Weekly News Recap (7-13 Dec 2020)




IACtHR: Colombia complied with the Judgment in the case Yarce et al. v. Colombia

On 7 December, the resolution of the President of the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) stated that Colombia has complied with reimbursing the Victims’ Legal Assistance Fund of the IACtHR with the amount ordered in the Yarce et al. Judgment (4,841.06 USD). The Judgment of 22 November 2016 concerned the international responsibility of the State of Colombia for a series of human rights violations of five human rights defenders and community leaders and their families due to the events that started in 2002 in the place known as Comuna 13, in the city of Medellín. The events took place in the context of armed conflict in the area when these victims were threatened, harassed, detained or killed, suffered raids and occupation and destruction of their homes and, consequently, were forced to move.


KSC: Court of Appeals Panel issues first appeal decision on Hysni Gucati’s arrest and detention

On 9 December, the Panel of the Court of Appeals Chamber of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers issued its first interlocutory appeal decision concerning an appeal filed by Hysni Gucati against the Single Judge’s decisions regarding the legality of his arrest and application for bail. The Court of Appeals Panel considered that the Specialist Chambers’ legal framework confirms that the Single Judge had the power to issue an arrest warrant before the filing of an indictment. The Court of Appeals Panel further found that provisional release decisions are discretionary and that the Single Judge did not abuse his discretion in addressing the conditions proposed by Mr. Gucati in support of his application for bail. Consequently, the Court rejected Gucati’s appeal in its entirety.



Lithuania: Prosecution launches criminal probe into allegations of torture committed by Belarusian officials

It was reported on 9 December, that Lithuania’s prosecutor general has launched on that day a criminal probe under universal jurisdiction into crimes against humanity of torture allegedly commited in Belarus against an activist who lodged a compliant with the prosecution in Lithuania. Exiled Belarusian opposition leader Svetlana Tikhanovskaya welcomed the move and urged other European countries to follow the action of Lithuania. It has been reported previously that supporters of the Belarusian opposition would lobby state prosecutors in several European countries to investigate accusations of torture by Belarusian authorities.



ICC: Conclusion of the preliminary examination into the Situation in Iraq

On 9 December, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced the conclusion of the preliminary examination into the Situation in Iraq/United Kingdom (UK). While confirming, that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of the British armed forces committed the war crimes of wilful killing, torture, inhuman/cruel treatment, outrages upon personal dignity, and rape and/or other forms of sexual violence, the OTP has decided to close the preliminary examination and not to open an investigation. The domestic proceedings in the UK has resulted in not one single case being prosecuted to date and although a handful of cases have been referred for prosecution, in each instance, prosecution was declined on evidentiary and/or public/service interest grounds.

Given the range and scope of the allegations examined by domestic authorities in the UK, the OTP assessed that it could not conclude that the UK authorities had remained inactive and that it could not substantiate allegations that the UK investigative and prosecutorial bodies had engaged in shielding of the perpetrators. The OTP determined that the only professionally appropriate pronouncement at this stage is to close the preliminary examination, reserving the right to a reconsideration based on new facts or evidence.



Kenya: Government Found Responsible for Post-Election Sexual Violence

On 10 December, the High Court in Nairobi issued a judgment finding the Kenyan government responsible for failure to protect, investigate and prosecute the post-election sexual and gender-based violence (SGBV) that took place in Kenya in 2007-2008 following a disputed presidential election in 2007. In the ruling, the Court reaffirmed that Kenya has the obligation to protect its citizens from SGBV and investigate and prosecute those crimes effectively. Discussing the rights violated, the Court recognized that rape and sexual violence constitute forms of torture, including acts of forced circumcision. The Court ruled that the right to life, protection from torture and ill treatment and right to security of the person had been breached due to the State’s failure to protect. Furthermore, the right of these survivors to an effective remedy had also been breached due to Kenya’s failure to conduct an effective investigation. The court awarded reparations in favor of the four petitioners in relation to which the Court found violations.



UNITAD’s report to the UN Security Council: Collaboration with Iraqi authorities to hold ISIL accountable

On 10 December, Head of United Nations Investigative Team to Promote Accountability for Crimes Committed by Da’esh/Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant (UNITAD), Karim Asad Ahmad Khan, restated the team’s commitment and highlighted successes to the UN Security Council. The team’s collaboration with Iraqi authorities was praised, and the partnership developed an invaluable experience when dealing with communities impacted not only by ISIL but the covid crisis, too. These successes may allow the team to finalize next year the first thematic case brief related to crimes committed against the Yazidi community in Sinjar and the massacre of personnel in Tikrit, as well as to expand its lines of investigation and address other crimes against humanity. In that regard, other partnerships for the Iraqi authorities with UNITAD led to a framework for identification of victims and gathering criminal evidence, which will be used to return the remains found in mass graves. Their priority is to hold ISIL accountable, which is why Iraq is currently drafting a “legal framework that would allow for the prosecution of ISIL crimes as war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide under Iraqi domestic law”.


ECtHR: Detention in Slovakia of a Russian national with a refugee status in Sweden unlawful in the case of Shiksaitov v. Slovakia

The Judgment of 10 December concerned the alleged unlawfulness of the applicant’s arrest and detention with a view to his extradition to Russia, despite having refugee status in Sweden. On 12 July 2007, in the Chechen Republic in Russia, a court issued an international arrest warrant for the applicant, Hamzat Shiksaitov, a Russian national, who was suspected to have committed acts of terrorism. The applicant was arrested in Slovakia heading towards Ukraine in 2015. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) considered that the applicant’s preliminary arrest and preliminary detention had been lawful and found that the applicant’s detention had been justified. The applicant’s detention had lasted almost one year and ten months. The ECtHR concluded that the authorities had not acted with diligence, and the grounds for the applicant’s detention had ceased to be valid, leading to a violation of the applicant’s right to liberty and security. In addition, there had been a violation of the enforceable right to compensation.


ICC: Conclusion of the preliminary examinations into the Situation in Nigeria and Ukraine

On 11 December, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) has announced the conclusion of the preliminary examinations into the Situation in Nigeria and Ukraine. Regarding the Situation in Nigeria, the OTP has concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that members of Boko Haram and its splinter groups and members of the Nigerian Security Forces have committed acts constituting crimes against humanity and war crimes. The duration of the preliminary examination, open since 2010, was due to the priority given by the OTP in supporting the Nigerian authorities in investigating and prosecuting these crimes domestically. The assessment of the OTP is that none of the proceedings initiated in Nigeria relate, even indirectly, to the forms of conduct or categories of persons that would likely form the focus of investigations of the OTP. Regarding the Situation in Ukraine, the OTP has concluded that there is a reasonable basis to believe that a broad range of conduct constituting war crimes and crimes against humanity have been committed in the context of the situation in Ukraine. The OTP assessed that the competent authorities in Ukraine and/or the Russian Federation are either inactive in relation to the categories of persons and conduct that the OTP has identified, or the national judicial system is ‘unavailable’ in territory under the control of the opposing party, rendering the competent authorities unable genuinely to obtain the accused or the necessary evidence and testimony or otherwise to carry out their proceedings. Hence the OTP has concluded that the potential cases that would likely arise from an investigation into the Situation in Ukraine would be admissible.

The next step for the OTP will be to request authorization from the Judges of the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Court to open investigations. The OTP founds itself in a situation when several preliminary examinations have reached or are approaching the same stage, awaiting conclusion.



ICJ: Judgment on the merits of the case concerning Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France)

On 11 December, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) delivered its Judgment on the merits of the case concerning Immunities and Criminal Proceedings (Equatorial Guinea v. France). The application was filed on 13 June 2016 by Equatorial Guinea. The case concerns designation of the building at 42 avenue Foch in Paris as premises of Equatorial Guinea’s diplomatic mission and examination of whether France objected to the designation of this building as premises of Equatorial Guinea’s diplomatic mission and assessment of communication of any such objection. The ICJ found hat the building at 42 avenue Foch in Paris has never acquired the status of “premises of the mission” of the Republic of Equatorial Guinea in France within the meaning of Article 1(i) of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and declared that France has not breached its obligations under the Vienna Convention, noting that France has promtly and consistently objected to designation of the building in question as premises of Equatorial Guinea’s diplomatic mission. The objection of France was neither arbitrary nor discriminatory in character.




UN: Situation in the Democratic Republic of Congo

On 7 December, the Special Representative and Head of the UN Stabilization Mission in Democratic Republic of Congo/DRC (MONUSCO) stated the need for institutions to provide stability, as political tensions threaten the country. In particular, there are dissensions within the ruling coalition as well as a presidential threat to dissolve the national assembly. More so, human rights violations are occurring to civilians: as such, the UN restated its commitment to protect civilians. The MONUSCO will pursue its mission to ensure stability in the region, by creating “tailored province-specific strategies” when preparing its phased drawdown on its missions. The UN mission met with several representatives of political forces and civil society, in order to prepare for a sustainable and peaceful transition for when the mission’s mandate ends.



UNHCR: Reported displacement of Rohingyas in Bangladesh

On 7 December, the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) expressed concerns over the reported displacement of Rohingya refugees by Bangladesh authorities. The refugees are potentially in an island in the Bay of Bengal. The UNHCR restated the obligation to respect the decision of refugees regarding their transfer. The UN and UNHCR are still trying to gain access to these refugees, whose numbers should approximately account to 1600, to be able to monitor their life conditions. The Bangladesh government stated it was not involved in moving these refugees from the Cox’s Bazar settlements to the island, itself currently reviewed on its capacities to accept refugees.


Council of the EU: Situation in Venezuela and DRC

On 7 December, the High Representative expressed its concern over the Venezuelan elections of 6 December, the lack of respect for political pluralism by the authorities, prosecution of the opposition and absence of national agreement on electoral conditions, noting that the EU does not recognize the elections as “credible, inclusive or transparent”. The High Representative urged Venezuela to allow humanitarian assistance to its citizens, and for its authorities to come to a Venezuelan-led transition process. The EU remains committed to a sustainable and peaceful solution to the crisis and will support all relevant actors. The Council also decided, on 11 December, to maintain sanctions against 11 individuals for human rights violations in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) until 12 December 2021.



Security Council 1718 Sanctions Committee: Updates to Notice on Exemption Procedure for Humanitarian Assistance to DPRK

On 7 December, the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1718 (2006) approved updates of the implementation assistance notice. It provides relevant actors assistance to carry out humanitarian actions in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK). The changes concern a clarification of its comprehensive humanitarian exemption mechanism, as well as simplifications of the application process for humanitarian exemptions requests. There have also been extensions regarding the Committee’s practice of expedited approval procedures for extension and amendment as well as urgent requests. The implementation assistance notice restates the obligation for involved actors to follow regulatory and licensing requirements of Member States that have jurisdiction over all aspects of the proposed transactions and involved parties.


UN Security Council: Situation in Sudan

On 8 December, a UN Security Council virtual meeting was held on Sudan’s situation. Amidst covid, economic and refugees’ crisis, as well as increasingly fragmented political forces, Sudan is “at a critical juncture”. The UN political affairs chief highlighted the support needed in its transition toward democracy from the international community, and welcomed the United States’ intention to rescind Sudan’s designation as a State sponsor of terrorism, thus allowing critical international funds to be allocated. Another topic discussed were the consultations with the UN Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS): its objectives include peace processes and the protection of civilians, and comes onstream the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) which will end on 31 December. It was thus crucial to clarify the role of each mission, especially since Sudanese forces deployed a Civilian Protection Force to Darfur as part of their peace deal signed in October.


OHCHR: Call for immediate release of Assange after 10 years of arbitrary detention

On 8 December, the UN Special Rapporteur on torture, Nils Melzer, called upon British authorities to immediately release Julian Assange from prison or to place him under guarded house arrest during US extradition proceedings. British authorities initially detained Mr. Assange on the basis of an arrest warrant issued by Sweden in connection with allegations of sexual misconduct that have since been formally dropped due to lack of evidence. Melzer pointed out that he is detained for exclusively preventative purposes, to ensure his presence during the ongoing US extradition trial, a proceeding which may well last several years. Melzer stated that Assange is not a criminal convict and poses no threat to anyone, so his prolonged solitary confinement in a high security prison is neither necessary nor proportionate and clearly lacks any legal basis. The progressively severe suffering inflicted on Mr. Assange, because of his prolonged solitary confinement, amounts in Melzer’s view not only to arbitrary detention, but also to torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment. He expressed particular concern about Mr. Assange’s exposure to COVID-19 given his pre-existing medical conditions.


UN Security Council : Regional cooperation in Central Africa

On 9 December, a Security Council videoconference emphasized the need for regional cooperation to tackle various security issues, including Boko Haram insurgents and the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA). The Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Regional Office for Central Africa (UNOCA) highlighted the impact of these threats on the Lake Chad Basin, the Gulf of Guinea, and the internal situation in some Central African countries. He thus called on Council members and their partners to provide resources to implement the strategies needed to bring back stability in the region. More so, monitoring and information analysis have been highlighted as a key to the challenges actors are facing, especially when coordinating between various organizations and States. The Council members supported the UNOCA’s work, and some highlighted the security threat of climate change, which should be addressed via regional and international cooperation.


OHCHR and UNHCR: Situation in Tigray, Ethiopia

On 9 December, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed her worry about the volatile situation in Ethiopia. She referred to information of serious human rights violations and abuses of international humanitarian law, indiscriminate attacks that have resulted in civilian casualties and destruction of civilian objects, looting, abductions and sexual violence against women and girls. She mentioned also reports of forced recruitment of Tigrayan youth to fight against their own communities. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights urged the Government of Ethiopia to ensure that those liable for the attacks are held responsible in accordance with norms of international human rights law and international humanitarian law.

On 11 December, the Office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called on all relevant parties to give “unfettered access to Tigray in order to reach people in need”, and thus took part in the joint UN call. As such, the UNHCR is concerned about the refugees’ safety, especially children caught in the conflict. As the conflict continues to drive refugees out of their homes, 50 000 Ethiopian refugees crossing to Sudan have been registered by the UNHCR since 6 December, and the international organization re-stated the need to respect and follow the rule of law.





OPCW: UN Security Council briefing on chemical weapons in Syria

On 11 December, Fernando Arias, the Director-General of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) announced that Syria’s declaration on its chemical weapons stockpile and programme cannot be considered “accurate and complete”. When briefing the UN Security Council, he highlighted the impossibility for the Fact-Finding Mission to determine whether chemicals were used, or likely used, as a weapon in the incidents in Aleppo (November 2018), and in Saraqib (August 2016). Despite tests and field assessments, it remains difficult to close 19 issues related to Syria’s initial declaration. What, however, seems proven is the production/weaponization of chemical warfare nerve agents in a facility that Syria previously declared was never used in this way. The Secretariat thus requests from Syria more information regarding the exact types and quantities of chemical agents produced, and/or weaponized at the site in question, in line with the Chemical Weapons Convention.



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