Weekly News Recap (14-20 Dec 2020)




ICC: The Prosecutor issues Report on Preliminary Examination Activities

The report of the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) published on 14 December details the preliminary examination activities carried out by the OTP during the period 6 December 2019 – 14 December 2020, in relation to ten situations under preliminary examination. Four preliminary examinations were completed in 2020: with respect to the situations in Palestine, Iraq/UK, Ukraine and Nigeria. The OTP commenced two new preliminary examinations following State Party referrals received from the Government of Venezuela and the Government of Bolivia. The OTP also announced its subject-matter determination with respect to the Situation in Venezuela I, and continued to advance its assessment with respect to the situations in Colombia, Guinea, and the Philippines. Additionally, the OTP responded to the senders of communications with respect to five situations that had been subject to further analysis and reached conclusion, summaries of which are included in the report.


KSC: Indictment confirmed against Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj and their Initial Appearances

On 11 December 2020 and pursuant to instruction of the Pre-Trial Judge of 14 December 2020, reclassifying as Public, a Pre-Trial Judge of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers confirmed the indictment filed by the Specialist Prosecutor against Hysni Gucati and Nasim Haradinaj for offences against the administration of justice. The charges contained relate to a well-grounded suspicion that, between at least 7 and 25 September 2020 Mr. Gucati and Mr. Haradinaj revealed, without authorisation, information protected under the law of the Specialist Chambers, including the identifying details of certain (potential) witnesses. Mr Gucati and Mr Haradinaj also made disparaging accusations and remarks against (potential) witnesses and repeatedly expressed their intention to undermine the Specialist Chambers and obstructed the work of the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office and its investigations. With the confirmation of the indictment, the pre-trial phase of their case began, starting with their initial appearances, which took place on 15 and 18 December 2020.



ECtHR: Dismissal of a public-service employee based on Emergency Legislative Decree following a failed military coup in Turkey

On 15 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued its judgment concerning the case of Mr Pişkin’s dismissal on the grounds that he had links with a terrorist organization, in the wake of the declaration of a state of emergency in Turkey, following the failed military coup of 15 July 2016. Mr Pişkin submitted that neither the dismissal procedure nor the subsequent judicial proceedings had complied with the guarantees of a fair trial. Mr Pişkin also complained that he had been dismissed on the grounds of links to a terrorist organisation, and that he had been branded a “terrorist” and “traitor”. The ECtHR concluded that there had accordingly been a violation of the right to a fair trial and the right to respect for private and family life under the European Convention on Human Rights.


ECtHR: The interim measure indicated in the case of Armenia v. Azerbaijan and Rule 39 proceedings about alleged captives to remain in force

On 15 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) examined the requests made by the Azerbaijani Government asking the Court to suspend the proceedings on interim measures until the applicants show that they have addressed the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC). It was argued that the issues raised fell entirely under international humanitarian law and that some of the 148 applicants (alleged captives) had failed to properly substantiate their Rule 39 requests and their claim that there was a real danger of irreparable harm to the captives.

The Court is still receiving a large number of Rule 39 requests, mostly directed against Azerbaijan, claiming that individuals have been captured and sometimes severely ill-treated. The Court noted that the Azerbaijani Government has regularly failed to provide the information demanded by the Court and that the possibility to address the ICRC does not preclude applicants from seizing the Court. Accordingly, the Court reaffirmed the general interim measure and decided to carry on examining Rule 39 requests concerning alleged individual captives, to apply Rule 39.


IACtHR: Advisory Opinion about the obligations of a State that has denounced the American Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of the Organization of American States

On 16 December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) released an advisory opinion of 9 November 2020 on States that has denounced the American Convention on Human Rights and the Charter of the Organization of American States and the effect of denunciation on that State’s human rights obligations. The IACtHR indicated that denunciation of the American Convention cannot immediately take effect and that Convention-based obligations remain intact during the period of transition to full denunciation. Additionally, the Court stressed the need to apply more rigorous scrutiny to denunciations if they are made in situations that appear to be especially serious and could end up undermining democratic stability, security and peace in the hemisphere.

The Court addressed the concept of collective guaranty and sustained that it transcends the direct interests of each OAS Member State and of all the States as a whole, heightened by the action of the Organization’s political bodies. It mandates a series of institutional and peaceful mechanisms for taking swift, collective action to address possible denunciations of the American Convention and/or the OAS Charter in situations in which democratic stability, peace and security may be affected and lead to human rights violations.


ECtHR: Violation of the right to respect for correspondence in the case of Saber v. Norway

The case concerned lawyer-client privilege and a legal dispute over the applicant’s smart phone being searched by the police in the context of a criminal investigation. The police wanted to search the phone in order to shed light on possible conflicts between the suspects and the applicant. The applicant stated that his phone contained email and SMS correspondence with two lawyers defending him in another criminal case. On 17 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that the proceedings in respect of search and seizure of data from the applicant’s smart phone, facilitating access to correspondence between him and his lawyers, had breached his right to respect for correspondence.


ECtHR: Violation of the right to life in the case of Yukhymovych v. Ukraine

The case concerned the death of the applicant’s son during an attempt to arrest him in the context of a criminal investigation into extortion. He died from his injuries, caused by two gunshots to his back. Over the intervening years, the case has been repeatedly discontinued and reopened, with instructions from the domestic courts to the investigators to address shortcomings and take further measures. In the case before the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR), the applicant alleged that excessive force was used against his son, while the Government submitted that he died as a result of an armed clash which took place between him and the police, following his attempt to evade arrest. The Court found in its 17 December judgment that there had been a violation of the substantive and procedural limb of the right to life.


IACtHR: Argentina responsible for not granting an indemnity to a person for the suffering during the dictatorship

In the Judgment released on 17 December in the Almeida v. Argentina Case, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) accepted the full acknowledgment of responsibility made by Argentina and, consequently, found it responsible for the violation of the rights to judicial guarantees, equality before the law and judicial protection of Mr. Rufino Jorge Almeida. On 4 June 1978, during Argentina’s dictatorship, Mr. Almeida and his wife were abducted by members of the Armed Forces. He remained missing for 54 days and in detention in a clandestine holding camp. He was released on 27 July 1978 and placed in a de facto probation regime, where he was subjected to visits by detention camp guards and monitoring telephone calls. The regime for Mr. Almeida was maintained until 30 April 1983. The enacted law granted benefits to persons who had been in the hands of the executive branch under the dictatorship, and Mr. Almeida received compensation for the days he was in the detention camp but not for the time he was under de facto surveillance.


IACtHR: Venezuela reponsible for the deaths and injuries of people in jail as a result of an operation carried out by the National Guard

In the Judgment in the case of Olivares Muñoz et al. v. Venezuela, released on 17 December, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) declared the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela internationally responsible for the human rights violations of seven persons deprived of liberty who died and another 27 that were injured as a result of an operation carried out on 10 November 2003 in the Ciudad Bolívar Judicial Confinement Center, known as the Vista Hermosa Prison, located in Ciudad Bolívar, by members of the Bolivarian National Guard. The Court declared the violation of the right to life, the right to humane treatment, the right to a fair trial and the right to judicial protection.


CED: “Milestone” 1,000th request to locate victims of enforced disappearance

On 17 December, the UN Committee on Enforced Disappearances (CED) reached “a significant milestone” after 1000th urgent request was registered, requesting governments to take action to locate victims. The urgent action procedure allows families, relatives and representatives of disappeared persons to submit a request to the CED after having reported the disappearance to relevant national authorities. The urgent actions procedure enables the CED to swiftly engage with countries by providing recommendations on measures to search for disappeared persons and to investigate the surrounding circumstances. The CED monitors countries’ adherence to the International Convention for the Protection of all Persons from Enforced Disappearance. So far, 90 people in 11 countries have been located through the urgent action procedure.



Council of the EU: Internal security and European police partnership

On 14 December, the Council of the EU reached conclusions on internal security and European police partnership. Following the Renewed Internal Security Strategy (2015-2020), several priorities were highlighted up to 2025. The need for enhanced law enforcement cooperation, technological progress, global cooperation, fighting transnational organised crime and preventing and combatting terrorism was identified. More so, Frontex operations and Europol’s tools should be used more efficiently. In that regard, Member States have been reminded to fully use the tools the EU provides to share information and ensure efficient cooperation.


CoE: Human rights violations in Ukrainian penitentiary institutions

On 15 December, the Council of Europe Committee for the Prevention of Torture and Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CPT) expressed concerns over the situation in Ukraine following its visit in August 2020 in Kharkiv and in Berdyansk. Its report focuses on the treatment of persons held in penitentiary institutions after allegations of ill-treatment of inmates by prison staff. In the report, the reductions in the prison population as well as penitentiary reforms were welcomed. However, the Ukrainian authorities still need to ensure no prisoner is subjected to retaliatory action after speaking with the delegation, and that any complaints should be investigated and sanctioned. The Ukrainian authorities shall be held accountable for any relinquishment of responsibility, and have to fulfill their obligations to take all necessary measures.


Niger: Refugee situation after the Boko Haram attack

On 15 December, UN expressed its grave concerns for the safety conditions of 30 thousand refugees sheltered in Niger’s town of Toumour in the Diffa region. After the attack of the military group of Boko Haram on Toumour on 12 December, 28 people were killed, hundreds more wounded and 800 houses burned. Diffa is already hosting about 46 thousand refugees, displaced and returnees. In recent time, the Lake Chad Basin has been facing an increasing number of extremist violence that forced hundreds of thousands to move to the settlements of Diffa region, where due to mass refugee concentration social distancing is impossible and COVID-19 represents another threat to refugees. Therefore, the UNHCR spokesperson called for increased financial support in the region.



OAS: Statement from the OAS Electoral Observation Mission to the General Elections in the United States

It was reported on 15 December, that the Electoral Observation Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS) for the 3 November 2020 general elections in the United States has followed the post-electoral process since the conclusion of the poll, through the certification of results in the states, recounts in Georgia and Wisconsin, and the resolution of the various legal challenges brought before the courts. The Mission observed that all election stakeholders had ample opportunities to express their discontent judicially and that their petitions were resolved in a timely manner. The Mission took note that the 538 members of the Electoral College met in the different states on 14 December, as scheduled, to cast their votes for the President and Vice President of the United States. The results gave 306 votes to President-elect Joseph Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris, with 232 votes for incumbent President Donald Trump and Vice President Michael Pence. The Mission congratulated President-elect Biden and Vice President-elect Harris on their success at the polls and will remain engaged with the current process.


OHCHR: Killings in Colombia documented

On 15 December, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) reported 375 killed people in 66 massacres in Colombia in 2020. 120 of them were reportedly human rights defenders, but the overall number is likely higher. Colombia also recorded 244 killings of former FARC fighters since the signing of Colombia’s Peace Agreement in 2016. Commissioner for Human Rights called on Colombia’s government to take more stronger and effective actions to protect people in the country. The Nasa community has been one of the worse affected indigenous groups with 66 of its members reported killed in Northern Cauca.



CoE: Warsaw Convention report assesses the monitoring of banking operations to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism

It was reported on 16 December, that the Conference of the Parties of the Warsaw Convention published a report that assesses the way States Parties monitor banking operations to prevent money laundering and the financing of terrorism. The report concluded that the majority of states parties – although with significant differences – apply articles of the Convention, which provide a specific tool to competent authorities to monitor, during a specified period, the banking operations that are being carried out through one or more identified accounts. The Council of Europe Convention on Laundering, Search, Seizure and Confiscation of the Proceeds from Crime and on the Financing of Terrorism (the Warsaw Convention) is the first international treaty covering both the prevention and the control of money laundering and the financing of terrorism.


UNSC: Meeting of the outgoing chairs of subsidiary bodies on sanctions impact

On 16 December, six chairs of subsidiary bodies updated the UN Security Council on the humanitarian impact of sanctions in order to review their implementation. On Tehran, the need for collective action on security concerns was mentioned, and the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action on Iran’s nuclear programme’s successes were restated. Somalia’s cooperation against Al-Shabaab was also discussed as well as the state’s sanctions on products that could be used to create explosives. The sanctions regime was seen as “evolving” to remain as a tool to support stability in Somalia. On the situation in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea, the international community was called on to pursue pressuring the regime for its nuclear tests and ballistic missile launch. The sanctions to prevent non-State actors from acquiring, developing and using biological, chemical and nuclear weapons were also discussed, as well as the limited progress in Libya, which led the Chair of the Committee established pursuant to resolution 1970 (2011) concerning Libya to remind member states to implement the arms embargo.


UNSC: Briefing on the humanitarian situation of millions of displaced in Syria

On 16 December, the UN Under-Secretary-General and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock addressed the UNSC on the humanitarian situation in Syria. It was stressed that the war-torn country struggles with COVID-19 which has enormous consequences on food security, malnutrition, declining economy and migration. The Under-Secretary-General noted his concerns about the future development of the humanitarian situation after the COVID-19 outbreak and that more than 80 per cent of displaced families across Syria say that their income does not cover their needs. It was stated that it is necessary to establish humanitarian access to the most vulnerable people (most of them are children) and find the political solution to establish peace after ten years of conflict in Syria. The UN Special Envoy Geir O. Pedersen stressed the need for a new form of international cooperation on Syria and despite his awareness of the difficulties he expressed his conviction that it is possible to achieve the consensus towards positive results upon a relative calm since March in Syria.



NATO: Civil and Military Budget

On 16 December, NATO agreed on the civil and military budgets for 2021 during a meeting of the North Atlantic Council. Based on the Member states’ Gross National Income, the civil budget will be composed of €258.9 million, while the military one will be composed of €1.61 billion. The former will cover personnel, operating costs, and programme expenditures at NATO Headquarters in Brussels (increased by 0.9% from the 2020 level), while the latter is used for operating costs of NATO Command Structure headquarters and programmes, missions and operations around the world (increase of 5% from the 2020 level). More so, the Allies will fund the NATO Security Investment Programme (NSIP) up to €710 million. It will be used in major construction and command and control system investments.


EU & OSCE: Situation in Belarus

The EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell met on 16 December with Sviatlana Tsikhanouskaya to discuss the situation in Belarus. Borrell called for the release of political prisoners and an end to detentions and violence toward peaceful protesters. He also called for free and fair elections under the observation of the OSCE.

On the same day, the leadership of the OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights committee called on authorities in Minsk to end prosecutions and harassment of media professionals for their journalistic activities. OSCE noted that the situation with the press environment in Belarus has gone from bad to worse and around 370 media professionals have been arrested since 9 August and eight are still being held.



UNSC: Peace talks in Afghanistan

On 17 December, the UN Security Council welcomed the developments in peace talks between the Government of Afghanistan and Taliban. However, a warning was expressed about increased violence in the region that could imperil the negotiations, and the Council called on states to pressure the parties of the conflict to reach an agreement. The Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan and Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) presented the progresses in the talks: the parties agreed on rules for negotiations, created a working committee and decided on topics to discuss before agreeing on resuming negotiations on 5 January 2021. She remained concerned on the violence in the country: improvised explosive devices caused several civilian casualties, and the security transition and troops’ withdrawals are only adding to the concerns of the population. The need for cooperation between all parties of the Afghan society, and among regional actors was stressed, in order to achieve sustainable peace.


UNSC: Extension of several mandates

On 18 December, the UN Security Council extended several mandates. Resolution 2555 (2020) renews for six months the mandate of the long‑standing disengagement mission in the Golan Heights (UNDOF). The Council also called on all groups to abandon all UNDOF positions, respect its privileges and immunities and create a suitable environment for UNDOF operations. Resolution 2556 (2020) extends the mandate of the United Nations Organization Stabilization Mission in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (MONUSCO) for one year with the top strategic priority to protect civilians. Resolution 2557 (2020) extends for one year the mandate of the team monitoring sanctions against individuals and entities associated with the Taliban.




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