Weekly News Recap (21-27 Dec 2020)




IACHR: Precautionary measures in favour of Niober García Fournier in Cuba

On 21 December, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about the adopted Resolution 96/20 of 18 December, in which it granted precautionary measures in favor of Niober García Fournier, after considering that he finds himself in a situation of serious and urgent risk of irreparable damage to his rights in Cuba. According to the request, the beneficiary is being subjected to threats, harassment, detentions and acts of violence by state actors and third parties, purportedly as a result of his work as an independent journalist and human rights defender. Consequently, the Commission requests that Cuba, among others, implement measures to protect the rights to life and personal integrity of Mr. Niober García Fournier and his family and to ensure that Mr. Niober García Fournier can carry out his activities as an independent journalist.


ICJ: New mechanism for monitoring the implementation of provisional measures

On 21 December, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) informed about the newly adopted Article 11 of the Resolution concerning the Internal Judicial Practice of the Court provides for the establishment of an ad hoc committee, composed of three judges, which will assist the ICJ in monitoring the implementation of the provisional measures that it indicates. The committee will examine the information supplied by the parties in this regard, report periodically to the Court, and recommend potential options for it. Any decision, if required, will be taken by the Court.


ECtHR: Notification to Poland of another case concerning alleged lack of independence of the Supreme Court

On 21 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) informed about its decision of 8 December to give notification to Poland of the application Advance Pharma Sp. z o.o v. Poland and requested that the Government of Poland submits observations. The application concerns a right to fair trial complaint brought by a pharmaceutical company that the Polish Supreme Court, which decided on a case concerning it, was constituted in breach of the law following changes to the judiciary introduced in 2017. The applicant’s case was examined by the Civil Chamber of the Supreme Court, which was constituted on the recommendations of the National Council of the Judiciary (“the NCJ”), the constitutional organ in Poland which safeguards the independence of courts and judges. The NCJ has been the subject of controversy since the entry into force of new legislation providing that its judicial members are no longer elected by judges but by the Sejm (the lower house of Parliament).


ECtHR: Several violations in the case of Selahattin Demirtaş v. Turkey (no. 2)

The case concerned the arrest and pre-trial detention of Mr Selahattin Demirtaş, who was one of the co-chairs of the Peoples’ Democratic Party (HDP), a left-wing pro-Kurdish political party. Demirtaş faces a sentence of up to 142 years in prison if convicted of being the leader of a terrorist organisation over his actions during protests in 2014 that turned violent and led to the deaths of 37 people. The Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been a violation of freedom of expression and of the rights of liberty and security, to a speedy decision on the lawfulness of detention and to free elections. The Court concluded that the reasons put forward by the authorities for the applicant’s pre-trial detention had merely been cover for an ulterior political purpose, which was a matter of indisputable gravity for democracy.


ECtHR: Judgment in the case of Usmanov v. Russia on decisions to revoke a Tajikistani’s Russian citizenship and to expel him

The case concerned a national of Tajikstan’s complaint about decisions to revoke his Russian citizenship and remove him from Russian territory. Mr Usmanov was granted Russian citizenship in 2008, but it was revoked ten years later when the authorities discovered that he had omitted the names of his brothers and sisters in his application. On 22 December, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held that there had been violations of the right to respect for private and family life and considered that the decisions had been overly formalistic, failing to duly balance the interests at stake. It was not shown why the applicant’s failure to submit information about some of his siblings had been so grave that it was justified to deprive him of his Russian citizenship so many years after he had obtained it. Nor had the Russian authorities considered the fact that he had been living in Russia for a considerable period with a Russian national, with whom he had four children, and that during his stay he had not committed any offences.


OHCHR: U.S. President Donald Trump asked to pardon Wikileaks founder Julian Assange

On 22 December, the OHCHR informed about a letter from Nils Melzer, Special Rapporteur on torture and other cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment, to U.S. President Donald Trump, asking him to pardon Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who has been held in Belmarsh high security prison since his arrest by British authorities inside the Embassy of Ecuador in London in April 2019. A British court is set to rule on 4 January whether Assange should be extradited to the U.S. to face criminal prosecution and, if convicted, up to 175 years in prison for the publication of secret documents through the whistleblower platform WikiLeaks in 2010. In his letter, the UN expert claims that Assange was arbitrarily deprived of his liberty, that his health has seriously deteriorated to the point where his life is now in danger and that he neither published false information nor hacked or stolen any of the information he published, and that he sets an important example of telling the truth about corruption and misconduct.


OHCHR: Comment on US presidential pardon for contractors jailed for killing Iraqi civilians

On 23 December, the spokesperson of the OHCHR Marta Hurtado expressed her concern by the recent US presidential pardons for four security guards from the private military firm Blackwater who were convicted for killing 14 Iraqi civilians. These individuals were given sentences ranging from 12 years to life imprisonment, including on charges of first-degree murder. The UN Human Rights Office considered that pardoning them contributes to impunity and has the effect of emboldening others to commit such crimes in the future. The UN Human Rights Office called on the U.S. to renew its commitment to fighting impunity for gross human rights violations and serious violations of international humanitarian law, as well as to uphold its obligations to ensure accountability for such crimes.


ICC: Conclusion of the first resumption of the 19th session of the Assembly of States Parties

The Assembly of States Parties to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court held its nineteenth session from 14 to 16 December 2020 at the World Forum Convention Center in The Hague. The work of the Assembly continued at its resumed nineteenth session in New York from 18 to 23 December 2020. The Assembly adopted resolutions on the proposed program budget for 2021, elected Judge Silvia Fernández de Gurmendi from Argentina as President for the twentieth to twenty-second sessions and elected further, for the same period, other members of the Bureau. The Assembly deferred the election of the two Vice-Presidents.

The Assembly also elected six members of the Committee on Budget and Finance and six judges for a term of nine years: Ms. Althea Violet Alexis-Windsor (Trinidad and Tobago), Ms. María del Socorro Flores Liera (Mexico), Ms. Joanna Korner (United Kingdom), Mr. Gocha Lordkipanidze (Georgia), Ms. Miatta Maria Samba (Sierra Leone), and Mr. Sergio Gerardo Ugalde Godinez (Costa Rica). The work of the Assembly will continue at its second resumed nineteenth session, to be held in New York in early 2021, to consider agenda item 14, “Election of the Prosecutor”. 



UNSC: Briefing of the UN envoy for the Middle East Peace Process

On 21 December, the UN envoy for Middle East Peace Process called on Israelis, Palestinians, regional States and the broader international community to take practical steps to enable the parties to re-engage in the peace process. He stressed the fact that disputes and conflict took a very long time and every single household has loss and displacement in its personal history. Nowadays the situation is affected by financial troubles because the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA) faces a funding gap of $88 million, and some 47 per cent of Palestinians currently need aid. He added that the advancement of all settlement activity in the occupied West Bank must cease and called for an end to the demolition of the Palestinian property. Despite this violation of UN resolutions and international law, the UN envoy believes in achievable peace through negotiations.


UNSC: Resolution 2558 (2020) on peacebuilding

On 21 December, UNSC resolution 2558 (2020) welcomed the work that has been done since 2016 in advancing peacebuilding by the entire UN. It encouraged further action by the system to advance coherence in peacebuilding efforts. It also welcomed the important role of the Peacebuilding Commission. The resolution noted that financing of peacebuilding remains a significant challenge and welcomed the effort of the General Assembly to discuss the future of adequate, predictable and sustained financing for sustainable peace. The Council also called for a further comprehensive review of United Nations peacebuilding in 2025.



UNSC: The promotion and strengthening of the rule of law in the maintenance of international peace and security

On 21 December, the President of the Security Council issued a statement on the occasion of the 75th anniversary of the UN and the 100th anniversary of the Statute of the Permanent Court of International Justice in which the President underlined the importance of the Security Council and the International Court of Justice for their engagement in the world. The Council noted that the growing number of cases brought to the International Court of Justice on all aspects of international relations demonstrates confidence in the Court. The Security Council expresses its continued commitment to foster interaction between the International Court of Justice and the UN Security Council.


OAS: Statement on Nicaragua

On 21 December, the General Secretariat of the Organization of American States (OAS) expresses its deep concerns over the enactment in Nicaragua of the “Law for the Defence of the Rights of the People to Independence, Sovereignty and Self-Determination for Peace.” This initiative seeks to restrict political rights with the aim of limiting electoral competition. The Nicaraguan government, through these types of acts, would deny the Nicaraguan people the right to freely choose their representatives, transforming the 2021 elections into an imposition rather than an election. The OAS General Secretariat called on the government to repeal the law in question and to undertake the necessary electoral reforms that guarantee free, fair and transparent elections.


OHCHR & Council of the EU: Situation in Ethiopia

On 22 December, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet reported the continuing lack of overall humanitarian access, coupled with an ongoing communications blackout in many areas in Tigray. She expressed increasing concerns about the situation of civilians as allegations have been received concerning violations of international humanitarian law and human rights law, including artillery strikes on populated areas, the deliberate targeting of civilians, extrajudicial killings and widespread looting.

On 25 December, the High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy of the EU expressed on behalf of the EU his concern about the humanitarian situation, as well as allegations of human rights violations and ethnic targeting. He stated that it is necessary to cease hostilities, to ensure the protection for civilians and provide them aid, to ensure the protection for aid workers and protect refugees. The EU welcomes the restoration process of telecommunication channels in Tigray. The EU called for the investigation of violations of international humanitarian law and expressed its support for Ethiopia in establishing peace.



UNSC: Iran’s nuclear deal

On 22 December, the Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo noted that recent years were characterised by tensions between Iran and the U.S. The UN regrets the withdrawal of the US from the nuclear deal of 2015 as well as regrets Iran’s steps to reduce some of its nuclear-related commitments. The International Atomic Energy Agency reported that Iran had surpassed stipulated limits for enriched uranium, a critical component in nuclear power generation. DiCarlo updated the UN Security Council on two arms-related cases and Iran informed of the assassination of a top nuclear scientist. Despite that, Ms. DiCarlo noted that the Iranian nuclear issue is an important non-proliferation subject with consequences for regional and global peace and security.


UNSC: Termination of the mandate in Darfur

On 22 December, the Security Council decided to terminate the mandate of the African Union-United Nations Hybrid Operation in Darfur (UNAMID) on 31 December 2020. With the adoption of resolution 2559 (2020) the Council urged the Government of Sudan to protect civilians in Darfur, underscored the need to build local community confidence and requested the Government of Sudan to cooperate in the withdrawal process.


Council of the EU: Extended mandates for Somalia

On 23 December, the Council prolonged the mandates of its two Common Security and Defence Policy (CSDP) missions in Somalia and Operation ATALANTA until 31 December 2022. EUCAP Somalia and EUTM Somalia will support the development of Somali capacities and capabilities through strategic advice, mentoring, training and supporting building democratic, sustainable and accountable Somali security institutions and forces. Operation ATALANTAs core effort is to deter, prevent and repress piracy and fulfil tasks of countering trafficking of weapons and narcotic drugs and monitoring illegal activities at sea.


EEAS: Statements on Afghanistan, Zambia and Turkey

On 23 December, the EU called for transparent and thorough investigations of assassinations of activists, journalists and doctors in Afghanistan in the last months. On the same day, two people died as a result of the dispersion of supporters of the opposition by using force in Zambia. On 25 December, the EU expressed its serious concerns about the development of the rule of law, fundamental rights and the judiciary in Turkey. The EU is concerned about the imprisonment of two journalists and issued specific recommendations in the Commission’s annual reports on Turkey.




OHCHR & UNSC: Situation in the Central African Republic

On 23 December, the UN human rights office reported concerns about escalating violence days before the election in the country on Sunday 27 December. Numerous attacks against security forces, political candidates and election officials have been reported. An escalation of tensions and violence in several parts of the country has led over 55 thousand people to flee their homes. The Security Council has approved on 23 December the Secretary‑General’s proposal for the temporary redeployment of two infantry companies and two military utility helicopters from the UN Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS) to assist the UN Peacekeeping Mission in the Central African Republic. On 26 December, the UN Secretary General strongly condemned attacks that killed three Burundian peacekeepers and left another two wounded.






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