Weekly News Recap (22-28 March 2021)




ICC: OTP Published New Draft Policies

On 22 March, the Office of the Prosecutor (OTP) of the International Criminal Court (ICC) published Draft Policy on Cultural Heritage. This Policy is intended to enhance the protection of cultural heritage by the Office, both through its publication and implementation in the Office’s activities, and, as appropriate, by raising awareness on these issues with external partners, and by fully exercising its centrality to the community of practice dedicated to the protection of cultural heritage. On 25 March, the OTP published its draft Policy on Situation Completion for consultation and comments by States Parties to the Rome Statute, civil society, and the wider community of stakeholders. This policy initiative responds to commitments made in the Office’s Strategic Plan (2019-2021). The draft Policy seeks to illustrate the considerations leading to the decision—in the exercise of prosecutorial discretion—that sufficient prosecutions have been brought in a situation to satisfy the Office’s mandate under the Rome Statute.



IACHR: Precautionary Measures in a Case Concerning Cuba

On 22 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about its Resolution 26/21 of 14 March by which it granted precautionary measures on behalf of María de los Angeles Matienzo Puerto and Kirenia Yalit Núñez Pérez, after considering that they are in a situation of gravity and urgency of risk of irreparable harm to their rights to life and integrity in Cuba. In the context of Cuba, the IACHR identified that, both as a human rights defender and freelance journalist, the couple has faced various risk events over a span of approximately 7 years.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures in a Case Concerning Nicaragua

On 22 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about its Resolution 28/21 of 19 March granting precautionary protection measures on behalf of Nelson Gabriel Lorío Sandoval, Karina Alejandra Navarrete Sánchez, his daughter J.M.L.N. and his nephew Angel Gabriel Umaña Navarrete. According to the request, beneficiaries would be at risk following their quest for justice in the alleged murder by police officers and “paramilitaries” of their 14-month-old son T.L.L.N.


USA: 10 Iranian Citizens Accused of Conspiracy over US Sanctions on Tehran

On 22 March, the US Department of Justice published a federal criminal case against 10 Iranian citizens accused of conspiracy to evade US sanctions on Tehran. The complaint was filed on 16 October and claims 10 people disguised more than $300 million in transactions on behalf of Iran with the help of more than 70 shell companies. The defendants conspired to use the US financial system to conduct hundreds of millions of dollars of transactions on behalf of the Iranian government. Under the International Economic Emergency Powers Act, if convicted, the defendants can be sentenced to imprisonment for up to 20 years.



USA: Supreme Court Granted Certiorari in the Case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev

On 22 March, the US Supreme Court granted a writ of certiorari in the case of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, the youngest of the two brothers who was responsible for the 2013 Boston marathon bombing. In court, Tsarnaev did not dispute that he was involved in the bombing of the Boston Marathon. However, he claimed that his older brother radicalized and intimidated him. He has also been charged with a number of crimes, in addition to carrying a firearm during a violent crime, which will be pending oral discussion in October 2021.



ECtHR: Relinquishment to Grand Chamber of Two Cases H.F. and M.F. v. France and J.D. and A.D. v. France

On 22 March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) informed about the 16 March decision of the Chamber to which the cases had been allocated to relinquish jurisdiction in favour of the Grand Chamber concerning requests to repatriate two French women held in a camp in Syria with their children. These two applications concern unsuccessful requests by the applicants for the repatriation by the French authorities of their respective daughters and grandchildren, who are being held in the al-Hol camp in north-eastern Syria run by the Syrian Democratic Forces.


USA: North Korea Citizen Sued for Sanctions Violation

On 22 March, the US Department of Justice announced that Mun Chol Myong, who was accused of being a North Korean intelligence officer, appeared in a federal court in Washington on money laundering charges. Mun is the first North Korean national to be extradited to the United States and put on trial for violating US law. Mun was arrested in Malaysia in May 2019 shortly after being indicted in a federal court in the District of Columbia (DC) and is now facing six money laundering charges, including conspiracy to launder money. He is currently in FBI custody and is expected to appear before a DC federal court.



Turkey: Demirtaş Sentenced to Imprisonment for Insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdogan

On 22 March, a Turkish court sentenced Selahattin Demirtaş to 3 years and 6 months in prison for insulting President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. He received the harshest punishment for an offense without any commutation. Demirtaş is the head of the Kurdish minority and co-founder of the People’s Democratic Party (HDP). He has been imprisoned since November 2016 along with several other HDP leaders for statements he made in 2015 at Istanbul Ataturk Airport. Demirtaş claimed that his statements were aimed at criticizing the government and not insulting the president. The European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has ruled twice in favour of Demirtaş’ immediate release concluding that Turkey was guilty of numerous violations of the European Convention on Human Rights, in particular, the rights to liberty and security.



USA: Honduran Citizen Convicted of Drug Trafficking

On 22 March, the US Southern District Court of New York found Honduran citizen Geovanny Fuentes Ramirez guilty of drug trafficking, specifically importing cocaine and two weapons. Fuentes Ramirez will be formally sentenced on 22 June 2021. Evidence suggests that Fuentes Ramirez helped set up and then operate a cocaine laboratory. Conspiracy to transport cocaine carries a mandatory minimum prison sentence of 10 years. The two weapon charges carry sentences ranging from 30 years to life in prison.



Pakistan: Court Sentenced to Death Two Men for Rape

It was reported on 22 March that a Pakistan court had sentenced on 20 March two men to death for the gang rape of a woman on the side of a highway last year. This incident sparked protests around the country which called for more stringent laws on rape. Due to the high rate of rape in Pakistan, a special court system was created which would try these offenses, establish a system for the protection of victims and witnesses and create a registry of sex offenders.



Germany: Appeal in the US Drone Strike Case

It was reported on 23 March that two Yemeni men who allege their relatives were killed in an American drone strike have appealed their case to Germany’s highest court, urging a ban on the U.S. military’s use of a base southwest of Frankfurt to help control such attacks. The appeal was filed by the European Center for Constitutional and Human Rights (ECCHR). In 2020, a federal administrative court weakened the 2019 decision of the Muenster administrative court, which had ruled the German government had partial responsibility to ensure that drone strikes involving the U.S. Ramstein Air Base were carried out in line with international law. In the 2020 appeal, the federal court in Leipzig ruled that German diplomatic outreach to the U.S. over the strikes was sufficient, regardless of international law.


ECtHR: Ruling in Bivolaru and Moldovan v. France on Equivalent Protection in Disputes Concerning Execution of a European Arrest Warrant

On 25 March, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held, unanimously, that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights in application no. 12623/17, lodged by Mr Moldovan, and no violation of Article 3 in application no. 40324/16, lodged by Mr Bivolaru. The case concerned the surrender of Mr. Bivolaru and Mr. Moldovan to the Romanian authorities under European arrest warrant to execute their sentences. The Court clarified the presumption of equivalent protection in these circumstances. The Court determined that in the case of Mr. Moldovan, there was enough information to conclude that France had to request additional information on the future detention conditions. However, in the case of Mr. Bivolaru, the Court found that the equivalent protection was not applicable.


IACHR: Referral of a Case on Argentina to the IACtHR

On 25 March, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed the case of the Asociación Civil Memoria Activa  regarding Argentina, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case refers to the international responsibility of the State of Argentina in relation to the terrorist attack perpetrated against the headquarters of the Asociación Mutual Israelita Argentina (“AMIA”) on 18 July 1994 in Buenos Aires, which resulted in the death of 85 people and serious injuries to at least 151 others, as well as the situation of impunity in which the facts are found.


USA: Court Upholds Hawaii’s Firearm-Licensing Law

On 26 March, he US Court of Appeals upheld Hawaii’s firearm-licensing law which restricts open-carry licenses to those who can demonstrate “the urgency or the need” to carry a firearm, that they are of good moral character, and are “engaged in the protection of life and property.” The applicant tried challenging the limitation under the Second and Fourteenth amendment of the US Constitution. The judges noted that the Second amendment does not guarantee an “unfettered right” to carry guns and ruled that Hawaii’s limitation to carrying guns is lawful. 




Ukraine: Former President Yanukovych Sanctioned

It was reported on 22 March that President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelenskyy had announced new sanctions against the former president on 19 March. The sanctions include freezing the former president’s Ukrainian bank accounts and other sanctions. Yanukovych was accused of brutal attacks of protestors in 2014 by the security troops which resulted in the death of over 100 protestors. After fleeing to Russia, a Ukrainian court convicted him of treason in absentia and was sentenced to 13 years in jail. The new sanctions were approved by National Security and Defence Council after a recommendation from Ukrainian Security Service (SBU).



UK, EU, Canada & USA: Multiple Sanctions for Human Rights Abuses in Xinjiang, China

On 22 March, the UK, EU, Canada, and the US sanctioned several Chinese communist government officials of gross and systematic human rights violations. The human rights revolve around the government-sponsored human rights abuses against the Uyghurs and other Muslim ethnic minorities. Various reports from independent organizations have revealed evidence that violations occurring against Muslim ethnic minorities include mass arbitrary detention, forced labour, torture, and sterilization. The countries issued a joint report arguing that the alleged human rights violations have reached the gravity and scope in threatening the stability of international economic and political systems.





UN: Killing, Displacement, and Suffering of Afghan People

On 23 March, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Afghanistan, Ms. Deborah Lyons demanded the end of killing, displacement, and suffering and the security of Afghan people must be made a priority. Ms. Lyons noted that despite the six months of formal peace negotiations between the Afghanistan people and the Taliban, attacks against civilians are still ongoing. The negotiations have been in progress with no positive impact on the civilian’s life as more brutal attacks continue to be carried out. Since the negotiations started, 80 afghans have been killed which is evidence that conflict still rages despite leaders from both parties meeting in peace talks. Afghanistan has been engulfed in decades of conflict that creates grievances on all sides.


UNSG: Saudi Peace Initiative to End Fighting in Yemen Welcomed

On 23 March, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) Antonio Guterres welcomed the announcement by Saudi Arabia that it will support a peace initiative aimed at ending the war in Yemen and establishing a stable government. The UN Secretary-General noted that efforts are in line with UN special envoy for Yemen Martin Griffiths efforts to establish a national ceasefire. Yemen’s internationally recognized government has been fighting Houthi opposition fighters for control of the country since 2015. Tens of thousands of civilians have been killed in the conflict with over 21 million Yemenis in need of humanitarian assistance and refugee protection. The Saudi initiative seeks to re-open the Sana’a airport and establish a regular flow of food and fuel through the Hudaydah port of the Red Sea.


UNSG: Solidarity with Niger After a Second Deadly Attack

On 24 March, the UN Secretary-General (UNSG) affirmed the organization’s commitment and solidarity with Niger after a deadly attack against civilians. On 21 March, gunmen attacked villages in the Tahoua region killing 137 civilians including 22 children. Earlier on 15 March, gunmen attacked villages in the Tillaberi region killing 58 civilians. In a statement released by his spokesperson, Antonio Guterres strongly condemned the attacks and called the Niger government to swiftly identify and bring the perpetrators to justice. Further, the UN Secretary-General urged a greater effort in protecting the civilians through collaboration with international and regional partners.


UN: Libyan New Government Hailed After Years of Conflicts

On 24 March, the UN Special Envoy for Libya Ján Kubiš hailed the progress made in Libya after the establishment of the national government following years of internal divisions. The establishment of the government is key to achieving long-lasting peace and a stable government. Ján noted that the Libyan House of Representatives overwhelmingly endorsed the Libyan Government of National Unity (GNU) that had 15% women representation. Oil and Gas-rich Libya has been in crisis after the former King, Muammar Gadaffi fell in 2011 that left the nation in turmoil and political violence. The special envoy noted that the emerging establishment and endorsement of a united government represented the people’s quest to end divisions.


UN: Special Rapporteur Called for Emergency Summit on Myanmar

On 25 March, The UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar, Tom Andrews, called on the international community to hold an emergency summit amid human rights violations by the military. Tom Andrews, the special rapporteur investing human rights abuses in the country warned that the conditions in Myanmar were deteriorating and were likely to get worse. Further, Mr. Andrews called for the international community to consider the recent request of the UN Secretary-General who had called for a firm and decisive international response. Myanmar military Junta overthrew the civilian government and has been brutally attacking protestors and occupying skills in civilian areas. The limited sanctions imposed by UN member states do not impact the Junta’s access to revenues to fund its illegal activities within the country.



HRC: Resolution on Sri Lanka Accountability and Human Rights

On 25 March, the UN Human Rights Council adopted a resolution on Sri Lanka aimed at promoting accountability, reconciliation, and human rights. The resolution was in response to an explosive UN report released in January. UN human rights council called for accountability for the perpetrators of violence and human rights abuses. The deteriorating human rights situation in Sri Lanka is a matter of great concern especially with the erosion of the independence of its judiciary, limitation of the freedom of worship, marginalization, surveillance, arbitrary detentions, alleged torture, and margination of Tamil and Muslims. The resolution calls for the government to protect civil society actors and ensure an enabling environment for civil society to thrive.



UN: Empowering Women a Top Priority in Peace Operations

Jean-Pierre Lacroix, the Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations praised on 25 March women’s contributions in peacekeeping and peacebuilding efforts. Jean noted that the UN’s top priority is empowering women in peacekeeping. Despite making major strides, gender parity is one of the uninformed components in peacekeeping missions. According to Jean, having diverse leadership and teams with various perspectives allows for better decision-making and improves operations. The UN peacekeeping chief highlighted key initiatives that they were focused on including achieving professional development, mentorship, talent management, and networks management.


France: Report on Responsibility Over Rwanda Genocide

It was reported on 26 March that a report had been published by a historical commission set up by President Emmanuel Macron to examine the responsibility of France over the 1994 Rwanda genocide. The report criticised the French authorities under Mitterrand for adopting a “binary view” that set Habyarimana as a “Hutu ally” against an “enemy” of Tutsi forces backed by Uganda, and then offering military intervention only “belatedly” when it was too late to halt the genocide. Macron ordered the creation of the commission in May 2019 to analyse France’s role in Rwanda from 1990-1994 through archival research. The report notes that France bears “overwhelming responsibilities” over the 1994 genocide in Rwanda and was “blind” to preparations for the massacres. The historical commission found no evidence that France was complicit in the killings.


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