Weekly News Recap (15-21 March 2021)




UK: A UK Resident Found Guilty of Organizing Terrorist Attacks

On 12 March, Sahayb Abu was convicted of an attempted terrorist attack after filming pro-Islamic government music videos and acquiring weapons online by the Central Criminal Court of England and Wales. Police launched an investigation last March when their attention was drawn to his “extremist thinking.” On the morning of his arrest, 9 June, Abu stated in a group message, “We need 9/11 2.0,” referring to the September 11, 2001 attack on the World Trade Center. The brother of Sahayb Abu, Muhamed Abu was also arrested and charged with non-disclosure of terrorist acts but was later acquitted of those charges. Sahayb Abu’s sentence will be handed down by 9 April.



USA: Two American Men Accused of Assaulting a Police Officer in the Capitol

On 15 March, two men were arrested by federal authorities for assaulting police officer, Brian Sicknick during the 6 January Capitol riots, who later died from his injuries. The perpetrators were Julian Eli Khater, 32, from Pennsylvania, and George Pierre Tanios, 39, from West Virginia. They were filmed attacking law enforcement officers with an unknown chemical spray. Khater and Tanios are charged with several federal crimes including 18 USC section 372, which makes it a crime to use a deadly or dangerous weapon, to assault, resist, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate or interfere a federal law enforcement officer.



IACHR: Guatemala’s Full Compliance with Settlement Agreement

On 15 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) declared and communicated the full compliance and cessation of any follow-up measures on the Friendly Settlement Report No. 39/15 regarding Fredy Rolando Herńandez Rodríguez. The matter relates to the responsibility of the Guatemalan State for the torture and extrajudicial execution of Héctor Hernández Rodríguez, Venancio Hernández Rodríguez and Anacleto Soto Magaña and for the forced displacement of their next of kin in 1982. The Inter-American Commission closely followed the development and adherence of the agreement and declared full compliance with said agreement.


KSC: Pjetër Shala Arrested in Belgium

On 16 March, the authorities in Belgium apprehended Mr Shala pursuant to an arrest and confirmed indictment by the Pre-Trial Judge of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC). Mr Shala is suspected of war crimes committed between 1 January 1998 and 31 December 2000, pursuant to the KSC mandate.


ICC: Judges Distributed by Divisions

On 16 March, the Presidency of the International Criminal Court (ICC) appointed judges to the judicial divisions, following the 10th and 11th of March elections. The six elected judges are assigned to three judicial divisions: the Appeals Division, the Trial Division, and the Pre-Trial Division. They are appointed for three years and then pending the completion of any case. Each branch elects a chairperson of the branch concerned from among its members, and each Pre-Trial and Trial Chamber elects a presiding judge. Judges appointed to the Appeals Division serve exclusively in the Appeals Division during their entire term of office.


ECtHR: No Violation of the Convention in the Case Concerning the Limitation of Criminal Jurisdiction of Belgium

On 16 March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held in Hussein and Others v. Belgium, that there had been no violation of Article 6 section 1 of the European Convention on Human Rights. The applicants, 10 Jordanians, lodged a civil-party application with the Brussels investigating Judge, in respect to high-ranking Kuwaiti officials who were being investigated for crimes under international humanitarian law. In 2001, when the application was made Belgian law recognized an absolute form of universal criminal jurisdiction. However, in 2003, the Belgian legislature introduced criteria requiring a connection with Belgium for assessing whether prosecution should be brought, which made the applicants’ complaint moot. The Court ruled that Belgian courts had “provided a specific and explicit response to the pleas raised by the applicants” and hence no violation of Article 6 section 1, the right to a fair trial.


India: Court Requested the Government to Respond to Challenges on the Law Prohibiting the Conversion of Places of Worship

It was reported on 16 March, that on 12 March India’s Supreme Court had issued a notice requesting a response from the central government on public interest litigation challenging the constitutional validity of the 1991 Places of Worship Act. The challenge refers to sections 2, 3, and 4 of the law which deal with the definition of “conversion” and puts a “bar on conversion of places of worship.” It also deprives Hindus, Jains, Buddhists, and Sikhs of the right to return their places of worship and confirms “places of worship.” The applicants are seeking for these sections to be declared unconstitutional and invalid.



IACHR: Colombia‘s Full Compliance with Settlement Agreement

On 16 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) communicated its decision to declare Colombia’s full compliance with, and the cessation of a follow-up on the Homologation Report No. 105/05, which dealt with the Villatina Massacre. The case related to the death of several children, who were executed by the National Police in Villatina on 15 November 1992. In 2002 Colombia signed a Friendly Settlement Agreement, in which they agreed to comply with collective reparations in matters of health, education, productive projects, memory recovery, etc. Colombia has fulfilled the implementation of this agreement.


Germany: Former Gambian Soldier Arrested on Charges of Crimes Against Humanity

On 16 March, German authorities in Hanover arrested a former Gambian military serviceman for his alleged crimes against humanity in The Gambia. The prosecutor’s office claims that the accused Bai L. committed “crimes against humanity, murder and attempted murder.” Also, the fact that he was a member of the Gambian Armed Forces patrol group called “Junglers” from December 2003 to December 2006. The Junglers acted on the orders of the former President of The Gambia, Yahya Jammeh to intimidate civilians, suppress political opposition, and kill targets identified by him.



Philippines: The Supreme Court Dismissed Petition on ICC Withdrawal

In 2019, the Philippines announced its withdrawal from International Criminal Court (ICC). The withdrawal took place because of the investigation into the war on drugs in the Philippines. The petitioner claimed that the withdrawal was unlawful because it was a unilateral withdrawal and an overstep of powers. The Philippines Supreme Court dismissed on 16 March the petition claiming the matter to be moot and academic.



Japan: Court Found Government’s Failure to Recognize Same-Sex Marriage Unconstitutional

On 17 March, the Sapporo District Court ruled that the government’s refusal to recognize same-sex marriage is unconstitutional because it violates the right to equality. Japan is a member of the G7 and was the only country that did not recognize same-sex marriage. In February 2019, 13 same-sex couples filed lawsuits in four districts in Japan, claiming that the country’s refusal of same-sex marriage violated the constitution and demanded damages of 1 million yen. The court ruled that the government violated Article 14 of the Constitution by discriminatorily failing to implement legal measures to offer any material benefits to same-sex couples.



Kenya: The Court Dismissed the Petition to Allow Genital Mutilation

The applicant sought to allow genital mutilation for adult consenting women. The WHO stated that this procedure is dangerous for women’s health and Kenya law prohibits such operations. The Court ruled on 17 March that it recognizes that genital mutilation was central to some communities in Kenya, however, the threat to women`s health outweighs the cultural benefit. Moreover, the court emphasized that women may be subjugated to such procedures without valid consent.



Tunisia: LGBT Activist Released from Jail

On 17 March, a Tunisian appeals court released activist Rania Amdouni, who was charged with insulting police and abuse of morals. Amdouni is the president of Chouf Minorities and a member of DAMJ, the Tunisian Association for Justice and Equality. She was arrested after filing a complaint against a police officer for harassment, under Article 125 of Tunisia’s penal code, which makes it illegal to insult public officers during the performance of their duties. These methods have been widely used by Tunisia to suppress the freedom of opinion. 



UN: Special Envoy of Secretary-General for Syria Accused the UN of Inadequate Actions

On 15 March, during a Security Council meeting, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Syria, Geir Pedersen, expressed disappointment for the inability of the United Nations to properly address the dramatic Syrian situation; today, on its 10th anniversary. While listing the countless and dreadful abuses suffered by the Syrian population, the senior official accused the international community of geopolitical competition and lack of adequate responses. He explained, however, that the situation is slowly ameliorating and, signs of progress can be noted towards the achievement of a national ceasefire pursuant to Resolution 2254 (2015). Amongst the other themes connected to the Syrian situation, Bernard Duhaime, current member and former Chair-Rapporteur of the UN Working Group on Enforced Disappearances, stressed that since 2011 the Working Group has transmitted to the Government approximately 509 cases, of which 490 are still outstanding. After these interventions, several States’ Representatives took the floor.


UN: Secretary-General Appointed Special Representative for Mauritania and Personal Envoy on Afghanistan

On 15 March, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, communicated the appointment of El-Ghassim Wane as Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilisation Mission in Mali (MINUSMA). Other than academic experience, he has extensive expertise in conflict prevention, mediation, peacekeeping and has held several positions within the African Union. On 17 March, the UN Secretary-General also appointed Jean Arnault with the capacity of Personal Envoy on Afghanistan and Regional Issues. He served in several UN missions and operations in the American Region and has significant experience in international diplomacy, peace settlements and mediation. His current role is strictly related to the work of the United Nations Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and other regional partners.



UN: Secretary-General Condemned the Violent Escalation in Myanmar and the Deadly Attack in Niger

On 15 March, the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres said he was ‘appalled’ by the killing, arbitrary arrests, torture, and other human rights violations against demonstrators at the hands of the military responsible for the coup that started on 1 February 2021 in Myanmar. Against this background, he expressed his support for the people of Myanmar, and urged the international community to act against the ongoing harsh repressions by the military and pressure the latter to allow the intervention of the Special Envoy for Myanmar for ‘setting the stage for dialogue and a return to democracy.’ Similarly, on 17 March following an attack on the 15th in the Tillabéri region of the Republic of Niger, Guterres expressed his condolences to the families of the victims and called on public authorities to investigate and bring perpetrators to justice.



UN: HRC Discussed the UPR Outcomes of Several Countries

On 16 March, the Human Rights Council (HRC) adopted the Universal Periodic Review (UPR) outcomes of several countries. Countries of particular concern were Panama, Belarus, Libya, Malawi, Mongolia, Maldives, Andorra, Honduras, Bulgaria, Marshall Islands, United States, Croatia, Liberia and Jamaica. Following, on 17 March the HRC started the general debate on human rights bodies and mechanisms.






CoE: GRETA Reported on Trafficking in Human Beings

On 16 March, the Council of Europe’s Group of Experts on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings (GRETA) published its third report on the implementation of the Convention on Action against Trafficking in Human Beings by Georgia; from the report emerges the adoption of criminal measures to properly qualify human trafficking offences. Yet, further steps to ensure adequate compensation and support to victims are necessary. On 17 March, GRETA reported on the implementation of the Convention by Denmark, highlighting – also in this case – the urgency to strengthen victim-oriented approaches in fighting such crimes.



UN: Several UN Officials Warned Security Council About ‘Massive Famine’ Risk in Yemen

On 16 March, the Secretary-General’s Special Envoy for Yemen, Martin Griffiths, warned the UN Security Council about the rapid and dramatic escalation of the humanitarian crisis in Yemen. According to the Special Envoy, the country is racked by the use of deadly force between opposing factions, ongoing protests, lack of basic resources and commodities. He said, he is looking forward to the achievement of an inclusive political dialogue and a nationwide ceasefire. Of the same theme, the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief, Mark Lowcock and the CARE Regional Director for the Middle East and North Africa, intervened reiterating serious concerns about the ongoing violence in the country and the rapid move towards a massive famine. On 18 March, the Council President, Linda Thomas-Greenfield (US) released a Press Statement on Yemen stressing the urgency of a meaningful dialogue as a precondition for recovery from the humanitarian crisis and to ease the COVID-19 vaccine distribution. Through this statement Member States also condemned human rights violations and abuses, while echoing ‘their support for Yemen’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity.’



NATO: Interdisciplinary Team of Trans-Atlantic Researchers Study the Military Impact of the COVID-19 Pandemic

As reported on 16 March, a wide-ranging network of researchers and experts led by the Norwegian Defence Research Establishment (FFI), and including the NATO’s Allied Command Transformation (ACT), Joint Analysis and Lessons Learned Centre (JALLC) and the Communications and Information Agency (NCIA) is studying the COVID-19 pandemic impact on several ‘military functional areas’ such as ‘personnel, intelligence, operations, logistics, planning, communications, training and civil affairs.’ The thorough analysis concluded in March with a final report aimed at strengthening the Transatlantic Alliance’s resilience to future pandemic.


NATO: The Secretary-General launched the 2020 Annual Report

On 16 March, NATO’s Secretary-General, Jens Stoltenberg, launched the 2020 Annual Report. In a year dominated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, the Secretary-General stressed NATO’s efforts to prevent this health crisis from becoming a security crisis. Despite the economic effects of the pandemic, the investments in the Alliance by Europe and Canada saw an upward trend. Also, according to a survey, the public perception of NATO by Member States’ citizens remains very positive.



US-Russia: US Intelligence Report on Russia’s Election Meddling Further Deteriorates US-Russian Relations

As reported on 17 March, US President Joe Biden asserts Russian President Vladimir Putin is ‘going to pay’ for Russia’s alleged influence on the 2020 US Presidential elections, following a recently released US intelligence report. The US President stated further, that he thought the Russian President was a ‘killer.’ Russian authorities labelled the US intelligence report as ill-founded and unsubstantiated. On 18 March, the Kremlin recalled its ambassador in Washington DC, Anatoly Antonov for ‘consultations’ on the Russia-US diplomatic relations. On the same day, Russian President Vladimir Putin commented on Biden’s interview pointing at ‘the US history of slavery, slaughtering Native Americans and the atomic bombing of Japan in World War II’; ‘it-takes-one-to-know-one’ – he said. As reported on 19 March, the Russian President’s spokesman referred to a proposed phone call between the parties involved for preventing ‘irreparable damage to the already-frayed ties.’ The Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan commented on the event by labelling Biden’s conduct as ‘not acceptable’ whilst commending the ‘very astute and elegant’ response from President Putin.




CoE: Commissioner on Human Rights called on Cyprus to Investigate the Ill-Treatments of Migrants

On 18 March, the Council of Europe (CoE) Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović, called on the Cypriot authorities to conduct effective and independent investigations about alleged pushbacks and ill-treatments against arriving migrants. Commissioner Mijatović also called on the Cypriot authorities to bring the conditions in reception facilities for asylum seekers and migrants in line with applicable human rights standards and ensure that they enjoy effective access to all necessary services.


G7: Members and EU Representatives Released a Joint Statement on the Situation in Ukraine

On 18 March, seven years after the ‘illegitimate and illegal annexation’ of Crimea and the city of Sevastopol, the G7 Foreign Ministers of Canada, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, UK and US released a joint statement together with EU High-Representative expressing their ‘condemnation of Russia’s continued actions to undermine Ukraine’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.’ The statement, recalling the principle of respect for the territorial integrity and documents such as the UN Charter, the Helsinki Final Act and the Paris Charter, stresses the importance of genuine implementation of the Minsk agreements as fundamental ‘in the way forward for peace’, and pushes for the respect of the ceasefire of 27 July 2020.


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