Weekly News Recap (8-14 March 2021)




ICC: Reparations Granted to Victims in the Ntaganda Case

On 8 March, an order was issued for damages to victims in accordance with Article 75 of the Rome Statute in the case of the Prosecutor v. Bosco Ntaganda by the Trial Chamber VI of the International Criminal Court (ICC). The crimes for which Mr. Ntaganda was convicted concern direct and indirect assault, crimes against child soldiers, rape and sexual slavery, as well as children born as a result of rape and sexual slavery. The Chamber has established the total amount of compensation for which Mr. Ntaganda is responsible for to US $ 30,000,000.



USA: Appellate Court Rejected Western Apache Land Protection Injunction

It was reported on 8 March that a petition for a court order to end the transfer of the sacred lands of Western Apaches to a private copper mining company had been rejected by the US Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on 5 March. The transfer of land, however, is suspended indefinitely until the government clarifies the impact on the environment. The case concerns the lands of Oak Flat, known to the Apache as Chi’chil Bildagoteel which is considered a holy land. Apache Stronghold, a group of native and non-native allies sued the United States for violating the Restoration of Religious Freedom Act (RFFA). They demanded an emergency injunction to stop the land transfer.



Greece: Court Refused to Stop the Prison Transfer of the Head Assassin of the Militant Group November 17

On 9 March, the Greek Council of State rejected a motion by the Secretary-General for Anti-Crime Policy Sofia Nikolaou, which demanded that Mr Koufodinas be transferred to a maximum-security prison in Domokos. Koufodinas continues his hunger strike, insisting that he remain in the Korydallos prison in Athens. He is known as the head assassin of the militant group November 17. The Council will decide on the legality of the handover order on 2 April 2021.


IACHR: Referal of Case on Bolivia to the IACtHR

On 9 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed that on 22 February it had filed the case of Blas Valencia Campos et al. regarding Bolivia, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case concerns the illegal search of victims’ homes and acts of excessive violence by government officials, including torture, sexual assault and detention without contact with the outside world during their arrest and subsequent detention. The Commission found that the women were victims of specific abuse, one of them lost her pregnancy and did not receive medical assistance. The Commission concluded that the State of Bolivia was responsible for the violation of rights established in Articles 4, 5, 7, 8, 11, 19, and 2 of the Convention.


IACHR: Threats to the Life of a Journalist in Cuba

On 9 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 24/21 in which it provided precautionary measures in favor of Roberto de Jesús Quiñones Haces, a freelance journalist who finds himself in a situation of seriousness and urgency at risk of irreparably damaging his rights to life and integrity in Cuba. The journalist has been subjected to acts of intimidation, harassment, alleged arbitrary detention, imprisonment, and other alleged human rights violations.


Australia: Government Announced Aboriginal Rights Commission to be Established

On 9 March, the government of the Australian state of Victoria announced that it will become the first state in the country to have a truth commission to record the impact of colonization and dispossession on Aboriginal people. Although Australia has a history of massacres and racist government policies, there has never before been an official commission created to report and assess injustice towards the Aborigines. The Yuruk Justice Commission will begin its meeting in mid-2021 and will operate for three years.



Malaysia: Court Ruled That Christians Can Use the Word “Allah” for Religious Purposes

On 10 March, the Malaysian High Court granted a Malaysian Christian woman the right to use the word “Allah” in her religious practice. The court lifted the 1986 Interior Ministry’s ban on the use of the word in Christian publications. High Court Justice, Nor Bee Ariffin ruled that the 1986 ban exceeded the constitutional authority conferred on the government and that the constitutional freedom of religion of Jill Ireland Lawrence Bill, a Christian Malaysian, would be preserved and protected even in the face of threats to public order.



ECtHR: Feilazoo v. Malta Judgment Concerning the Applicant’s Immigration Detention

On 11 March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) published the Feilazoo v. Malta judgment. The violations concern Articles 3, 5 and 34 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The case concerned the conditions of the applicant’s immigration detention and its lawfulness. The court examined the applicant’s detention, including the time spent in custody. On the whole, the conditions were unsatisfactory. The Court found that the authorities did not show sufficient diligence in arranging for his deportation and the reasons for the applicant’s detention ceased to be valid.


Cuba: Human Rights Defenders Detained for Fighting for Racial Justice

On 11 March, a UN expert called on Cuba to end the intimidation and detention of human rights defenders fighting for racial justice in the country. Members of the Committee for Racial Integration in Cuba, who are fighting against racism and discrimination against the Afro-Cuban population of the island, have been detained since 2017 by a state security agent in their homes. Members of the Committee for Racial Integration in Cuba have been frequently targeted and suffered from restrictions on their freedom of movement.


IACHR: Completion of José Antonio Bolaños Juárez Case

On 11 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) announced its decision to declare full compliance and the cessation of a follow-up on the Friendly Settlement Report 106/19, in the case of José Antonio Bolaños Juárez. The case concerns the international responsibility of the Mexican state for the arbitrary detention, torture, cruel and inhuman treatment, and criminal conviction of José Antonio Bolaños Juárez by the Attorney General’s Office in 2001.


ICC: New Presidency Elected for 2021-2024

On 11 March 2021, the judges of the International Criminal Court (ICC), in a plenary session, elected Judge Piotr Hofmański as President of the Court for a three-year term with immediate effect. Judge Luz del Carmen Ibáñez Carranza was elected First Vice-President and Judge Antoine Kesia-Mbe Mindua Second Vice-President. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, the election took place remotely.


Hong Kong: Magistrates Court Released 15 Accused Opposition Members on Bail

On 11 March, the Hong Kong Magistrates’ Court released on bail 15 of 47 opposition figures accused of subversive activities after organizing and running in the unofficial primary elections in July last year. The accused were 53 opposition figures arrested in the raids. The raids have been criticized by international human rights groups and are the largest crackdown on opposition since the promulgation of the national security law in last July. Prosecutors dropped a lawsuit to bail four of the accused. The remaining 11 released on bail will be handed over to Judge Esther Toh Lye-ping from courts of first instance.



Haiti: UN Peacekeeper from Uruguay Ordered to Pay Child Support to a Woman He Impregnated

It was reported on 12 March that a landmark decision has been made in a Haitian court, ordering a former UN peacekeeper from Uruguay to pay child support to a woman he impregnated in 2011. Hundreds of children are thought to have been fathered by UN peacekeepers during the UN’s stabilisation mission, known as MINUSTAH. The mission, which began after President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was ousted from power in 2004, and was extended until 2017 due to waves of political instability and natural disasters, was mired in controversy.


UK: The Metropolitan Police Launched a Preliminary Investigation into Asma al Assad

It was reported on 13 March that the British-born wife of Syrian President Bashar al Assad is accused of supporting and encouraging terrorism. The Metropolitan Police opened a preliminary investigation into allegations that she incited and encouraged terrorist acts during the country’s ten-year civil war. Guernica 37 International Justice Chambers accuses her of being among a number of influential actors who encouraged and incited acts of terrorism and international crimes.





USA: Secretary of Home and Security Offered Venezuelan Nationals 18 Months TPS

On 8 March, the US Secretary of Home and Security, Alejandro J. Mayorkas, declared the decision of the Biden administration to grant eligibility for an 18 months Temporary Protected Status (TPS) to Venezuelan nationals. The decision is due to the humanitarian and political crisis currently faced by the country.


EU: European Commissioner Expresseed Appreciation for the UN Kyoto Declaration on Crime Prevention, Criminal Justice and Rule of Law

On 8 March, the Press Office of the European Commission divulged a statement by the Commissioner for Home Affairs, Ylva Johansson, regarding the adoption of the UN Kyoto Declaration on advancing crime prevention, criminal justice and the rule of law. In her statement at the 14th UN Congress on Crime Prevention and Criminal Justice, the Commissioner stressed the importance of taking steps to fight corruption, to uphold criminal justice systems respectful of the rule of law, to fight gender-based violence, and significantly condemned the death penalty as ‘an inhumane, cruel and degrading punishment.’ Also, she mentioned EU efforts and initiatives to combat terrorism and fight against trafficking in human beings, migrant smuggling, environmental crime, and cybercrime, particularly, when related to child abuse and exploitation.




Senegal: Call for Peace After Protests for the Arrest of Opposition Leader Sonko

As reported on 8 March, the Senegalese opposition leader Ousmane Sonko called for non-violence after the demonstrations sparked following his arrest for rape allegations. The accusations have been considered “politically motivated” and aiming at damaging the opposition’s reputation before the 2024 national elections. Mr Sonko has been released on bail on Monday 8 March. On 11 March, the Senegalese President Macky Sall declared a day of national mourning following the deaths of several young protestors during the demonstrations.



UNSC: UNITAMS Head Reported About the Situation in Sudan

On 9 March, Volker Perthes, Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Integrated Transition Assistance Mission in Sudan (UNITAMS) updated the UN Security Council (UNSC) about the situation in the country. The Representative is actively engaging with the transitional Government and civil society pursuant to Resolution 2524 (2020) and stressed the “political, rather than […] technocratic” nature of the new Cabinet based on the cooperation between civil society, the military and armed movements. He also explained the main priorities of the Governmental agenda while pointing out several criticalities at the regional and national levels.


HRC: Special Rapporteur on Iran Warned About the Impact of Sanctions on the Management of the COVID-19 Crisis

On 9 March, the Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Iran, Javaid Rehman, reported to the Human Rights Council (HRC). The Rapporteur expressed concerns regarding several topics, including the exacerbation of the economic, social and political challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic due to both a lack of an adequate response by the Government and the international sanctions adopted against Iran. The State’s representative replied pointing out the ‘distorted narratives’ of the Rapporteur and complaining about the legitimacy of his mandate. Several States’ and NGOs’ representatives took the floor commenting on both the Special Procedure and the human rights situation in Iran.


OHCHR: Concerns About the Situation in Venezuela

On 10 March, the High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, expressed concerns about the human rights situation in the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela. According to the Commissioner, the humanitarian situation is alarming due to the exacerbation of the socio-economic crisis in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic, the occurrence of extrajudicial executions is concerning, as well as the social unrest. Venezuela replied emphasising the scarce appreciation for international interferences in domestic affairs and reiterated the Government’s dedication to the promotion and protection of human rights and the will to cooperate with the Office of the High Commissioner. Several other speakers expressed their positions about the unilateral sanctions against the country, the Venezuelan elections of 6 December 2020 and the human rights situation.


UNSC: Condemnation of the Situation in Myanmar

On 10 March, the UN Security Council (UNSC) expressed significant concerns about the situation in Myanmar. Through a presidential statement (document S/PRST/2021/5) the Council stressed the importance of upholding and restoring the respect for human rights, democracy and the rule of law in the country. It also expressed its support for the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) and its work in the region.



EU: High Representative Statement on EU Humanitarian Action and COVID-19

On 10 March, the European Union High Representative, Josep Borrell, commented the adoption of the Communication from the European Commission to the European Parliament and the Council titled “EU’s humanitarian action: new challenges, same principles.” In his statement, the High Representative recalled the fundamental importance of humanitarian aid in the European external action and foreign policy agendas. Today’s humanitarian crises encompass a wide range of criticalities including ‘conflicts, climate change, environmental degradation, and the coronavirus pandemic’; against this background, the High Representative recalled the foundational principles of humanitarian actions – humanity, neutrality, impartiality and independency – and stressed the need of preventing with proactive efforts crises from becoming chronic. 



EU: EP Adopted Several Resolutions Addressing Human Rights Violations in Third Countries and Declared the EU an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone”

On 11 March, the European Parliament (EP) adopted several resolutions concerning the promotion and protection of human rights. With regard to third countries, the EP condemned human rights abuses and violations of international humanitarian law in Syria (Res. 2021/2576), the Democratic Republic of the Congo (Res. 2021/2577), Bahrain (Res. 2021/2578) and Cambodia (Res. 2021/2579). On the same day, the EP declared the EU as an “LGBTIQ Freedom Zone.” The measure can be intended as a clear response to the increase in attacks and discrimination against LGBTIQ people in EU Member States such as Poland and Hungary.






HRC: OHCHR Report on Human Rights Violations in North Korea and UNSG’s Updates on Myanmar

On 12 March, the High Commissioner for Human Rights presented to the Human Rights Council (HRC) her report ‘on the implementation of recommendations made by the group of independent experts on accountability for human rights in the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea.’ According to the conducted investigations, there are ‘reasonable grounds’ to believe the impunity of several crimes against humanity have been committed. On the same occasion, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) severely condemned the use of lethal force against Myanmar people by those responsible for the coup, on 1 February 2021. The Council then started the general debate on the human rights situation in several countries and regions.           


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