 December 2020, the Court decided, in view of that information, to lift the interim measure indicated on 6 October 2020 in the case of Armenia v. Turkey.


IACHR: Adoption of precautionary measures in favor of woman on death row in the United States of America

On 1 December 2020, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted resolution granting precautionary measures to Ms. Lisa Montgomery, a victim of horrific abuse who is currently on death row in Texas, the United States of America, allegedly under conditions of confinement incompatible with international human rights standards. The IACHR requested that the United States of America adopt the necessary measures to protect the life and right to humane treatment of Ms. Montgomery, and to refrain from carrying out the death penalty until the IACHR has had the opportunity to reach a decision on her petition. Furthermore, the IACHR requested that the State guarantee detention conditions that are compatible with international standards, with special consideration to her personal conditions; to provide appropriate medical attention for her physical or mental health conditions; and, lastly, to adopt the measures in question in consultation with the beneficiary and her representatives.

The UN human rights experts are concerned about her receiving insufficient legal assistance and her former trauma and mental health not appropriately considered during the trial. It was announced on 16 October 2020 that Ms. Montgomery’s execution was scheduled for 8 December 2020 and on 23 November 2020 the U.S. Government rescheduled the execution for 12 January 2021.  



ECtHR: Application concerning the handling of the COVID-19 crisis by France held inadmissible

The 3 December judgment of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) concerned the applicant’s objections to the handling of the COVID-19 crisis by France. In particular, the Court observed that the applicant had not shown how he was personally affected. It reiterated that it did not recognise an actio popularis, meaning that applicants cannot complain about a provision of domestic law, a domestic practice or public acts simply because they appear to contravene the European Convention on Human Rights.


ECtHR: Inaction of State in response to squatting of hotel by migrants in the case Papachela and Amazon S.A. v. Greece

The case concerned the occupation of a hotel for over three years by migrants and a group acting out of solidarity with them. The hotel belongs to Ms Papachela and to a limited company, of which she is the sole shareholder. The applicants complained that the authorities had remained inactive when asked to evict the squatters.  On 3 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found that there had been a violation of the protection of property, in particular that the authorities should have taken the necessary measures to secure their right to peaceful enjoyment of the property, while allowing for a reasonable period of time to find a satisfactory solution.


Switzerland: Former Liberian rebel commander Kosiah on trial

On 3 December, Alieu Kosiah, has gone on trial in Switzerland over alleged atrocities committed during Liberia’s civil war. Alieu Kosiah is charged with murder, rape and recruiting child soldiers. The trial in Switzerland is the first under a 2011 law that allows prosecution under universal jurisdiction for international crimes committed anywhere in the world. Furthemore, no Liberian has ever been convicted of crimes committed during the conflict. The former leader of Liberia, Charles Taylor, has been convicted for crimes committed in neighbouring Sierra Leone.



ACtHPR: Advisory opinion on the compatibility of vagrancy laws

On 4 December, the African Court of Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) delivered an advisory opinion requested by the Pan African Lawyers Union (PALU) on the compatibility of vagrancy laws adopted in many African States with the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights and other human rights treaties applicable in Africa. PALU submitted that that many Member States of the African Union retain laws which criminalise the status of individuals as being poor and that African States abuse vagrancy laws to arrest and detain people even when there is no proof of criminal conduct. The Court found that vagrancy laws are incompatible with several prosivions of the African Charter, the Children’s Rights Charter and the Women’s Rights Protocol. The Court held that the obligations under these treaties require the States to either amend or repeal their vagrancy laws and by-laws to bring them in conformity with these instruments.



ECtHR: Supreme Court of Slovakia requests an advisory opinion on police complaints mechanism

On 4 December, in accordance with Protocol No. 16, the Supreme Court of Slovakia has asked for guidance from the European Court of Human Rights on whether the Control and Inspection Service Department meets the criteria laid down by the European Convention on Human Rights under Article 2 (right to life), Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment) and Article 6 (right to a fair trial) concerning the investigation of crimes committed by police officers, in particular that such investigations have to be carried out by an independent and impartial authority.



SA Council: EU-Kosovo development

On 30 November, the members of the Stabilisation and Association Council (SA Council) discussed Kosovo’s development on political, economic and financial criteria from the 2015 Stabilisation and Association Agreement. Kosovo’s commitments to the agreement, as well as its EU-facilitated Dialogue with Serbia, were welcomed. However, reforms in different sectors, including rule of law, fundamental rights, and public administrations were brought up by participants. They also stressed the importance of visa liberalization for Kosovo citizens. More so, the Kosovo’s regional participation importance was highlighted, especially since its implementation of the Action Plan to develop a Common Regional Market and the Green Agenda for the Western Balkans (Sofia Summit of 10 November 2020) will lead to a green and digital transition.


CoE: Convention on access to official documents enters into force

The Council of Europe (CoE) Convention on Access to Official Documents, the first binding international legal instrument to recognize a general right of access to official documents held by public authorities, entered into force on 1 December in respect of ten CoE member states: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Estonia, Finland, Hungary, Lithuania, Montenegro, Norway , the Republic of Moldova, Sweden and Ukraine.


OAS General Secretariat Published Update Report on Venezuelan Migrant and Refugee Crisis

On 1 December, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) published an update report to November 2020 on the crisis of Venezuelan migrants and refugees. The report highlighted that the closure of borders during the Covid-19 emergency and the deepening of the crisis in Venezuela, have led Venezuelans to cross uneven roads or traverse dangerous sea routes to flee the country, thus increasing its condition of vulnerability. The report remarked that to date, about 130 thousand Venezuelans have returned to the country. However, the economic reopening in countries such as Colombia, Peru and Ecuador have reduced the return and reactivated the outflow. Also, about 500 Venezuelans are entering Colombia on irregular roads on a daily basis.


NATO two days meeting: Focus on Russia, China and Afghanistan

From the 1 December to 2 December, NATO foreign ministers discussed Russia’s military capacities, China, and the situation in Afghanistan. Regarding the latter, the Allies remain committed to support Afghanistan in fighting terrorism, while the Secretary General noted the coming turning point on whether they should risk pursuing conflict, or leave and potentially let the terrorists to come back. The Foreign Ministers agreed on limitations of nuclear weapons and arms control for Russia’s military build-up. The Secretary General highlighted the importance of international rules-based regime when discussing growing Chinese activities. The meeting concluded on the Black Sea region, in which NATO restated its support to Georgia and Ukraine.




UNGA: 75th Session on Middle East, Illegality of Annexing Occupied Palestinian Territory

On 2 December, during its 75th session the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) adopted five resolutions on the question of Palestine and the Middle East, including one on the illegality of annexing any part of the Occupied Palestinian Territory, and two on the importance of fostering a culture of peace. The resolution “Peaceful settlement of the question of Palestine” was adopted by 145 votes in favour to 7 against with 9 abstentions, concerning the promotion of human security, de-escalation and pursuit of peace. The “Syrian Golan” resolution was adopted by a vote of 88 in favor to 9 against with 62 abstentions, thus declaring that Israel’s decision to impose its laws, jurisdiction and administration on the occupied Syrian Golan null and void and that it should withdraw from the region. The Assembly, via an adopted resolution, also called on the Committee on the Exercise of the Inalienable Rights of the Palestinian People to pursue its efforts so that the Israeli occupation would end. The Permanent Observer for the State of Palestine urged the international community to ensure accountability and take action in ending the occupation, while Israel’s representative denounced the session’s draft resolutions.


OAS General Secretariat Report Reaffirms Crimes against Humanity in Venezuela

On 2 December, the Organization of American States (OAS) General Secretariat released a report that reaffirms crimes against humanity committed by Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela since 12 February 2014.  The General Secretariat also criticizes the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) for failure to open an investigation. The 145-page report expands on the report by the 2018 OAS Panel of Independent Experts, which concluded there was a reasonable basis to believe crimes against humanity were being committed in Venezuela. The report identifies instances of extrajudicial executions, cases of arbitrary detention, instances of enforced disappearance and cases of torture, rape and sexual violence.


UN Security Council: Situation in Yemen

On 3 December, the UN Group of Eminent Experts on Yemen (GEE) presented its report to the UN Security Council. Several violations of human rights and international humanitarian law were detailed, including but not limited to airstrikes, mortar shelling, recruitment of child soldiers, unlawful killing, and torture. The GEE highlighted the endemic impunity and that the responsibility of these abuses lies on all involved actors of the conflict, including international actors who should intervene “to help the Yemeni people”. As such, the group called for third states to stop arms selling in the region and urged the Security Council to expand its sanctions as well as to integrate human rights into its regular agenda. The group also demanded more accountability to end the perpetuation of violence, and thus suggested the UN Security Council to refer the situation in Yemen to the International Criminal Court.


Ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh

On 4 December, the UN Secretary-General celebrated the continuing ceasefire in Nagorno-Karabakh that led to several thousand Russian peacekeepers being deployed in the region. The UN stated its commitment to provide humanitarian support to all civilians impacted by the fighting, and called on all involved actors to pursue the implementation of international humanitarian and human rights law as well as to cooperate with the United Nations. Secretary General Guterres stressed the importance for Armenia and Azerbaijan to resume negotiations “to foster regional peace, stability, and prosperity”. The Secretary-General took note of the 3 December Joint Statement by the Heads of Delegation of the OSCE Minsk Group Co-Chair Countries that not only called on the international community to take measures in improving the humanitarian situation but also stated their commitment to non-use of force in settling disputes. More so the Co-Chair stated that Armenia and Azerbaijan should engage in negotiation toward a peace agreement and thus to “resolve all outstanding issues in accordance with an agreed timetable“.



UN and AU Partnership: Report to the UN Security Council

On 4 December, the UN Secretary-General praised the results of its partnership with the African Union (AU) in peacekeeping operations. He also recognized several challenges, including the covid crisis, climate emergency, terrorism and conflicts. He stated his commitment to AU-led initiatives as well as trust building between the organizations and increasing cooperation between the UN Security Council and the AU Peace and Security Council. The Security Council encouraged the UN and the AU to further their coordination, and expressed concern over the situation in Ethiopia. The Chairperson of the African Union Commission proposed the continent to have a permanent presence within the Council, as most of the peace and security issues on the agenda of the Security Council concern Africa, and also urged the international community to acknowledge the principle of burden-sharing.



UN Security Council: Report on Burundi

On 4 December, the UN Security Council concluded its mandatory report on Burundi. It encouraged the state to address human rights violations and to pursue the dialogue with its international partners, while noting its improved security situation. The recent elections, while promising fighting impunity and promoting gender equality, need to be paired with the development of the rule of law, democratic space and fundamental freedoms, as well as national reconciliation. On these points, the United Nations stated its commitment to assist the Burundi government. Regarding security, the UN Security Council highlighted the engagement of the Peacebuilding Commission, especially for its role in maintaining dialogue between Burundi and international actors. More so, the Council stressed the importance of support by the United Nations and the African Union to ensure sustainable peace and development.


UN Security Council: Fighting Piracy in Somalia

On 4 of December, the Security Council renewed the authorization for international naval forces fighting piracy off Somali Coast in Resolution 2554 (2020) for 12 months. Despite a decline in pirate attacks as well as in their success, the Council highlighted the threat that resurgent piracy and armed robbery at sea posed. Not only did the Security Council call on the Somali government to hold accountable all actors involved in these acts, but Security Council also urged member states to assist and strengthen Somalian maritime capacities – at the request of Somalia. Furthermore, the arms embargo will not apply to weapons and military equipment for the use of Member States, and involved organizations: the Council thus encouraged states to take appropriate actions under their laws against illicit financing of piracy and laundering from such activities, and to share information with the International Criminal Police Organization (INTERPOL). The Security Council stressed the need to protect women and children from exploitation in the counter-terrorism plans.


UN Human Rights Council: Situation in Belarus

On 4 December, the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights presented an update for the Human Rights Council on the 2020 Belarus presidential elections and the aftermath. Michelle Bachelet, United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported increasing human rights violations and no improvement since the Human Rights Council’s last debate in September. The Permanent Representative of Belarus insisted that the situation in his country “did not require special attention by the Council”, especially since Belarus completed a month ago its third Universal Periodic Review cycle. Speakers followed the High Commissioner’s call on the Belarus government to release and stop prosecuting human rights defenders and expressed concerns about rigged elections. They also stated the need for the international community to remain unified against the arbitrary arrests, tortures and sexual violence, all part of the repression, while other speakers emphasized the importance of respecting the sovereignty of Belarus.



Leave a Reply