Weekly News Recap (1–7 Feb 2021)




ICC: Paul Gicheru on Interim Release

On 1 February, Paul Gicheru was released to Kenya with specific conditions restricting liberty, during the confirmation of charges proceedings against him at the International Criminal Court (ICC). This follows the Pre-Trial Chamber A’s decision on 29 January 2021, granting Mr Gicheru interim release with conditions. Mr Gicheru is suspected of offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses of the Court. The confirmation of charges procedure in this case will, in principle, be conducted in writing to determine whether or not there is sufficient evidence to conduct the subsequent phase of the proceedings: the trial.


Russia: Fair Trial Concerns in the Yuri Alexeevich Dmitriev Case

On 1 February, UN human rights experts called on Russia to ensure historian and human rights defender Yuri Alexeevich Dmitriev has a fair trial amid concerns the proceedings against him are politically motivated after a court ordered him to stop using his own lawyer and engage a state appointed counsel. Mr. Dmitriev has dedicated his life to the search for truth about, and the commemoration of, victims of Stalin’s Great Purge of the 1930s, including identifying the locations of execution sites and mass graves, and naming the people buried in them. He has received international recognition and awards for his work.


ECtHR: Ineffective Investigation in X and Others v. Bulgaria 

The case concerned a boy (X) and his two sisters (Y and Z) who were placed in an orphanage in Bulgaria before being adopted by an Italian couple in June 2012. Their adoptive parents reported to various Italian authorities that they had been subjected to serious sexual abuse while in the orphanage. On 2 February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held there had been no violation of Article 3, the prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment, as the Court did not have sufficient information to find that the Bulgarian authorities knew or ought to have known of the real and immediate risk to the applicants. Instead, the Court held, there had been a violation of the procedural limb of Article 3, in that the investigating authorities had not made use of the available investigation and international cooperation mechanisms. Furthermore, they had not taken all reasonable measures to shed light on the facts of the present case and had not undertaken a full and careful analysis of the evidence before them. The omissions observed appeared sufficiently serious for the court to find that the investigation carried out had not been effective.


ECtHR: Violation of Freedom of Expression in Dickinson v. Turkey

The case concerned Mr Dickinson’s criminal conviction for insulting the then Prime Minister, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, through a collage exhibited by him, criticising Mr Erdoğan’s political support for the occupation of Iraq. Mr Dickinson’s work portrayed the Prime Minister’s head glued to the body of a dog, which was held on a leash decorated with the colours of the American flag and had the following phrase pinned on its torso: “We will not be Bush’s Dog.” The judicial authorities brought criminal proceedings against him and in March 2010 Mr Dickinson was ordered to pay a judicial fine of around 3,043 euros for humiliating and insulting the Prime Minister. On 2 February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) found a violation of Article 10, freedom of expression.


Iran: Execution of Baloch Minority Prisoners

On 4 February, UN human rights experts condemned the hanging of Javid Dehghan, an Iranian from the Baloch minority. The execution on 30 January was carried out despite an urgent appeal to the Iranian Government to halt it, as well as calls by the UN Human Rights Office and civil society. Dehghan was arrested on 5 June 2015 and was accused of involvement in an armed group and the ensuing attack which killed two Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps officers. He was forcibly disappeared for three months after his arrest and held in solitary confinement in an undisclosed detention center before being taken to Zahedan Central Prison in Sistan and Baluchestan Province. He was then reportedly taken back and forth for several months between the prison and an unknown facility, where he was forced through torture to ‘confess’ to the allegations. In May 2017, a Revolutionary Court in Zahedan sentenced him to death. He was denied an appeal and on 25 January his lawyer was informed that the Supreme Court had rejected another request for judicial review. Experts fear an increase in executions of Baloch minority prisoners in Iran will continue.


ICC: Dominic Ongwen Guilty of War Crimes and Crimes Against Humanity Committed in Uganda

On 4 February, Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court (ICC) found Dominic Ongwen guilty for a total of 61 comprising crimes against humanity and war crimes, committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005. The verdict may be appealed by either party to the proceedings within 30 days after the notification of the Judgment. ICC Trial Chamber IX found that Mr Ongwen is guilty of several crimes (such as murder, torture, enslavement, outrages upon personal dignity, pillaging, sexual and gender-based crimes, among others) in the context of the armed rebellion of the Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) against the government of Uganda. Following this verdict, the Chamber will impose on Dominic Ongwen the sentence for the crimes of which he has been convicted.


ICJ: No Jurisdiction in the Case of Qatar v. United Arab Emirates

On 11 June 2018, Qatar instituted proceedings against the United Arab Emirates regarding alleged violations of Article 2, 4, 5, 6, and 7 of the International Convention on the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination. In its Application, Qatar asserted that “the United Arab Emirates had enacted and implemented a series of discriminatory measures directed at Qataris based expressly on their national origin”, resulting in alleged human rights violations. On 4 February the International Court of Justice (ICJ) found that it has no jurisdiction to entertain the Application.


On 4 February, the German Federal Government’s Special Representative for the Presidency of the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers, the President of the Council of Europe’s Parliamentary Assembly, and the Secretary-General of the 47-nation Council of Europe expressed their deep regret about the decision of a Moscow court to sentence Alexei Navalny to a 3-year prison term. The sentence is allegedly for repeated violations of the terms of a 2014 fraud sentence and imposed probation. Recent demonstrations have taken place all over Russia, leading to a large amount of arrests of sympathizers, protesters, and journalists. The Council of Europe leaders claimed the decision was arbitrary and unreasonable and called upon the Russian authorities to abide by their international obligations under the European Convention of Human Rights.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures for a Community Leader in Nicaragua

On 4 February, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 11/2021 by which it granted precautionary protection measures in favor of Olman Onel Salazar Umanzor and his family, after considering that their rights were in a situation of gravity and an urgency of risk for irreparable damage in Nicaragua. The Commission identified Mr Salazar as a social leader in his community and in the environmental movement. The IACHR assessed various and continuous acts of threats of aggression, disqualification, intimidation, and harassment against him over time. This is especially serious as various acts were attributed to police officers. Consequently, the Commission asked the State of Nicaragua to, among others, adopt measures to guarantee the rights to life and personal integrity of Mr Umanzor and his family.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures for 34 Members of El Salvador’s Digital Newspaper El Faro

On 4 February, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about the adoption of Resolution 12/2021 of 4 January, through which it granted precautionary measures in favor of 34 identified members of the El Faro Digital Newspaper in El Salvador, after considering that they are in a situation of gravity and urgency of risk of irreparable damage to their rights. The Commission found that the beneficiaries work for the El Faro Digital Newspaper, an independent media outlet, and would be subjected to harassment, threats, intimidation, and stigmatization for reasons of their journalistic activities. Furthermore, the Commission considered that the information received in the contextual framework in El Salvador suggests that the acts were intended not only to intimidate them but also to hinder the activities derived from their journalistic work. Consequently, El Salvador was asked, among others, to adopt measures to preserve the life and personal integrity of the identified beneficiaries and to enable them to carry out their journalistic activities in exercise of their right to freedom of expression.


Germany: Former Nazi Camp Secretary Charged

On 5 February, German prosecutors informed that they charged a former secretary at a Nazi concentration camp with complicity in the murders of 10,000 people. It is the first such case in recent years against a woman. The 95-year-old accused had worked at the Stutthof camp near what was Danzig, now Gdansk, in then Nazi-occupied Poland. Prosecutors did not name the woman, but regional broadcaster NDR identified her as Irmgard F. The suspect “is accused of having assisted those responsible at the camp in the systematic killing of Jewish prisoners, Polish partisans and Soviet Russian prisoners of war in her function as a stenographer and secretary to the camp commander” between June 1943 and April 1945.


ICC: Decision on the Territorial Jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine

On 5 February, Pre-Trial Chamber I of the International Criminal Court (ICC) decided, by majority, that the Court’s territorial jurisdiction in the Situation in Palestine, a State Party to the Rome Statute, extends to the territories occupied by Israel since 1967, namely Gaza and the West Bank, including East Jerusalem. In the decision, Pre-Trial Chamber I recalled that the ICC is not constitutionally competent to determine matters of statehood that would bind the international community. By ruling on the territorial scope of its jurisdiction, the Chamber was neither adjudicating a border dispute under international law nor prejudging the question of any future borders. The Chamber’s ruling was for the sole purpose of defining the Court’s territorial jurisdiction.



UN: Terrorist Attack in Somalia

On 1 February, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Somalia and Head of the UN Assistance Mission in the country (UNSOM), James Swan, condemned the terrorist attack on hotel Afrik near the international airport in the capital Mogadishu, on Sunday 31 January. The attack was conducted by the Al-Shabaab terrorist group, who later claimed responsibility. As a result of the attack 5 people died, and dozens were wounded. “We are appalled by this reprehensible and senseless attack on a venue frequented by innocent civilians, and condemn it in the strongest terms,” said the UN envoy. Somalia has suffered a number of brutal terrorist attacks last year, many of which have been claimed by Al-Shabaab.


UN: Situation in Myanmar

On 1 February, the United Nations Secretary-General has strongly condemned the detention of journalists, human rights defenders, Myanmar’s top political leaders, and government officials, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint, by the country’s military. On 2 February, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights voiced “deep fears” of a violent crackdown. On the same day, the UN Special Envoy on Myanmar appealed for the UN Security Council (UNSC) to unite in their support for democracy in the country in the wake of the recent power grab by the military and the declaration of a one-year state of emergency. The President of the UN General Assembly, Volkan Bozkir, has also called for the immediate release of the detained political leaders in Myanmar, adding that attempts to undermine democracy and rule of law are unacceptable. G7 ministers also joined the condemning statement regarding the situation in the country. On 4 February, the UNSC released a statement expressing “deep concern” over the military takeover in Myanmar and calling for the “immediate release of all detainees.” The UNSC emphasized the need for the continued support of the democratic transitions inside the country after a military junta was installed on 1 February.








UN: Situation in Yemen

On 2 February, the US issued several general licenses aimed at mitigating the anticipated repercussions for humanitarian operations in and commercial traffic to Yemen, despite the warnings that these licenses are not enough to avert the negative humanitarian impact of the designations. This came after the designation of the Houthis (Ansar Allah) as a foreign terrorist organization by the US. Due to Yemen’s huge dependence on commercial imports for bringing in nearly all of its food and everything else, UN officials and independent humanitarian organizations have called for a reversal of the designation. David Beasley, the Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP) said, it would be a “death sentence to hundreds, and thousands, if not millions” by reducing Yemen’s supply of food and other essential goods.

Meanwhile, on 5 February, US President Biden said that his administration would end its support for offensive operations on the part of the Saudi-led coalition, which encompasses the internationally recognized Government. The UN Special Envoy in Yemen marked that statement as a positive development that could create further momentum for dialogue. The Saudi-led coalition which includes other Arab nations backed by the US, UK, and France began airstrikes against Houthi or Ansar Allah-held areas of the country in early 2015. UN figures published in December, indicate that just over 230,000 may have died during the conflict, including some 131,000 from an indirect cause such as lack of food, and healthcare.



US: Urging for a Slow Withdrawal from Afghanistan

On 3 February, a congressionally appointed panel recommended that the Biden administration should slow the withdrawal of troops in Afghanistan and abandon the May 1 exit deadline and instead reduce American forces further only as security conditions improve. In a new report, the Afghanistan Study Group found that withdrawing troops based on a strict timeline risk the stability of the country and may cause a potential civil war. According to the U.S.-Taliban agreement signed in Doha last year, the United States will fully withdraw its remaining 2,500 forces by May. In February the defence ministers will discuss the future of the NATO mission in Afghanistan.



US & Russia: New START Treaty Extended for Five Years

On 3 February, Russia and the US exchanged diplomatic notes regarding the completion of internal procedures required for the entry into force of the Agreement to extend the Treaty on Measures for the Further Reduction and Limitation of Strategic Offensive Arms of 8 April 2010 (New START). Extending the New START Treaty ensures verifiable limits on intercontinental ballistic missiles (ICBMs), submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs), and heavy bombers until 5 February 2026. The New START Treaty’s verification regime enables to monitor both countries’ compliance with the treaty and provides greater insight into countries’ nuclear posture, including through data exchanges and on-site inspections that allow inspectors to have eyes on nuclear forces and facilities. The US reported that they remain clear-eyed about the challenges that Russia poses to the US and the world. Russia reported that it would require significant steps to return US-Russia bilateral dialogue in this area back to a more stable trajectory and reach new substantial results that would strengthen national security and global strategic stability.



UNSC: Peace Consolidation in West Africa

On 3 February, in connection with the Council’s consideration of the item entitled “Peace consolidation in West Africa”, the President of the UN Security Council (UNSC) issued a statement in which the UNSC called for continued national, regional, and international engagement in cooperation with the countries of the region to prevent and address peace and security. The Council also condemned last month’s terrorist attacks. The Council expressed concern at the deterioration in the overall humanitarian situation in the region, which has been exacerbated by COVID-19, and notably characterised by the impact of forced displacement, extreme poverty, food insecurity, social inequalities, and violence. The Council also emphasized the important role of women in the prevention and resolution of conflicts and welcomed the holding of presidential and legislative elections in 2020 within some countries of West Africa and the Sahel. This has strengthened the roots of democracy in these countries. The Council encouraged cross-pillar efforts to foster greater coherence and coordination within the UN System, as well as, with partners in the region to implement the UN Integrated Strategy for the Sahel (UNISS) and the United Nations Support Plan for the Sahel (UNSPS).


UNSC: Briefing on the Implementation of Resolution 2118 in Syria

On 4 February, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu briefed the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the implementation of Resolution 2118 and the ongoing activities of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Syria. She reaffirmed the continuity of the OPCW’s mandate in Syria despite the pandemic restrictions. She noted that efforts by the OPCW Declaration Assessment Team (DAT) are still ongoing to clarify all 19 outstanding issues regarding the Syrian initial declaration to the OPCW. She reported that Syria has yet to provide sufficient technical information or explanations that would enable the OPCW Technical Secretariat to close these issues. She also stressed the urgent need to not only identify those who have used chemical weapons in Syria but to also hold them accountable for their deeds.



UN: Libya’s Steps to Peace

On 5 February, the 74-members of the UN-led Libyan Political Dialogue Forum (LPDF) selected an interim Prime Minister and President of its new executive council, marking what the UN Special Representative Stephanie Williams called another “historic moment” on the road to unification of the war-torn country and national elections on 24 December 2021. The President of Libya’s interim government, Mohammad Younes Menfi will serve with Mossa Al-Koni and Abdullah Hussein Al-Lafi. The Prime Minister in the Presidency Council is Abdul Hamid Mohammed Dbeibah. The UN envoy said that the Prime Minister-designate must, within a period not to exceed 21 days, form his Cabinet and present its work program, along with all the outcomes of the Libyan Political Dialogue Forum to the House of Representatives for full endorsement. The UN Secretary-General welcomed the selection of the interim leadership and called on all members of the LPDF, and international stakeholders involved in the Libyan peace process, “to respect the results of the vote.” After the decade of the war-torn country, this is the historic moment for bringing peace to Libya.





EU & Russia: Talks in Moscow

On 5 February, the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Josep Borrell met with Russian Foreign minister Sergei Lavrov to discuss several issues that the EU and Russia are facing in these times. Borrell mentioned that EU – Russia relations have been marked by fundamental differences and a lack of trust over the last years. “We are seeing each other more as a competitor or rival, rather than a partner.” Borrell also conveyed to Minister Lavrov his deep concern and reiterated the EU’s appeal for the release of Navalny. It has since been announced that 3 European diplomats were expelled from Russia due to their attendance at the protests supporting Navalny. Borrell added that the European Union considers issues related to the rule of law, human rights, civil society, and political freedom central to a common future. On the contrary, Minister Lavrov expressed his regret that during the pandemic some forces in the EU have used the issue to accuse Russia of disinformation. He also reaffirmed the Russian proposal to create one more channel to buttress talk about disinformation. However, they also emphasized several areas that can be done to deepen engagement from both sides and benefit in a tangible way: culture, research, health, facing COVID-19, the Arctic, climate, and digital area.





US & China: Naval Tensions in South China Sea

On 6 February, a US warship sailed near the Chinese-controlled Paracel Islands in the disputed South China Sea in a freedom of navigation operation. The US Navy’s 7th Fleet said the destroyer USS John S McCain asserted navigational rights and freedoms in the vicinity of the Paracel Islands consistent with international law. It was the first mission under President Joe Biden’s new administration. Before that, on 1 February, Taiwan reported that US and China warplanes entered Taiwan’s air defence identification zone. Last month, a US aircraft carrier strike group entered the South China Sea for what the Navy said were routine operations.

China claims almost all of the South China Sea, an assertion that the International Tribunal at The Hague declared as without merit. China took full control of the Paracels in 1974 after a short battle with South Vietnamese forces. Malaysia, Brunei, and the Philippines have claims to other parts of the South China Sea, where China has been building artificial islands and constructing air bases.



OCHA & UNHCR: UN’s Appeal for Humanitarian Access in Tigray

On 5 February, after 3 months of violent tensions in Ethiopia’s northern region Tigray, the Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) called for full access to the suffering and starving people in the region. OCHA claimed that insecurity and bureaucratic obstacles have prevented aid workers from providing life-saving assistance. The OCHA commented that the humanitarian response remains severely constrained and inadequate. The humanitarian workers can not reach most of the people in need. The OCHA said, that about 2.3 million people are in dire need including those who needed help before the conflict.


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