Weekly News Recap (22–28 Feb 2021)




IACHR: Precautionary Protection Measures Granted to Kevin Adrián Monzón Mora and His Family

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 16/2021 on 22 February, by which it granted precautionary protection measures in favor of Kevin Adrián Monzón Mora and his family, after considering that his Rights are in a serious and urgent situation of risk of irreparable harm in Nicaragua. The Commission identified that Kevin Adrián Monzón, after making various publications on Tik Tok, has been exposed to threats, harassment, intimidation, and acts of violence, even while in State custody. Such events were attributed to police officers. To the extent that several events were accompanied by offenses and ridicule related to the sexual orientation of the proposed beneficiary, the IACHR highlighted the special situation of vulnerability that he faces as a result of prejudices based on sexual orientation, gender identity or expression.


Israel: Court Imposes a Gag Order on Journalists

On 22 February, Israel’s Haifa Magistrate Court placed a 7-day gag order on the investigation into the source of a large oil leak. Journalists had reported on the spill, which polluted the entire Israel’s Mediterranean shoreline with tar. The order prohibits the publishing of any details on the suspects involved in the spill including vessels, relevant ports, cargo, and shipping lines. The order was put in place due to an investigation being conducted by Marine Protection Division, as the incident involves international aspects. The following day, the Court partially lifted the gag order by holding that information gathered through independent means could be published. 


ECtHR: A New Application by Ukraine Against Russia

The European Court of Human Rights reported on 23 February that Ukraine had lodged a new inter-State application against the Russian Federation on 19 February. Ukraine has already launched three prior complaints against the Russian Federation, which are pending before the Court. The newest one concerns the ongoing administrative practice by the Russian Federation consisting of several targeted assassination operations committed by agents of the Russian Federation. Ukrainian Government also alleges that the Russian Federation does not conduct an effective investigation concerning the assassinations and deliberately mounts cover-up operations. The Ukrainian Government alleges a violation of both the substantive and procedural aspects of Article 2, the right to life, of the Convention.


IACHR: Referral of Cases on Argentina and Paraguay to IACtHR

The Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) reported on 23 February that it had referred on 3 February the case of Raghda Habbal and her three sons, regarding Argentina, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case refers to the arbitrary deprivation of Raghda Habbal’s Argentine nationality acquired by naturalization and of the permanent residency of her three children, as well as the violations of judicial guarantees that took place in the context of both processes.

On 25 February, the IACHR reported that it had referred on 13 February the case of Santiago Leguizamón Zaván and his family, regarding Paraguay, before the IACtHR. The case refers to the death of Santiago Leguizamón on April 26, 1991, an important and well-known journalist and human rights defender from Pedro Juan Caballero, one of the most violent areas of Paraguay on the border with Brazil, for reasons that were allegedly linked to his profession, as well as to the failure of the State to adopt adequate and timely measures to protect him and prevent the occurrence of such events. The case also deals with the lack of an effective and diligent investigation of these facts, consistent with applicable international standards and the impunity resulting from the facts.



India: Dehli Court Granted Bail to a Climate Activist

On 23 February, a judge in Delhi granted bail to 22-year-old climate activist Disha Ravi. Disha Ravi was arrested for sedition for the alleged creation of documents with help of secessionist groups to disrupt the public order. Counsel for Ms Ravi argued that she legitimately exercised her rights of freedom of speech and expression under Article 19 of the Constitution of India. The Court held that in the actions of Ravi, the element of incitement to violence was absent and that citizens “cannot be put behind the bars simply because they choose to disagree with the State policies.” The judge reaffirmed that the right to freedom of speech and expression includes the right to seek a global audience and granted bail due to the lack of evidence and no prior convictions of the accused. 


Germany: A Former Syrian Intelligence Officer is Convicted

On 24 February, Eyad al-Gharib was convicted of being an accomplice to crimes against humanity for helping to arrest protesters in Damascus and bringing them to detention centers, where they were later tortured and murdered. Mr al-Gharib had fled Syria’s civil war and received asylum in Germany. He was arrested in 2019 and is sentenced to 4 years for abetting a crime against humanity. He was tried on the principle of the universal jurisdiction, which may allow for a national court to prosecute individuals for serious crimes against international law. The definition and exercise of universal jurisdiction varies around the world and is subject to much debate. The authority to prosecute individuals depends on both on the domestic legal framework and the facts of each particular case.


Malaysia: The Selangor State LGBT Sex Ban Ruled Unconstitutional

The State of Selangor had a law that classified LGBT sex as an offense and charged 11 men with an “attempt of sexual intercourse against the order of nature.” On appeal, the men argued that the law is invalid because only the Parliament of Malaysia has the authority to classify such actions as an offense. On 25 February, the Federal court agreed and clarified that “the creation and punishment of offenses by persons professing the religion of Islam against precepts of that religion, except regarding matters included in the Federal List.” Criminal law in Malaysia comes under the Federal List law-making powers which are exclusive to Parliament. Human rights defenders described the decision as a “small but significant” step towards a more progressive view of Malaysia on human rights. That said, legal protection for the LGBT community is still non-existent in Malaysia and it is still criminal for same-sex intercourse for non-Muslims under Section 377A of the Penal Code.



STL: The Pre-Trial Chamber Scheduled a Date for the Start of the Ayyash Case

On 25 February, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) issued a scheduling order and set 16 June 2021 as a tentative date for the start of the Ayyash case. The decision was made after consulting with the Prosecution, Defense, and Legal Representatives of the victims. The Ayyash case concerns three attacks against Marwan Hamade, Georges Hawi, and Elias El-Murr in 2005, allegedly conducted by Mr Salim Ayyash. Mr Ayyash is being charged on 5 counts including conspiracy, committing terrorist acts and intentional homicide.


Rwanda: Court Ruling on Jurisdiction to Try Paul Rusesabagina

On 26 February, Rwanda’s High Court Chamber for International and Cross-border Crimes on Friday ruled that it has jurisdiction to try Paul Rusesabagina, whose actions inspired the film “Hotel Rwanda,” on the charges of terrorism financing, armed robbery, abduction, arson, attempted murder, assault, and battery. Rusesabagina had questioned the jurisdiction of the Rwanda court, since he is a citizen of Belgium. The prosecution had argued that Rusesabagina is a dual citizen as he has not renounced his Rwandan citizenship. The three-judge panel found that courts in both Rwanda and Belgium have the jurisdiction to try the case, and that there is no justifiable ground for moving the case to a Belgian court.


ICC: New Calendar for the Gicheru Case

On 26 February, the Pre-Trial Chamber of the International Criminal Court (ICC) established a new calendar on the filing of written submissions concerning the confirmation of charges against Mr Gicheru. Mr Gicheru is suspected of charges against the administration of justice by corruptly influencing witnesses of the Court – also known as witness tampering. The Chamber considered the parties’ requests for extension and established that both parties agreed on the necessity of postponing the deadline for filing written submissions. The Chamber concluded that the Prosecutor shall file its evidence no later than 12 March 2021 and the time for the submission of evidence for the Defense is no later than 8 April 2021. 


ACtHPR: The Judgment in the Rutechura Case is Delivered

Rutechura, a Tanzanian national, faced the death penalty at Butimba Prison for murder. He argued before the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) that Tanzania violated its obligations under Articles 7(1) and 7(1)(c) of the African Charter on Human and Peoples’ Rights by dismissing its application for review outside time, by failing to provide him with free legal representative of his choice, and by failing to assess the evidence against him properly. The Court concluded on 26 February that no error of justice occurred during the trial of Mr. Rutechura. The Court also found that the free legal representative was given to Mr. Rutechura and that the evidence was assessed properly. Thus, all claims of Mr. Rutechura were dismissed. Judge Tchikaya in a Separate Opinion emphasized the need for the Respondent to develop laws towards the abolition of the death penalty following the international standards. 


ECtHR: Attempt by 33 Governments to Overturn Urgent Status of Climate Change Case Rejected

On 26 February, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) dismissed an attempt by 33 defendant governments to challenge the accelerated status of a climate change case brought against them by six Portuguese youth activists. The activists claim that the countries signed the 2015 Paris Agreement but have failed to “comply with their commitments in order to limit climate change” after Portugal experienced its highest July temperatures in 90 years. Due to the urgency of the subject matter, the Court granted the case a rare priority status in November.



USA: Supreme Court Injunctive Relief Granted to Churches Seeking Indoor Worship Services During the Pandemic

On 26 February, the US Supreme Court granted injunctive relief to a group of churches in Santa Clara County, California, which sought to continue holding indoor worship services in spite of COVID-19 bans. The churches argued that airports, school classes, and courtroom hearings fall outside of the County’s definition of a “gathering,” but still qualify as “an event, assembly, meeting, or convening that brings together multiple people from separate households in a single space.” The churches argued that the County’s failure to ban these activities reflected that the Coronavirus policies treat religious worship service differently. The US Supreme Court granted the injunctive relief “pending disposition of the appeal in the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit.”



UK: Supreme Court Ruled Shamima Begum Cannot Return to Appeal Citizenship Revocation

On 26 February, the UK Supreme Court dismissed Shamima Begum’s request to be allowed to return to the country to appeal the deprivation of her citizenship. Begum was one of the three schoolgirls who left the UK to join the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2015. In early 2019, the UK secretary of state for the home department notified her of his intention to deprive her of her British citizenship on account of her having traveled to Syria and aligning herself with ISIL. 




EU: Sanctions on Russia and Belarus

On 22 February, it was reported that the EU was planning to sanction the authorities responsible for the jailing of opposition leader Alexei Navalny in Russia. Russia expressed disappointment to those steps and marked new sanctions as illegal, unilateral, and unsubstantiated restrictive measures on Russian citizens. On 25 February, the seventh anniversary of the illegal annexation of the Autonomous Republic of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol by the Russian, the EU released a statement in which it reiterated that it does not recognise the annexation and continues to condemn this violation of international law. A similar statement was made by German Minister of Foreign Affairs, Heiko Maas, as the President of the Committee of Ministers of the Council of Europe.

Meanwhile, on 25 February, the Council of the EU decided to prolong, until 28 February 2022, the restrictive measures targeting high-level officials responsible for the violent repression and intimidation of peaceful demonstrators, members of the opposition and journalists in Belarus.






NATO: Manoeuvres in the Central Mediterranean Sea

On 22 February, NATO’s annual exercise, Dynamic Manta (DYMA21) began on the Sicilian coast in the Central Mediterranean Sea. The training is focused on anti-submarine warfare and anti-surface warfare. The Commander of NATO’s Allied Maritime Command said, “this live exercise will also further demonstrate that COVID-19 hasn’t changed NATO’s resilience and readiness.” DYMA21 aims to provide all participants with complex and challenging warfare training to enhance their interoperability and proficiency in anti-submarine and anti-surface warfare skills. In the exercise participants include Belgium, France, Germany, Greece, Italy, Spain, Turkey and the US; with five surface ships, five submarines, five maritime patrol aircrafts and an aircraft carrier from France and its support ships. The exercise will run until 5 March.

Meanwhile, on 23 February, U.S. Air Force B-1B Lancer bombers arrived at the Norwegian Air Base in Ørland for the first time in both Allies’ history. The US and Norway conducted joint training to demonstrate transatlantic interoperability.





UNSC: Attacks in the DRC

On 22 February, the Italian ambassador to the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC), a World Food Programme (WFP) staff member, together with an Italian embassy official were killed and several other passengers were injured during an attack on a UN convoy in the east of the country. The group was travelling from Goma, the capital of the North Kivu province, to visit a WFP-run school feeding programme in Rutshuru (about 40 miles north of Goma). Members of the UN Security Council condemned the attack “in the strongest terms,” calling for the perpetrators to be held accountable. There was no immediate claim of responsibility, although a number of armed groups are active in the region.



UNSC: Updates on the Situation in Myanmar

On 22 February, the UN Secretary-General, on the opening day of a new UN Human Rights Council session said that “coups have no place in our modern world” reiterating his “full support to the people of Myanmar.” He called on the Myanmar military to stop the repression and release the prisoners. At least 700 people had been detained since the coup. On 24 February, the UN International Labour Organization called on the military in Myanmar to end the harassment and intimidation of workers based on received allegations that the police and military are conducting door-to-door searches for trade unionists at their dormitories and hostels in the Hlaingtharyar industrial township. On 26 February, the UN Office for Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) reported that the political unrest in Myanmar has impacted the ability of humanitarians to respond to the needs of vulnerable communities. According to OCHA, about one million people, who are affected by conflict and natural disasters require support and protection (counted separate from the political strife). The UN Special Envoy in the country marked the situation as “fragile and fluid” and Myanmar’s Ambassador to the UN, Kyaw Moe Tun, announced that he was not representing the military leadership. On 27 February, it was reported that police in Myanmar launched their most sweeping crackdown since protests began.







UN: Treaty Ratifications

On 19 February, Comoros ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) signed in New York on 7 July 2017 and also the Treaty on Comprehensive Nuclear-test-ban (CTBT) signed on 10 September 1996 in New York. Comoros is the 54th State to ratify the TPNW and the 170th State to ratify the CTBT. On 23 February, South Sudan ratified the Paris Agreement signed on 12 December 2015. Countries that have not yet ratified the Paris agreement are Eritrea, Iraq, Iran, Libya, Turkey and Yemen.




UN & Germany: Report on Afghanistan

On 23 February, the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) released a report which documented that the overall number of civilian casualties in 2020 fell below 10,000 for the first time since 2013 (8,820) and was 15 percent down compared to 2019. In 2020 the Anti-Government Elements caused the majority of civilian casualties (62 percent), with the Taliban responsible for most of these casualties (45 percent) and Islamic State (8 percent). Pro-Government Forces (PGF) caused a quarter of all civilian casualties. The report came after NATO reiterated the commitment to the Resolute Support Mission last week. On 25 February, it was also reported that the German government is preparing the way for the country’s troops in Afghanistan to stay in the country until next year if needed. German contingent represents the second-biggest contingent in a NATO force.



UNSC: The Situation in the CAR

On 24 February, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, briefed the UN Security-Council on the situation in the Central African Republic (CAR). He stated that despite a successful presidential election and other noteworthy progress, CAR continues to be plagued by violence and volatility. Emphasizing the role of the peacekeeping mission in the country (MINUSCA), which is providing security to thousands of internally displaced, helping to safeguard democratic order, and protecting civilians “in the face of persisting attempts by the armed group coalition to asphyxiate the country.” Noting the major achievement of the country’s reconciliation (two years since signing the Political Agreement), Mr. Lacroix added that the CAR “is now the most dangerous place for humanitarian work.” He painted a picture of rising human rights violations, increased civilian abductions, and killings.


USA: Airstrikes in Syria

On 26 February, it was reported that the US carried out airstrikes in Syria targeting facilities near the Iraqi border used by Iranian-backed militia groups in response to a rocket attack in Iraq earlier this month that killed one civilian contractor and wounded a US service member and other coalition troops. The Pentagon announced that the airstrikes destroyed multiple facilities at a border control point used by a number of Iranian-backed militant groups. The Pentagon also noted that the strikes were proportionate military response and were conducted together with diplomatic measures, including consultation with coalition partners. In this context, Iran’s top security official, Ali Shamkhani, said that these airstrikes encourage terrorism in the region. The airstrikes were the first military action undertaken by the Biden administration.



India & Pakistan: Restoring the 2003 Truce

On 25 February, the militaries of India and Pakistan said in a rare joint statement that they had agreed to observe a ceasefire along the disputed border in Kashmir, having exchanged fire hundreds of times in recent months. The countries signed a ceasefire agreement along the Line of Control (LoC) in the Kashmir region in 2003, but the truce has frayed in recent years, with casualties among villagers living close to the LoC. “Both sides agreed for strict observance of all agreements, understandings and cease firing along the LoC and all other sectors with effect from midnight 24/25 Feb 2021,” the joint statement said. There has been a significant increase in ceasefire violations since 2014, leading to nearly 300 civilian fatalities, a source in the Pakistan military said. Since the start of the year, India had counted 591 violations by Pakistan.


UN: Another School Attack in Nigeria

Another attack on the secondary school in northwest Nigeria took place on 26 February. As a result, several hundred girls are still missing. The UN Secretary-General and UNICEF strongly condemned the attack and called for the immediate and unconditional release of the abducted children. Such incidents have become “a way of life” to many in Nigeria, said the UNICEF representative in the country, Mr. Hawkins. According to reports, Friday’s attack happened in the middle of the night at the Government Girls Secondary School in Jangebe, Zamfara state. In addition to these armed gangs operating in Nigeria’s northwest, north-central and northern states, Boko Haram extremists still control vast areas of the northeast.


UNSC: Palestinian Forthcoming Election

On 26 February, the Special Coordinator for the Middle East Peace Process and Personal Representative of the UN Secretary-General, Tor Wennesland, briefed the UN Security Council on the forthcoming election in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Noting the election as an emerging opportunity for restoring a legitimate political horizon to realize a long-sought two-state solution. He assured that the elections will provide a crucial step towards re-establishing Palestinian national unity and renewing the legitimacy of national institutions, including a democratically elected Legislative Council and Government in Palestine. He noted further, that Palestinian factions are making progress towards holding elections, by an “extraordinarily high” registration rate among Palestinians. He also expressed concerns over Israel’s demolition or seizure of 170 Palestinian structures in East Jerusalem. The demolitions were carried out due to the lack of Israeli-issued building permits, which are nearly impossible for Palestinians to obtain. The elections are planned for 22 May 2021.


OHCHR: UN Human Rights Experts Called for Reforms to End Police Brutality in the USA

On 26 February, UN human rights experts called on the US Government to adopt wide-ranging reforms to put an end to police violence and to vigorously address systemic racism and racial discrimination.  The experts welcomed the recent Philadelphia Office of the City Controller report on the response to the protests following George Floyd’s killing. The Philadelphia investigation found that the City failed to sufficiently plan for the protests and that excessive force was used. It also found that inconsistent approaches were used against those protesting against police brutality versus those supporting the police. The experts also called for a reform of the laws and policies guiding the use of non-lethal weapons adding that studies show military gear and armoured vehicles do not reduce crime or increase officers’ safety. With misdemeanours accounting for some 80 percent of arrests in the US, the rights experts said that reducing “unnecessary interactions” between the police and community members would lead to decreased violence and deaths. Experts added that “in this time of political change, the US must initiate far-reaching reforms to address police brutality and systemic racism.”



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