Weekly News Recap (8–14 Feb 2021)




ICC: Postponement of Yekatom and Ngaïssona Trial

On 8 February, Trial Chamber V postponed the opening of The Prosecutor v. Alfred Yekatom and Patrice-Edouard Ngaïssona case before the International Criminal Court (ICC) to 16 February 2021. The postponement of the proceedings is related to COVID-19 and the court has said it would consider the possibility of holding a hearing remotely. Mr Yekatom and Mr. Ngaïssona are accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity allegedly committed in the Central African Republic (CAR).


ICJ: New President and Vice-President elected

On 8 February, the International Court of Justice (ICJ) announced the election of the new President, Judge Joan Donoghue, from the United States of America. She is the 26th President of the Court. It is the second time a woman is to hold this post, after Rosalyn Higgins. She is replacing Ahmed Yusuf, a Judge from Somalia. Judge Kirill Gevorgian from the Russian Federation was elected Vice-President. Judge Gevorgian and Judge Donoghue were both elected for a term of three years. On 8 February, Judge Georg Nolte from Germany, made the solemn declaration as provided for in Article 20 of the Statute of the Court.



Poland: Court Order for Two Prominent Historians to Apologise for their Holocaust Research

It was reported on 9 February, that the Warsaw district court ordered two leading historians to apologise to a woman for defaming her relative in their book about the Holocaust. Prof Jan Grabowski of the University of Ottawa and Prof Barbara Engelking of the Polish Center for Holocaust Research were accused of defaming Edward Malinowski by suggesting in a book that he gave up Jews to Nazi Germans. In a civil case condemned by Jewish organisations and historians as an attack on free academic inquiry, the researchers were told to apologise for a passage in Night Without End: The Fate of Jews in Selected Counties of Occupied Poland, a 1,600-page work they co-edited, which the court said “violated Malinowski’s honour” by “providing inaccurate information”. Poland’s ruling nationalist Law and Justice party (PiS) party has said it views allegations of Polish complicity as dishonouring the country.


ACtHPR: The Election of New Judges

On 9 February, the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) informed about the 34th Ordinary Summit of the African Union (AU), held on the 5 February, where two new judges were appointed as members of the ACtHPR. The new judges are Hon. Justice Dumisa Buhle Ntsebeza SC from the Republic of South Africa, and Hon. Justice Sacko Modibo from the Republic of Mali. The summit also re-elected, for their second term, Judges Hon. Justice Rafaâ Ben Achour from the Republic of Tunisia, and Hon. Lady-Justice Imani Daud Aboud from the United Republic of Tanzania. The newly elected Judges will be sworn-in during the 61st Ordinary Session scheduled for June 2021.


Germany: Alleged Nazi SS Guard is Charged with the Murder of 3,518 people

It was reported on 9 February, that in Germany, a 100-year-old man is accused of 3,518 counts of accessory to murder on allegations that he served as a Nazi SS guard at the Sachsenhausen concentration camp. He is believed to have been a Nazi SS guard from 1942 to 1945. Cyrill Klement, who led the investigation of the centenarian for the Neuruppin prosecutor’s office, said that despite his age, the suspect is considered fit enough to stand trial. This case relies on recent legal precedent, which established that anyone who assisted in the operation of a Nazi camp can be prosecuted for accessory to the murders. The court has not yet set a date for the trial.


ECtHR: Several Violations of the Convention in the Case Concerning Forced Prostitution

On 9 February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rendered a judgment in the case of N.Ç. v. Turkey. The case concerned the shortcomings in the criminal proceedings against suspects charged with prostitution offences in relation to a fourteen-year-old child. The applicant was forced to work as a prostitute by two women while she was only twelve years old. The Court considered that the lack of support for the applicant, the failure to protect her against the defendants, the unnecessary reconstruction of the rape incidents, the repeated medical examinations, the lack of a calm and secure environment at the hearings, the assessment of the victim’s consent, the excessive length of the proceedings, and, lastly, the fact that two of the charges had become time-barred, amounted to a serious case of secondary victimisation of the applicant. The conduct of the proceedings had failed to ensure effective application of the criminal law to the infringement of the values protected by Articles 3 (prohibition of torture or inhuman or degrading treatment or punishment) and 8 (respect for private life) of the Convention.


ECtHR: Turkey Violated the Freedom to Receive Information of a Detainee

On 9 February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) rendered a judgment in the case of Ramazan Demir v. Turkey. Mr Demir, a lawyer detained on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation and of disseminating propaganda in favour of a terrorist organisation, asked the prison authorities for permission to access the Internet sites of the Court, the Constitutional Court and the Official Gazette, with a view to preparing his own defence and following his clients’ cases. Turkey did not provide any justifications why the access was denied, nor why the contested measures were necessary. The Court therefore held that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom to receive information) in this case.


Egypt: Two Human Rights Defenders Added on a Terrorist List Face Trial

On 10 February, an appeal was heard in the case of Ramy Shaath and Zyad El-Elaimy, human rights defenders added on a terrorist list. The matter is scheduled to be decided on 10 March 2021. On 11 February, the UN experts urged he Egyptian authorities to remove them from the list and to stop the systemic misuse of counter-terrorism powers. The UN experts expressed concerns that they were added on the list without evidence. The experts urged the Government to respect its fair trial rights obligations and to ensure that measures to combat terrorism and preserve national security are in compliance with its obligations under international law and do not hinder the work and safety of individuals, engaged in promoting and defending human rights.


UAE: Three Human Rights Defenders Serving Long-Term Prison Sentences

On 10 February, Mary Lawlor, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed concerns over the imprisonment of Mohamed Al-Roken, Ahmed Mansoor and Nasser Bin Ghaith, three human rights defenders criminalised for their non-violent and legitimate calls for respect for human rights in the United Arab Emirates (UAE). They serve 10-year prison sentences. Following the allegations that they are mistreated in conditions that may amount to torture, the UN expert urged authorities to release them.


Bosnia and Herzegovina: Extradition of Human Rights Defender to Kuwait

On 10 February, the UN experts urged Bosnia and Herzegovina to halt the extradition of Musaed Al Masailim to Kuwait, where he faces 87 years’ imprisonment and risks irreparable harm upon return. A public session of the Court of Sarajevo was held on 5 February 2021 but the judge did not announce a ruling. Al Masailim was first arrested in Kuwait in 2015 and charged with publicly disrespecting the Emir through tweets. He was acquitted on those charges in 2016 but faced ill-treatment while in detention. Since relocating to Sarajevo in 2017, he has been charged on three separate occasions for his tweets and was sentenced in absentia.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures Granted for 20 Members of the San Isidro Movement

On 11 February, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued a resolution setting precautionary measures of protection for the 20 identified members of the San Isidro Movement (MSI) in Cuba, given that they are human rights defenders in a grave and urgent situation which threatens them with irreparable harm. According to the request, they are at risk due to threats, surveillance, and harassment by state agents and third parties due to their work as activists, journalists, and human rights defenders. Under Rule 25 of the IACHR’s Rules of Procedure, the Commission requests Cuba to guarantee the necessary protection measures to enable the beneficiaries to carry out their activities as human rights defenders.


ICC: Completion of the Nineteenth Session of the ASP & the Next Prosecutor Elected

On 12 February, the second resumed nineteenth session of the Assembly of States Parties (ASP) to the Rome Statute of the International Criminal Court was held at UN Headquarters in New York. The Assembly elected Mr. Karim Khan as the next Prosecutor. Mr. Khan will take office on 16 June 2021. The Assembly also elected the two Vice-Presidents for the twentieth to twenty-second sessions of the Assembly, H.E. Mr. Robert Keith Rae and H.E. Ms. Kateřina Sequensová. The current President of the Assembly, H.E. Mr. O-Gon Kwon who has completed his three-year term said, “it has been a great honour to serve as President.” The new Bureau will take office on 13 February 2021 until the end of the Assembly of States Parties in December 2023.


USA: Mars, Nestlé and Hershey Facing Child Slavery Lawsuit

It was reported on 12 February, that chocolate companies are among the defendants named in a lawsuit brought by former child workers in Ivory Coast. Eight children who claim they were used as slave labour on cocoa plantations in Ivory Coast have launched legal action against the world’s biggest chocolate companies. They accuse the corporations of aiding and abetting the illegal enslavement of “thousands” of children on cocoa farms in their supply chains. It is the first time that a class action of this kind has been filed against the cocoa industry in a US court.



UNSC: Implementation of Resolution 2522 (2020)

On 8 February, the UN Secretary-General issued a report on the Implementation of Resolution 2522 (2020) in which he reported on the progress made towards fulfilling the mandate of the UN Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI). In the report, the UN Secretary-General stated key political developments such as Iraq´s continuing effort in a free and fair election, the government’s steps to address the budget deficit, the continual focus on increasing diversity in senior positions within the Government, and the continuing effort to address the COVID-19 pandemic. The report also mentioned the relations between Baghdad and Erbil, the capital of Kurdistan, and their outstanding disagreements regarding several laws and budgets. Concerning the security situation in Iraq, it was reported that several areas are still experiencing ISIL attacks, that the US plans to further drawdown their military presence, and Turkey reports continued attacks against the Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) in northern Iraq. The report also informed about UNAMI’s continued engagement in political activities, electoral assistance, human rights, rule of law developments, humanitarian assistance, stabilization, and development.


UN: Ethiopia Allows UN Agencies to Assist in Tigray

On 8 February, UN agencies received approval from the Ethiopian Government for 25 international staff to provide humanitarian assistance inside the country’s conflict-torn Tigray region. This comes after three months of uncertainty in the region. In early November the Prime Minister order a military offensive against the Tigray Peoples’s Liberation Front (TPLF), who attacked a federal army base. Since the end of November, Government forces have reported the region was secured, but TPLF resistance has continued, amid reports of extrajudicial killings and rights abuses. The UN recalled several positive engagements between the Government and senior UN officials, including the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR), head of UN Safety and Security, and Executive Director of the World Food Programme (WFP). WFP has agreed to provide emergency food aid for up to one million people in Tigray. Around 60 more humanitarian workers from the UN and non-governmental organizations are still awaiting approval in the capital Addis Ababa for deployment to Tigray.


NATO: Security Patrols in the Western Mediterranean

On 8 February, it was reported that Spanish offshore patrol vessel Meteoro, supported by maritime patrol aircraft from Portugal and Spain, has deployed to the Western Mediterranean as part of NATO’s maritime security operation, Operation Sea Guardian (OSG). NATO OSG is a year-round, proactive, and forward-looking commitment of up-keeping deterrence on terrorism and illegal activities. It aims to create a comprehensive picture of daily activities in the Mediterranean. The first OSG Focused Operation for 2021 focuses on the Alboran Sea, with a planned port visit to Tangiers, Morocco. Operation Sea Guardian is a non-Article 5 maritime security operation of NATO aimed at working with Mediterranean stakeholders and partners to maintain maritime situational awareness, deter and counter terrorism and enhance capacity building. This Operation remains one of the most important tools for NATO projecting stability throughout the Mediterranean Sea and sustaining maritime situational awareness.


OSCE: Final Report on US General Elections

On 9 February, the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights (ODIHR) observation mission issued its final report on the US general elections. The report offered 38 recommendations to improve the conduct of elections in the US and to support the country’s efforts in bringing them in line with OSCE commitments, as well as other international obligations and standards for democratic elections. Among the key recommendations were reducing the numbers of unregistered persons; drawing district boundaries in good time and independently of partisan considerations; ensuring that voter identification requirements are equally accessible to all voters; requesting public officials, political parties, their candidates, and supporters to refrain from using inflammatory or discriminatory rhetoric; ratifying the two UN convections to better protect and promote voting rights for women and persons with disabilities (CEDAW, CRPD); and making sure that the commitment made by all OSCE states to provide access for international and citizen observers to all stages of the electoral process is enshrined in law.



UNSC: Urging Constructive International Diplomacy in Syria

On 9 February, the UN Special Envoy for Syria, Geir O. Pedersen reported to the UNSC that in Syria there had to be constructive international diplomacy if the peace process is to move forward in any way. He is convinced that without constructive international diplomacy the situation will be unable to move forward in Syria. The UN envoy observed a lack of trust, confidence, the political will to compromise, and a lack of political space to compromise, as well. He also stressed that no one actor or existing group of actors (Syrian or foreign) can determine the political settlement of the conflict. It is necessary to negotiate it.

The day before the briefing, it was reported that at the largest refugees’ camp in Syria, Al-Hol camp more than 80 per cent of those being held are women and children. Of the 62,000 people reported living in this camp more than 31,000 are children under the age of 12. The independent UN Special Rapporteurs, appointed by the Human Rights Council, reported about the disastrous situation in the Syrian camps saying, “thousands of people held in the camps are exposed to violence, exploitation, abuse, and deprivation in condition and treatment that may well amount to torture or other cruel, inhumane or degrading treatment.”



UN: Updates on the Situation in Myanmar

On 9 February, the UN Resident Coordinator and Humanitarian Coordinator in Myanmar has voiced strong concerns over the use of force by security forces against demonstrators protesting against the military takeover and arrests of elected leaders and politicians. On 10 February, the UN Special Rapporteur said that security forces in the country must “stand down before there are more casualties” among protesters. This comes after reports of lethal use of force against those demonstrating against last week’s military takeover. He also warned that all members of the security force had an obligation under international law not to use excessive force and that they risked being prosecuted if they did so. On 11 February, US President Joe Biden approved an executive order for new sanctions on those responsible for the military coup in Myanmar. This comes after the army detained another key aide to civilian leader Aung San Suu Kyi. Some 220 government officials and members of civil society, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi, President Win Myint, have been detained since the coup.

On 12 February, the Human Rights Council (HRC) held a special meeting on “the human rights implications of the crisis in Myanmar” which resulted in calling for targeted sanctions against the leaders responsible for the coup. It was held in a virtual format in the Assembly Hall of the Palais des Nations. The decision was taken at the joint request of the United Kingdom and the European Union, whose initiative was supported by 45 states. The request stated that the special session was necessary due to the “importance and urgency of the situation.” The HRC adopted a resolution in which it deplored the removal of the Government democratically elected by the people of Myanmar in the general election held on 8 November 2020, and the suspension of mandates of members of all parliaments, and called for the restoration of the democratically elected Government. The Council also called urgently for the immediate and unconditional release of all persons arbitrarily detained, including State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and President Win Myint and others, and the lifting of the state of emergency, and stressed the need to refrain from violence and fully respect human rights, fundamental freedoms and the rule of law. 







UNSC: Urging Libya’s Interim Government to Prepare for December Election

On 10 February, the UNSC called on the newly elected Libya’s interim leadership to swiftly form an inclusive Government and make necessary preparations for December’s presidential and parliamentary elections. The Council´s call came after last week’s election of a new interim government which should prepare the ground for the general election on 24 December 2021. The Council also urged the withdrawal of all foreign forces and mercenaries from Libya and respect the ceasefire agreement signed in October 2020. The UNSC expressed its full support in process of building peace in the country. On 8 February, Ján Kubiš took up his functions as the new Special Envoy on Libya and head of the UN Support Mission in the country (UNSMIL).



UNSC: Resurgence of ISIL Terrorists

On 10 February, Vladimir Voronkov, head of the UN Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) briefed the UNSC on the repeated rise of the ISIL terrorist fighters. He marked this trend as a threat to international peace and security and said that it was “crucial” for the Member States to remain focused and united in thwarting terrorism. He said that ISIL’s efforts to regroup and to reinvigorate its activities has gained further momentum while some 10,000 ISIL fighters, mostly in Iraq, are pursuing a protracted insurgency. He underscored the need to end the “scourge of terrorism” by defeating ISIL in cyberspace, disrupting new attacks globally, and tackling the threat posed by its regional affiliates, especially in Africa. Furthermore, the UN Counter-Terrorism Committee Executive Director (CTED) Head Michèle Coninsx updated on the Secretary-General’s 12th strategic-level report along with the UN’s work in addressing ISIL during the COVID-19 pandemic. She said that the pandemic is the most urgent challenge, noting that it has accelerated many underlying issues that are fuelling various threats.


UNSC: Attack Against UN Peacekeepers in Mali

On 10 February, around 27 UN peacekeepers of the UN Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA) were injured and one died after an attack against MINUSMA base in Kéréna near Douentza. The Special Representative and head of MINUSCA, Mahamat Saleh Annadif, strongly condemned this attack and added that the main objective of the UN security operations has been to help reduce violence against populations and restore calm in those areas. The UNSC expressed its concern about the security situation in Mali and the transnational dimension of the terrorist threat in the Sahel region. The UN Security Council urged the Malian parties to fully implement the Agreement on Peace and Reconciliation in Mali without further delay. The Malian Government has been seeking to restore stability and rebuild the country’s institutions following a series of setbacks, beginning in early 2012 that fractured the country. The MINUSMA remains the world’s most dangerous peacekeeping operation.



Turkey: New Military Operation in Northern Iraq

On 10 February, it was reported that Turkey launched an operation, dubbed “Claw-Eagle 2”, against Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) fighters in the northern Iraqi region of Dohuk. Turkey reported that at least three soldiers died during the operation. The PKK, listed as a “terrorist” group by Turkey and much of the international community, has for decades used Iraq’s mountainous areas as a springboard for its attacks against positions inside Turkey. The Turkish army regularly conducts cross-border operations and air raids on PKK bases in northern Iraq, which it justifies as the legitimate right to self-defence. Despite objections by the Iraqi government, Turkey has been carrying out several counter-terrorism military operations against the PKK in northern Iraq, including ‘Operation Euphrates Shield’ in 2016, ‘Operation Olive Branch’ in 2018, and ‘Operation Peace Spring’ 2019.



CoE: Several Human Rights Concerns Relating to the Control of the Demonstrations in Russia

On 11 February, the Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatovic, published a letter addressed to the Minister of Internal Affairs of the Russian Federation, Vladimir Kolokoltsev. She highlighted several human rights concerns relating to the control of the demonstrations that have taken place in Russia over the past few weeks. She expressed concern over the number of people who were subjected to ill-treatment while in detention, the excessive use of force, and the violence against peaceful demonstrators by the military. The Commissioner calls on the Russian authorities to stop detaining peaceful demonstrators and to follow human rights standards, as guaranteed in the European Convention on Human Rights.


China & India: Disengaging from the Border Battle Zone

On 11 February, officials in China and India stated that both countries have been pulling back frontline troops along disputed portions of their mountain border where they have been in a standoff for months. According to the reports, the troops started the synchronised and organised disengagement on 10 February at the southern and northern bank of Pangong Lake in the Ladakh region. The tense standoff began in May 2020 when Indian officials said Chinese soldiers crossed the frontier at three different points in Ladakh. Tensions exploded into hand-to-hand combat with clubs, stones, and fists on 15 June, which left 20 Indian soldiers dead. Since then both countries have stationed tens of thousands of their soldiers backed by artillery, tanks, and fighter jets along the fiercely contested Line of Actual Control (LAC).


UNSC: Extension of Panel of Experts on Sudan in Resolution 2562 (2021)

On 11 February, the UNSC extended the mandate of the Panel of Experts tasked with assisting the committee overseeing sanctions concerning Sudan, until 12 March 2022. The resolution was adopted unanimously and the Council requested the Panel of Experts on Sudan to provide the Security Council Committee an interim report on its activities by 12 August 2021 and a final report by 13 January 2022. The Council also requested all involved actors to conduct a review of the situation in Darfur, which will include threats to stability, implementation of the Juba Peace Agreement, the National Plan for Civilian Protection, measures to tackle the proliferation of weapons, and compliance with those measures on Darfur.


UNSC: Briefing on the Situation in Ukraine

On 11 February, the head of the UN’s political affairs, Rosemary DiCarlo briefed the UNSC to mark the fifth anniversary of a deal to end fighting between Ukraine Government forces and mostly pro-Russian separatists, known as the Minsk II agreement. Since the last briefing in February 2020, the ceasefire which came into force in July 2020, was described by her as a welcome development, together with the release and exchange of detainees. However, she noted that challenges remain, including delivering aid amid the pandemic. Since then, the UN Human Rights Monitoring Mission in Ukraine has reported a significant decrease in civilian casualties from the exchange of fire. However, she warned that the risk of backsliding is real if negotiations become deadlocked. She also expressed concern over the recent increase in security incidents along the contact line separating Government-controlled territory and regions held by separatists. Humanitarian access remains a significant challenge in Eastern Ukraine, where more than 3.4 million civilians still require sustained assistance and the pandemic has only worsened the situation.

Meanwhile, on 11 February, the EU and Ukraine held the 7th meeting of the Association Council where they reaffirmed its continued commitment to strengthening the political association and economic integration of Ukraine with the European Union based on the Association Agreement and its Deep and Comprehensive Free Trade Area (DCFTA) and to the common values enshrined in it.




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