Weekly News Recap (28 Dec 2020-3 Jan 2021)




HRC: The Netherlands violated child’s right to acquire a nationality

On 29 December, the Human Rights Committee (HRC) found that the Netherlands violated a child’s rights by registering “nationality unknown” in his civil records as this left him unable under Dutch law to be registered as stateless and therefore be given international protection as a stateless child. The decision relates to a petition by a child named Denny born in the Netherlands in 2010 to a mother from China, who was trafficked to the Netherlands in 2004 when she was 15 and forced into prostitution. She managed to escape in 2008 but her residency status is classified as an “illegal alien” and as she was abandoned by her parents and never recorded in China’s civil registry as being born, she herself could not obtain Chinese citizenship nor provide proof of Denny’s nationality.  As a result, Denny was registered with the annotation “unknown nationality”. 

Denny’s mother was also unable to provide proof that her son was without a nationality as required by Dutch law to change his status from “unknown” to “stateless” and to apply for international protection for stateless children. The Committee requested the Netherlands to review its decisions on Denny’s application to be registered as stateless in the civil registry, and on his application to be recognized as a Dutch citizen. It also urged the Netherlands to review its legislation to ensure that a procedure for determining statelessness status is established, as well as reviewing its legislation on eligibility to apply for citizenship.



OHCHR: UN experts call on States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardoning of the Blackwater contractors

On 30 December, UN experts from the Working Group on the use of mercenaries said the pardons granted to four convicted private security contractors for war crimes in Iraq violated US obligations under international law and called on all States parties to the Geneva Conventions to condemn the pardons. The Blackwater Worldwide contractors were convicted of multiple criminal acts committed during a massacre at Nisour Square in Baghdad in 2007 which left 14 unarmed civilians dead and at least 17 wounded. The experts stated that the pardons are an affront to justice and open doors to future abuses when States contract private military and security companies for inherent state functions. Also, they showed concerns that by permitting private security contractors to operate with impunity in armed conflicts, States will be encouraged to circumvent their obligations under humanitarian law by increasingly outsourcing core military operations to the private sector.


IRMCT: The early release of Vujadin Popović denied

On 30 December, Judge Carmel Agius, President of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT), after consulting Judge William H. Sekule and Judge Graciela Susana Gatti Santana, denied the application for the early release of Vujadin Popović who is serving the remainder of a sentence of imprisonment for life in Germany. The IRMCT received on 7 February 2020 the notification from Germany regarding the eligibility of Mr. Popović under German law to suspend the enforcement of the remainder of his life sentence on probation. The early release of persons convicted by the ICTR, the ICTY, or the IRMCT falls exclusively within the discretion of the President of the IRMCT who held that Popović has not yet reached the required threshold of having served two-thirds of the sentence, and is therefore not eligible to be considered for early release by the IRMCT at this stage. At the same time, nothing in the application demonstrated compelling or exceptional circumstances that would warrant granting Popović early release.


IACHR: Submission on behalf of four victims and survivors of the U.S. extraordinary rendition and torture program

On 30 December, a submission to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) was filed by the NYU Global Justice Clinic and the American Civil Liberties Union on behalf of four victims and survivors of the U.S. extraordinary rendition and torture program in the pending case of Mohamed et al v. United States. The four men provide voluminous evidence that U.S. agents and their proxies in the Gambia, Jordan, Pakistan, and Morocco, forcibly disappeared, detained, interrogated and tortured them and ask that the Commission hold the United States accountable for that. The Biden-Harris administration now has an opportunity to respond to these allegations. In 2009, the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals summarily dismissed the case soon after the Bush and then-Obama administrations intervened in the litigation to assert the “state secrets” privilege, arguing that further consideration of the men’s case would be harmful to U.S. national security interests.


OHCHR: Condemnation of the execution of child offender in Iran

On 31 December, Mohammad Hassan Rezaiee was executed for an offense he allegedly committed when he was 16 years old. This was the fourth confirmed execution of a child offender in Iran in 2020. The OHCHR emphasized that the execution of child offenders is prohibited under international law and Iran is under the obligation to abide by this prohibition. In addition, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet strongly condemned the killing of Mr. Rezaiee, which took place despite interventions and engagement by the OHCHR with the Government of Iran on this issue. There are allegations that forced confessions extracted through torture were used in the conviction of Mr. Rezaiee, and there are other concerns about violations of his fair trial rights. The authorities also failed to pursue available legal avenues under the Iranian Penal Code to grant a retrial to Mr. Rezaiee. The UN has repeatedly urged Iran to cease the appalling practice of executing child offenders. At least 80 child offenders remain on death row. Between 19 and 26 December, at least eight individuals were executed in different prisons in a series of recent executions in Iran.



UNSC: Condemnation of the attacks against MINUSCA in the Central African Republic

On 28 December, the UN Security Council president Jerry Matthews Matjila issued a statement in which the Security Council condemned the attacks on 25 December 2020 against the Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (MINUSCA). Along the Council’s expresses of condolences and sympathies to the families of the peacekeepers, the Security Council reiterated that attacks against peacekeepers may constitute war crimes and reminded all parties of their obligations under international humanitarian law.


NATO: Interception of hundreds of Russian military jets in 2020

On 28 December, NATO reported more than 400 interceptions of unknown aircrafts approaching Alliance airspace in 2020. Almost 90 percent of these missions (around 350) were in response to flights by Russian military aircraft. “In recent years, we have seen an increased level of Russian military air activity close to the Alliance’s borders,” said NATO spokesperson Oana Lungescu. NATO has operated Air Policing mission for six countries in Europe in 2020 (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Albania, Slovenia, Montenegro, Romania, Bulgaria and Iceland). Now it considers an extension of Air policing for North Macedonia.


OHCHR: Situation in Uganda before the presidential election

On 29 December, it was reported that several journalists were hurt and political opponents detained before the forthcoming presidential election on 14 January. UN human rights experts expressed serious concerns about the violence ahead of Uganda’s presidential election and urged authorities to put an end to the arrest, detention and judicial harassment of political opponents, civil society leaders and human rights defenders. They warned against the impact of actions taken by authorities on civic space before the election. The experts called on the Ugandan authorities to take all necessary measures to ensure an environment conducive to peaceful and transparent elections. Since June 2020, UN human rights experts witnessed gradual shrinking of civic space, and misuse and abuse of health-related restrictions to curb dissent in the country ahead of the election.



Sudan: Ratification of the CAT and the ICPPED

On 29 December, Prime Minister of Sudan Abdallah Hamdok announced that his government approved the ratification of the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT) and the International Convention for the Protection of All Persons from Enforced Disappearance (ICPPED). Sudan signed the CAT in 1986. However, 35 years later, it is yet to ratify the Convention. In his speech to the Sudanese people on the occasion of the 65th anniversary of Sudan’s independence, Hamdok affirmed his government’s adherence to the slogans of the Sudanese revolution aiming to establish a democratic rule and respect for human rights in the country. Sudan presently remains among few countries that failed to ratify the Convention against Torture with India, Haiti, Gambia and Brunei.


UNSG & UN Special Envoy for Yemen: Condemnation of the Aden airport attack

On 30 December, the UN Secretary-General António Guterres and the UN Special Envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths strongly condemned the deadly attack on the country’s newly formed government at Aden airport and offered their sincere condolences and solidarity. Reportedly, the attack killed at least 26 people and injured more than 50. The UN humanitarian office reported, that since 2015, more than 230 000 Yemenis have died due to the war and the majority (some 131 000) through indirect causes such as lack of food, health services and infrastructure. Over 3000 children have been killed, and 1500 civilian casualties have been reported in the first nine months of 2020. The airport attack came after a period of relative calm, and months of negotiations aimed at bringing about a peace deal, mediated by the Office of the Special Envoy.



OAS: New report on the situation of Venezuelan migrants and refugees

On 30 December, the Organization of American States (OAS) informed about the new report of the General Secretariat of the OAS that warns that the number of Venezuelan refugees and migrants could rise to 7 million in 2021 if the countries of the region reopen their borders and the regime in Venezuela remains in place. The report states, that the conditions of vulnerability in which Venezuelan migrants arrive in host countries are increasingly critical after the deepening crisis in Venezuela. Moreover, in 2020, the Covid-19 pandemic has worsened the the migration situation. The report highlighted that 2020 concluded with a total of 5,4 million Venezuelans exiled and identified challenges that must be addressed in the next year.


Guinea-Bissau: Closure of the UNIOGBIS

On 31 December, the final day of operations for the United Nations Integrated Peacebuilding Office in Guinea-Bissau (UNIOGBIS), the UN Secretary-General António Guterres reaffirmed the UN’s commitment to the people of the West African country of Guinea-Bissau. UNIOGBIS completed its mandate in accordance with Security Council resolution 2512. He expressed his gratitude to UNIOGBIS and all parties involved in peacekeeping in the country as well. He declared that the UN will continue to accompany the people and the Government of Guinea-Bissau in their efforts to achieve sustainable peace and development in the country and to fully implement urgent reforms outlined in the Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) Roadmap and the Conakry Agreement.



UNGA: Budget for 2021 approved

On 31 December, the UN General Assembly approved $3.231 billion to fund the global Organization’s regular budget for 2021. After more than four decades of biennium budgets in approving resources, 2021 marks the second time that the Organization is allocating funds in a one-year-fiscal cycle. The Assembly also adopted a wide-ranging, 26‑part text on special subjects related to the 2021 programme budget.  It earmarked $728.21 million for the 40 continuing special political missions authorized by the Assembly and/or Security Council. Up slightly from last year’s $3.07 billion appropriation, the 2021 budget keeps the Organization’s doors open and its staff working amid a global pandemic and ongoing funding challenges.



OSCE: Sweden has taken over OSCE Chairmanship

On 1 January, Sweden has taken the presidency in the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) for the year 2021. Ann Linde, Sweden’s Foreign Minister and the new OSCE Chairperson-in-Office declared Sweden’s presidency priorities in defending the European security order, upholding the OSCE concept of comprehensive security, contributing to resolving the conflicts in Europe’s region, enhancing gender equality and promoting the broad participation of civil society representatives in security discussions. She also added that the Swedish presidency will closely work with the newly appointed OSCE Secretary-General and the three Heads of Institutions (the Director of the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights, the OSCE High Commissioner on National Minorities, and the OSCE Representative on Freedom of the Media).


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