Weekly News Recap (1-7 March 2021)




IRMCT: The Second Amended Indictment in the Case of The Prosecutor v. Félicien Kabuga

On 1 March, the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) published an amended indictment in the case of The Prosecutor v. Félicien Kabuga. The case concerns the the accussed’s respondibility for genocide against the Tutsi ethnic group between 6 April and 17 July 1994, in Rwanda. The Indictment describes Mr. Kabuga as a wealthy and influential businessman and a prominent member of the ruling MRND party who had close ties to the Hutu political elite in Rwanda. Félicien Kabuga is being charged with six counts, including direct and public incitement to commit genocide, conspiracy to commit genocide, persecution on political grounds, extermination and murder.  


STL: Re-Election of the President and Vice President

On 1 March, the judges of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) re-elected, following Article 8(2) of the Tribunal’s Statute and Rule 31 and 33 of the Rules of Procedure and Evidence, Judge Ivana Hrdličková as President and Judge Ralph Riachi as Vice President. The new term will be eighteen months and will come into effect on March 1. The functions of the President include overseeing that the Tribunal is functioning effectively and representing the STL in relations with various organizations. In the absence of the President, the duties are performed by the Vice President.


IACHR: Precautionary Protection Measures in Favor of Carlos Ramon Brenes Sánchez and His Family in Nicaragua

On 1 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about Resolution 17/2021 issued on 25 February 2021, which granted precautionary protection measures in favor of Carlos Ramon Brenes Sánchez and his family in Nicaragua, believing that his rights were in serious and an urgent situation where irreparable damage could be caused in Nicaragua. The Commission determined that  Mr Brenes was in charge of the retired military forces and among the population of Masaya and Karaso, he was also subjected to acts of harassment, intimidation and threats; in particular, it was noted that such events were attributed to police agents and also extended to members of his family. The Commission demanded that the State of Nicaragua take the necessary measures to guarantee the rights to life and personal security of Carlos Ramón Brenes Sánchez and his family.


STL: The Appointment of the Secretary

On 1 March, Mr David Tolbert was appointed Secretary of the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres. Mr Talbert is a highly qualified international human rights lawyer, who has worked in various international courts and tribunals, including 9 years with the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia. Mr Tolbert has served as the Acting Registrar at the STL since July 2020, following a leave of absence from the former Registrar. The Registrar’s responsibilities include judicial support, responsibility for the STL budget, and the Tribunal’s advocacy and public information.


Pakistan: A Christian Convicted of Blasphemy Released by the Court

On 1 March, Pakistan’s Lahore High Court granted bail to a 20-year-old Christian man convicted of blasphemy. Nabeel Masih was 16 years old when a photo of the Kaaba, a sacred site in Islam, with a pig on top of it appeared on his Facebook page. Masih was found guilty of violating Articles 295 and 295-A of the Pakistan Penal Code and was repeatedly denied bail despite his appeals. Masih’s lawyer, Naseeb Anjum told the media that Masih was released on bail but did not specify when Masih would be released.



Germany: Criminal Complaint Accusing Saudi Arabia Prince of Crimes Against Humanity

On 1 March, Reporters Without Borders (RSF) said it had filed a complaint in Germany accusing Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and other senior officials of crimes against humanity. The complaint relates to the murder of columnist Jamal Khashoggi and the detention of 34 other journalists in Saudi Arabia. According to RSF, the complaint describes 35 cases that “expose a system that threatens the life and freedom of any journalist in Saudi Arabia, especially those who speak out publicly against the Saudi government.”



ECtHR: Judgment in the Case of R.R. and Others v. Hungary

On 2 March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment in the case of R.R. and others v. Hungary declaring the application admissible and finding several violations of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned the maintenance of an Iranian Afghan family including three minor children, in the Röszke transit zone on the border of Hungary and Serbia, from 19 April to 15 August 2017. The applicants relied on Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (conditions in the transit zone), in conjunction with Article 13, Article 5 (unlawful deprivation of liberty) and Article 34 (non-compliance with an interim measure). The Court declared a violation of Article 3 and Article 5, without a need to examine the complaint under Article 34 or Article 13.


ICC: Investigation into the Situation in Palestine

On 3 March, Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda confirmed the initiation by the International Criminal Court (ICC) Office of the Prosecutor, of an investigation into the situation in Palestine. Investigations will cover crimes that have been committed since 13 June 2014. The Prosecutor emphasized that any investigations will be conducted independently and objectively, without fear or preference. The Prosecutor also noted that central concern must be for the victims of crimes, both Palestinian and Israeli, arising from the long cycle of violence and insecurity that has caused deep suffering and despair on all sides. The decision to open an investigation followed a preliminary examination undertaken by the Office of the Prosecutor that lasted close to five years.


France: Indigenous Activists From Brazil and Colombia Sue Casino Supermarket Chain

On 3 March, Indigenous activists from the regions of the Amazon in Brazil and Colombia, along with environmental groups from France and the US filed a lawsuit against a supermarket chain in France over deforestation demands. The lawsuit alleges that French grocery store Casino violated a 2017 law requiring companies to exercise due diligence on companies in their supply chain to ensure they are not supporting organisations that perpetuate human rights violations and environmental destruction. Casino claims it monitored its suppliers to make sure they are not dealing with land grab entities, child and slave labor, and deforestation. The lawsuit seeks damages of 3 million euros and asks Casinos to comply with the 2017 law to “ensure that their activities do not entail deforestation.”



ICC: Implementation of Collective Reparations in the Lubanga Case

On 4 March, Trial Chamber II of the International Criminal Court (ICC) issued a public redacted version of its decision dated 14 December 2020 in the case of The Prosecutor v. Thomas Lubanga Dyilo, which approves the implementation of collective service-based reparationsto victims. The public judgment of Trial Chamber II was welcomed by the Trust Fund for Victims. Compensation will benefit former child soldiers and their families. Treatment, psychological rehabilitation and socio-economic support is part of the approved collective compensation program. It was designed to provide victims with comprehensive support to address the harm they have suffered as a result of the crimes for which Mr. Lubanga was convicted.



USA: Ruling on Immigrants’ Burden of Proof That They Have Not Been Convicted of a Crime of Moral Turpitude

On 4 March, the US Supreme Court ruled that undocumented immigrants bear the burden of proof that they have not been convicted of a crime of “moral turpitude.” The case involved Mr Clemente Pereida, who is being deported under the Immigration and Nationality Act (INA) of 1952. Mr Pereida was convicted in 2010 of trying to impersonate another person by using a fraudulent social security card to gain employment. Pereida argued that the crime did not meet the standard of “moral turpitude,” relying on the ambiguity of statute. The Court dismissed his argument, deciding that the ambiguity worked not in favor of an undocumented immigrant but against an undocumented immigrant.



ICJ: Dispute Between Gabon and Equatorial Guinea

On 5 March, proceedings were instituted at the International Court of Justice (ICJ) between  the Gabonese Republic and the Republic of Equatorial Guinea by way of a Special Agreement signed in 2016 and entered into force in March 2020. The dispute concerns their common maritime and land borders and sovereignty over the Mbanié/Mbañe, Cocotiers/Cocoteros and Conga islands. The parties refer to the Convention on the delimitation of French and Spanish possessions in West Africa, on the coasts of the Sahara and the Gulf of Guinea and the Convention on the demarcation of the land and maritime boundaries of Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, signed in Bath.



IAEA: Director-General Addressed Several Topics in His Opening Speech to the Board of Governors

On 1 March, the Director-General of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) delivered an introductory speech to the Agency’s Board of Governors. The several topics covered include: an overview of the 2021 Agency’s agenda, the Agency’s coordinate response with UN entities such as FAO to the looming threats related to climate change and zoonotic diseases; the status of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) implementation by Iran; concerns due to the nuclear activities in North Korea; and the Agency’s participation in the upcoming 26th UN Climate Change Conference (COP26) that will be hosted next November in Glasgow (UK).


HRC: UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic Released its Report

On 1 March, the Inquiry Commission published its report on the human rights violations suffered by thousands of civilians during the Syrian conflict. After about ten years of investigations concerning more than 100 detention facilities and 2500 interviews, the UN Commission of Inquiry on the Syrian Arab Republic highlighted extensive abuses including arbitrary detentions, enforced disappearances, torture, sexual violence, and deaths in custody. According to the Commissioner Karen Koning AbuZayd, such violations have been perpetrated by state actors, armed groups comprising the Free Syrian Army (FSA), the Syrian National Army (SNA), the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) and the terrorist groups Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL). The violations that have been identified amount to war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide. The report will be presented and discussed before the Human Rights Council (HRC) on 11 March 2021.



UNSC: The UNMISS Special Representatives Briefing on the South Sudan Situation

On 3 March, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Mission in South Sudan (UNMISS), David Shearer released a statement briefing the Security Council on the situation in South Sudan. After one year of activity, the transitional government has moved forwards, however, the transitional process is proving to be particularly slow. Whilst the appointment of the presidency and other high- and low- state’s governmental positions are positive developments, the slowness of the process ‘comes at a cost,’ thus leaving room for violent local tensions triggered by certain national actors, armed guerrilla, and militia groups. From a humanitarian perspective, the country suffers from natural disruptive hazards such as flooding, and the necessity of food aid is critical. Steps forward in the peace and security agenda require steady efforts, including in economic and infrastructural terms. 


UN: Special Envoy for Myanmar Reported on the Situation in Myanmar

On 3 March, the UN Secretary-General Special Envoy for Myanmar, Christine Schraner Burgener participated in an online press conference. Concerned by the violent escalation recently witnessed, Ms Schraner Burgener addressed several points encompassing her contacts with the Army responsible for the coup that started on 1 February. In those discussions, the army responded that they were used to sanctions if the UN Members States and the Security Council take such measures. Ms Burgener remains in contact with the Committee Representing the elected legislative Pyidaungsu Hluttaw (CRPH), and representatives of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN). According to the Special Representative, the military is following a precise roadmap involving the imprisonment of National League for Democracy (NLD) members for election fraud and treason, and a ban of the party before new elections. Whilst Ms Schraner Burgener called on the unity of the international community, for the moment, Russia and China opposed the adoption of stronger actions by the UN Security Council.       



Canada: Call to Initiate Formal Negotiations Based on CAT for the Assad Regime Atrocities

On 4 March, Canadian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Marc Garneau requested formal talks with the UN General Assembly to hold the Assad regime accountable for its atrocities in the 2011 Syrian civil war. The negotiations would be held on the grounds of the UN Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment (CAT). The request is similar to a request submitted by the Netherlands last year. According to an inquiry by the UN Human Rights Council, approximately 400,000 persons have died because of the conflict. The Syrian government has consistently denied any international efforts and demands to improve the human rights situation. The situation in Syria remains the same, with almost 13.1 million people in the region remaining in constant danger.



EU: Venezuelan Crisis and Expulsion of the Head of the EU Delegation in Venezuela

On 4 March, following the expulsion of the Head of the EU Delegation in Venezuela, several members of the International Contact Group (ICG) considered the declaration of the EU diplomat “persona non grata” contrary to the respectful cooperation which should underpin effective international relations. According to the group, the only way to solve the Venezuelan crisis is the call for new, free and fair elections in line with the State Constitution.


UNSC: High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Reported on the Situation of Chemical Weapons in Syria

On 4 March, the High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu reported about the state of implementation of the UN Security Council Resolution 2118 (2013) on the dismantlement of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. The evaluation took place thanks to the mobilisation of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW). The OPCW fact-finding mission highlighted 19 critical issues particularly, the presence of a chemical weapons production facility that, according to Syrian authorities is not used to that end. The work of the organisation and the speech of the Representative received various kinds of comments and replies from the Security Council Member States.


NATO & EU: NATO Secretary-General and EC President on Transatlantic Bonds

On 4 March, the Secretary-General of NATO Jens Stoltenberg was hosted at the College of Europe in Bruges. In his speech, he underlined the importance of transatlantic cooperation for the maintenance of peace and the response to global challenges, including terrorism and climate change. On 5 March, the President of the European Commission (EC) Ursula van der Leyen reported about her phone call with the President of the United States Joe Biden. The EC President stressed the importance of EU-US cooperation to tackle together climate change, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and support ‘democracy, stability and prosperity.’   



HRC: UN Special Rapporteur on Myanmar Reported on the Atrocities Committed by the Military

On 4 March, Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation in Myanmar submitted his report pursuant to Human Rights Council Resolution 43/26. Among other things, he condemned extensive violations of human rights, particularly of freedom of expression and assembly. Such violations have been facilitated through the adoption of severely restrictive and illegitimate measures. While criticising abuses in the use of force by public authorities and the murder of several protestors, he invited the international community to take stronger actions. Mr Andrews added that during 2020 the army violated several times the International Court of Justice (ICJ) order to halt any further action against the Rohingya community and he invited the UN Security Council to summon the International Criminal Court (ICC) for the prosecution of the crimes committed since the coup began on 1 February 2021.  



HRC: Updates on Dialogue with Several Special Rapporeurs

On 5 March, the Human Rights Council concluded its dialogue with the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief, Ahmad Shaheed and the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Fionnuala Ní Aoláin. Whilst the first Rapporteur highlighted the importance of fighting xenophobia and Islamophobia, the second stressed the risks connected to the abuse of counterterrorism measures by Governments to target minorities, oppositions and civil society. On the same day started the ‘interactive dialogue’ of the Human Rights Council (HRC) with the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, Mary Lawlor.


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