Weekly News Recap (18–24 Jan 2021)




Russia: Navalny’s Arrest and Call of UN Experts for His Immediate Release

On 18 January, two UN human rights experts saluted the bravery of anti-corruption activist Mr. Alexei Navalny and decried his arrest on arrival in Moscow. They called on the Russian Federation for his immediate release and to ensure that his life and well-being are protected. Mr. Navalny’s arrest was related to alleged violations of a suspended sentence for a fraud conviction following proceedings following proceedings that the European Court of Human Rights said in 2018 were arbitrary and unfair. The Federal Penitentiary Service of Russia said that Mr. Navalny missed regular check-ins, required for his suspended sentence, without a valid reason.


ECtHR: Right to Respect for Private Life Violated in X and Y v. Romania

The case concerned the situation of two transgender persons whose request for recognition of their gender identity and for the relevant administrative corrections to be made were refused on the grounds that persons making such a request had to furnish proof that they had undergone gender reassignment surgery. On 19 January, the European Court of Human Rights observed that the national courts had presented the applicants, who did not wish to undergo gender reassignment surgery with an impossible dilemma: either they had to undergo the surgery against their judgment or they had to forego recognition of their gender identity, which falls within the scope of Article 8, respect for private life. In the Court’s view, this upset the fair balance to be struck by the States Parties between the general interest and the individual interests of the persons concerned.


ECtHR: Russia to Reform Their Handcuffing Procedure

The case of Shlykov and others v. Russia concerned the applicants’ being handcuffed every time they left their prison cells, the conditions of the prison regime applied to one applicant, and access to civil proceedings to complain of their handcuffing for another two of the applicants. On 19 January, the European Court of Human Rights found that there had been a violation of Article 3, the prohibition of inhuman and degrading treatment and Article 6 section 1, the right to a fair trial. The Court took note that there did not appear to be any regular review of the regime imposing this measure, nor had there been a legal requirement to impose such a condition. As for Article 6 section 1, the relevant applicants had not been allowed to attend their civil proceedings constituting a violation of said right.


ECtHR: Only a Violation of the Right to a Fair Trial Found in Timofeyev and Postupkin v. Russia

The case concerns the applicants’ placement under administrative surveillance on completion of their prison sentences. On 19 January, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 6 section 1, the right to a fair trial concerning the surveillance of both applicants. The Court found in particular that Mr Timofeyev’s inability to obtain legal aid in order to secure the assistance of a lawyer placed him at a distinct disadvantage as compared with the opposing party, who had been assisted by the public prosecutor. It also noted that Mr Timofeyev, who had had no first-hand experience or specialised knowledge of the law, had requested the court’s assistance concerning his financial difficulties.


ECtHR: Violation of the Right to Respect for Private and Family Life in Lăcătuş v. Switzerland

The case concerned an order for the applicant to pay a fine of 500 Swiss francs (CHF) (approximately 464 EUR) for begging in a public space in Geneva, and her detention in prison for five days, due to her failure to pay the fine. On January 19, the European Court of Human Rights found a violation of Article 8, the right to respect private and family life. The Court observed that the applicant, who was illiterate and came from an extremely poor family, had no work and was not in receipt of social benefits. Begging constituted a means of survival for her. Being in a vulnerable situation, the applicant had had the right, inherent in human dignity, to be able to convey her plight and attempt to meet her basic needs by begging. The Court considered that the penalty imposed on the applicant had not been proportionate either to the aim of combating organised crime or the aim of protecting the rights of passers-by, residents, and shopkeepers.


ECtHR:  The Right to Liberty and Security, and Freedom of Expression Violated in Atilla Taş v. Turkey

The case concerned the pre-trial detention of the singer and columnist Atilla Taş because of tweets he posted on his Twitter account, and articles and columns he wrote in the daily newspaper Meydan, between 2011 and 2016 criticising governmental policies. Mr Taş was prosecuted for terrorism-related offences. On January 19, the European Court of Human Rights found that at the time of Mr Taş’s placement in pre-trial detention there had been no facts or information that would satisfy an objective observer that he had committed the offences in question. The interpretation and application of the legal provisions relied on by the domestic authorities had thus been unreasonable to the point of rendering Mr Taş’s detention unlawful and arbitrary. The Court also held that the applicant’s detention had amounted to an interference with his right to freedom of expression that had not been prescribed by law. The Court further found that, even though Mr Taş had not been allowed unlimited access to the evidence, he had been sufficiently acquainted with the content of those items of evidence that were essential to effectively challenge the lawfulness of his detention.


ECtHR: Violaton of the Right to a Fair Trial in Keskin v. The Netherlands

The case concerned criminal proceedings against the applicant in which he had been prevented from cross-examining witnesses. On 30 July 2013, the applicant was convicted in absentia of fraud committed via a company based on, among other things, the statements of six witnesses. He appealed, asking to cross-examine the six witnesses mentioned above, along with a seventh witness who had also made statements against him. The request to cross-examine was rejected, but the court reduced his prison sentence to six months. On 8 September 2015 a cassation appeal by the applicant, claiming a failure to ensure a fair trial, was declared inadmissible by the Supreme Court. The European Court of Human Rights held on 19 January there had been a violation of Article 6 section 1 and section 3(d) of the right to a fair trial.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures for Journalist Ricardo Calderón Villegas

It was reported on 19 January that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) granted precautionary protection measures through Resolution 6/2021 of 14 January, in favor of Ricardo Calderón Villegas, after considering that he is in a serious and urgent situation with risk of irreparable damage to his rights in Colombia. According to the request, Mr. Calderón is at risk due to threats, surveillance, and surveillance by those who identified themselves as State agents and other third parties, as a result of his journalistic investigations. In particular, the IACHR took into consideration the special gravity represented by the events that Ricardo Calderón has faced when publishing investigations alleging irregularities committed by members of the National Army in matters of national importance such as the so-called “false positives,” “profiling,” or reports of corruption within said institution, which have had a high impact on Colombian society.


IRMCT: Decision to Share Confidential Medical Reports in Prosecutor v. Félicien Kabuga

Following his arrest in France on 16 May 2020, Kabuga was temporarily transferred to the United Nations Detention Unit at the Hague Branch of the Mechanism (“UNDU”) for a detailed medical assessment to determine whether and under what circumstances he may be safely transferred to the Arusha Branch of The Mechanism for trial. The Court ordered the Registrar to file regular reports related to Kabuga’s health, and for the Defence to file any applications on matters relating to Kabuga’s health by 22 January 2021. The Trial Chamber indicated that both parties should be prepared to discuss Kabuga’s health and fitness, for his transfer to the United Nations Detention Facility in Arusha. The Defence requested that it be allowed to share on a confidential basis the Five Medical Reports with doctors, including Kabuga’s prior attending physician, who may assist it in preparing submissions regarding Kabuga’s physical and mental state. On 20 January 2021, the Court granted the motion.


ECtHR: Judgment Concerning the Armed Conflict Between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008

The case concerned allegations by the Georgian Government of administrative practices on the part of the Russian Federation entailing various breaches of the Convention, in connection with the armed conflict between Georgia and the Russian Federation in August 2008. On 21 January, the European Court of Human Rights held that that the events occurring during the active phase of hostilities (8 to 12 August 2008) had not fallen within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation under Article 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights; and that the events occurring after the cessation of hostilities (following the ceasefire agreement of 12 August 2008) had fallen within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation. In addition, that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Articles 2, 3, and 8 of the Convention and Article 1 of Protocol No. 1 to the Convention. There had also been an administrative practice contrary to Article 3, in regard to the detention of some 160 Georgian civilians and the humiliating acts which had caused them suffering. The Court unanimously found that the Georgian nationals who had been prevented from returning to South Ossetia or Abkhazia had fallen within the jurisdiction of the Russian Federation and that there had been an administrative practice contrary to Article 2 of the Protocol No. 4 as regards the inability of the Georgian nationals to return to their homes.


ECtHR: Rights Abuses in Ukraine Maidan Protests

The cases of Shmorgunov and Others v. Ukraine, Lutsenko and Verbytskyy v. Ukraine, Kadura and Smaliy v. Ukraine, Dubovtsev and Others v. Ukraine and Vorontsov and Others v. Ukraine concerned events around the Maidan protests in Kyiv and other cities in Ukraine, including dispersal of the protestors, their detention, the kidnapping of activists, their ill-treatment, and the related proceedings. On January 21, the European Court of Human Rights held that there had been multiple violations of Article 3: prohibition of torture and inhuman and degrading treatment, Article 5 section 1 and section 3: right to liberty and security, Article 11: freedom of assembly and association, Article 2: right to life, and Article 8: the right to respect for private and family life. The Court found in particular that the authorities had used ill-treatment deliberately and that the State had been responsible for the murder of one protester. It noted that many of the detention orders had been arbitrary and that the authorities had deliberately tried to disrupt the initially peaceful protest by using excessive violence and unlawful detention. Overall, the abuses found appeared to have been a strategy on the part of the authorities.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures Granted for Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Oswaldo Navarro Veloz, and Marthadela Tamayo

It was reported on 21 January that the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) through Resolution 7/2021 of 19 January, granted precautionary protection measures in favor of Juan Antonio Madrazo Luna, Marthadela Tamayo, and Oswaldo Navarro Veloz, after considering that these human rights defenders are in a serious situation, at risk of irreparable damage to their rights in Cuba. According to the request, the beneficiaries, members of the Citizens Committee for Racial Integration (CIR), an organization that advocates for the rights of Afro-descendants and against racial discrimination, are in a situation of risk due to threats, harassment, surveillance, persecutions, detentions and acts of violence by state agents and third parties, presumably as a result of their work as human rights defenders in Cuba.


ICC: Communication Submitted to the Prosecutor Accusing Brazilian President of Crimes against Humanity

On 22 January, William Bourdon, a Paris-based lawyer, and two of the Brazil’s most influential and well-known Indigenous leaders submitted a communication to the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) accusing Brazilian President Bolsonaro of the rainforest destruction and violations of indigenous rights. Several members of NGOs and lawyers from the US, Brazil and France also worked on the 68-page report on cases of murder, forced transfer and persecution of indigenous people in Brazil. The allegations submit that Bolsonaro committed crimes against humanity. William Bourdon is one of the advocates for the recognition of ecocide as a crime against humanity.



ICC: Mahamat Said Surrendered by the Authorities of the CAR

On 24 January, Mr Mahamat Said Abdel Kani, also known as “Mahamat Said Abdel Kain” and “Mahamat Saïd Abdelkani”, was surrendered to the International Criminal Court (ICC) by the authorities of the Central African Republic (CAR). Mr Said is suspected of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in Bangui (CAR) in 2013. The initial appearance of Mr Said before the Single Judge of Pre-Trial Chamber II, Judge Rosario Salvatore Aitala, will take place in due course.



UNSG: Situation in West Darfur

On 18 January, the UN Secretary-General voiced deep concern over the escalating violence in West Darfur and called on the Sudanese authorities to “expend all efforts” to end the fighting and protect civilians. It was reported that at least 83 people have been killed, more than 160 wounded and about 50,000 people displaced in inter-communal clashes last weekend. The violence occurred roughly two weeks after the African Union-United Nations hybrid peacekeeping mission in the region (UNAMID) ended its operations. The UN Secretary-General called on better protection of civilians, ending the fighting and restoring law. On 22 January, it was reported that already more than 100,000 people fled their homes and 250 people including 3 humanitarian workers died. The clashes started on 15 January in West Darfur province and spread into South Darfur the next day.



UNSG: Breakthrough in Development in Libya

On 18 January, the UN Libya envoy Stephanie Williams said that Libyan envoys who had travelled to Geneva had broken the “deadlock” over selecting representatives for a temporary executive, from all regions of the country. The temporary authority will be replaced by a permanent, democratically elected government, chosen by the Libyan people on 24 December 2021. The UN Secretary-General also announced that Ján Kubiš from Slovakia will be the new Special Envoy on Libya and Head of the Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL). Libya has been divided into warring factions since the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, with the bloody conflict between the UN-recognised Government of National Accord (GNA) in the west, and the Libyan National Army (LNA) in the east.



UNSC: Cooperation Between UN and League of Arab States

On 18 January, the Under-Secretary-General Rosemary DiCarlo briefed UNSC that the cooperation between the UN and the League of Arab States has been critical to addressing the ongoing war in Syria, the search for a two-state solution for Israelis and Palestinians, and other challenges. Mentioning conflicts in Libya, Syria, Yemen, and division among members of the Arab League, Ms. DiCarlo said the past decade has been one of much tumult for the Arab region. She also expressed hopes for the new US administration for rectifying policies and procedures that are not useful and called on to engage in a fruitful political process.


EU:  A More Uniformed Approach on Arms Export Control

On 18 January, the Council of the EU adopted a decision establishing a set of common features that end-user certificates for the export of small arms and light weapons (SALW) and their ammunition will have to respect. The aim is to diminish the risk of arms diversion to illicit or unintended users, create a level playing field and increase clarity for the defence industry and its clients regarding relevant requirements. This means a more uniform approach to the export of SALW and their ammunition.


On 18 January, the EU condemned the detention of the Russian opposition politician, Alexei Navalny upon his return to Moscow on 17 January and called for his immediate release. The EU stated that politicization of the judiciary is unacceptable and Navalny’s rights must be respected. The EU also called on the Russian authorities to immediately release all journalists and citizens who have been detained in connection to their reporting or overall support of Navalny´s return. The EU noted that the detention confirmed a continuous negative pattern of shrinking space for the opposition, civil society, and independent voices in the Russian Federation. The OSCE Parliamentary Assembly’s human rights leaders also issued the statement in which they decried the detention.

On 22 January, the President of the European Council Charles Michel called with the Russian President Vladimir Putin on several issues including the detention of Navalny, intention to convene a strategic debate in the March 2021 European Council on EU-Russia relations and COVID-19 pandemic.




US & China: US Secretary of State Labelled China’s Treatment of Ethnic Uighur Muslims in Xinjiang as Genocide

On 19 January, the State Department declared that the Chinese government is committing genocide and crimes against humanity through its wide-scale repression of Uighurs and other predominantly Muslim ethnic minorities in its north western region of Xinjiang, including its use of internment camps and forced sterilization. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said in a statement that he believes that genocide is ongoing and that we are witnessing the systematic attempt to destroy Uighurs by the Chinese party-state. The U.S. is the first country to make such a determination and US president-elect Joseph Biden said last year through a spokesman that the policies by Beijing amounted to “genocide.” The Chinese Embassy in Washington said in a statement that “the so-called genocide in Xinjiang is simply a lie”.


UNSC: Appellation for More Peacekeepers in the CAR

On 19 January, the UN Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in the Central African Republic (CAR), (MINUSCA), reported that two UN peacekeepers were killed after their convoy was ambushed by members of the UPC and anti-Balaka armed groups in southern CAR. The overall toll of ‘blue helmet’ deaths this month is nine, after several groups allied with former president François Bozizé – launched coordinated and simultaneous attacks. On 21 January, Mankeur Ndiaye, head of the MINUSCA appealed to the Security Council for more peacekeepers and equipment.



UNSC: Situation in Syria

On 20 January, the UN Special Envoy Geir Pedersen reported that after a decade of conflict, Syria is in a state of economic collapse, corruption, mismanagement, food insecurity, and poverty. He also spoke out against the economic sanctions which would worsen the plight of Syrians. On 21 January, the UN Secretary-General announced that he had set up an independent Senior Advisory Panel on strengthening the mechanism whereby humanitarian workers and sites are better protected from attack in Syria.

Before the statements, on 18 January, Russia reportedly deployed additional military police of 300 Russian troops to observation posts in the Syrian province of Hasakah, near the Turkish border per agreements reached earlier by Russia and Turkey. The report comes a day after the US military sent a new convoy of trucks carrying military and logistical equipment to Hasakah. On 19 January, it was reported that Turkey was redeploying troops to the north-western region of Syria and had established new military posts after decreasing its presence last December.





UNSC: UN Verification Mission in Colombia

On 21 January, the Special Representative and Head of the UN Verification Mission in Colombia, Carlos Ruiz Massieu, said that illegally-armed groups and criminal organizations in Colombia are determined to “drive out State institutions and stamp out the voice of social leaders” through violence and intimidation. The UN envoy upheld that Colombia’s historic 2016 peace agreement “represents a threat” to the activities of those who profit from limited State presence. He maintained that consolidating institutional practices, strengthening local protection and conflict resolution mechanisms, providing decent economic opportunities for vulnerable populations are “the strongest bulwark” against armed groups and criminal organizations. Special Representative stressed that the “firm backing” of the Council and the international community at large remains “one of the key factors” that allow Colombia to be “a source of hope and inspiration” for peaceful conflict resolution worldwide.


UNGA: Resolution on Promoting a Culture of Peace and Tolerance to Safeguard Religious Sites

On 21 January, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution in which it invites the UN Secretary‑General to convene a global conference aimed at advancing the United Nations Plan of Action to Safeguard Religious Sites, involving Governments, political figures, religious leaders, civil society, and the media. Expressing concern that racial and religious intolerance and stereotyping are on the rise, the Assembly condemned any advocacy of national, racial or religious hatred that constitutes incitement to discrimination, hostility or violence, and urged States to take effective measures to combat such incidents. Members further emphasized that freedom of religion or belief, freedom of opinion and expression, the right to peaceful assembly, and the right to freedom of association are interdependent, interrelated and mutually reinforcing. They called on the United Nations to pursue strategies, educational initiatives, and global communications campaigns aimed at strengthening the protection of religious sites and cultural heritage.


UNSG: The Secretary-General Welcomes the TPNW

On 22 January, the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in more than two decades came into force.  The UN Secretary-General said that the treaty represents a “strong demonstration of support for multilateral approaches to nuclear disarmament.” The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) includes a comprehensive set of prohibitions on participating in any nuclear weapon activities. These include undertakings not to develop, test, produce, acquire, possess, stockpile, use or threaten to use nuclear weapons. The Treaty also prohibits the deployment of nuclear weapons on national territory and the provision of assistance to any State in the conduct of prohibited activities. The TPNW was adopted by the Conference (by a vote of 122 States in favour, with one vote against and one abstention) at the United Nations on 7 July 2017, and opened for signature by the Secretary-General of the United Nations on 20 September 2017. Followed the deposit with the Secretary-General of the 50th instrument of ratification or accession of the Treaty on 24 October 2020, it entered into force on 22 January 2021 in accordance with its Article 15 (1). To date, the main nuclear powers of the United States, the United Kingdom, Russia, China, and France have not signed the treaty.



OSCE: Statement on Bosnia and Herzegovina election

On 22 January, the OSCE Mission to Bosnia and Herzegovina, the Office of the High Representative (OHR), the Embassies of the US and UK, and the Embassy of Sweden in BiH, as chair of the OSCE, welcome the decision of the Central Election Commission (CEC) to annul the elections in several polling stations in Doboj and Srebrenica. After the detection of serious irregularities in the election processes, OSCE stated that it will continue working with the CEC and other relevant authorities on improving the electoral processes to ensure that future elections are in line with relevant international standards. It is also important that BiH authorities start working on the necessary amendments to the BiH Election Law, through an open and inclusive process. OSCE called on all elected leaders to take responsibility for the task at hand, which is to engage in responsible dialogue and implement election integrity reforms in 2021.


US & Russia: Proposal to Extend the START Nuclear Treaty

On 22 January, Russia welcomed U.S. President Joe Biden’s proposal to extend for the next 5 years, the last remaining nuclear arms control treaty between the two countries, the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START), which is set to expire in less than two weeks. Russian President Vladimir Putin’s spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, said that Russia stands for extending the pact and is waiting to see the details of the U.S. proposal. The treaty known as New START signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads. It is set to expire on 5 February 2021.



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