Weekly News Recap (12-18 Apr 2021)




Mexico: 30 Marines Arrested for Suspected Disappearances

As reported on 12 April, Mexican authorities arrested on 9 April 30 marines suspected of forcibly disappearing people along the U.S.-Mexico border in 2014. Enforced disappearances in Mexico are on the rise with an estimated 71,678 reported missing since 2006. Many disappearances have involved security forces and government officials who have remained complicit in these crimes, or have directly participated in the torture and killing of people in cooperation with cartels. While the government has often blamed cartels for perpetuating the disappearances, authorities often fail to investigate these crimes or actively work to conceal them.



The Netherlands: The Rotterdam District Court Sentenced Fatima H. for Involvement with the Islamic State

On 12 April, the Rotterdam District Court held that Fatima H. was guilty of participation in a terrorist organization in Syria, namely Islamic State (IS). Fatima H. internalized the ideas of IS, stayed in the conflict area in Syria, joined IS, and facilitated to her husband, who was a member of IS, to carry out propaganda for IS via social media, tried to persuade others to travel to Syria, and had firearms available. She has been sentenced to four years in prison in the Netherlands for her involvement with the terrorist organization.



USA: Federal Lawsuit Concerning False Arrest Based on Faulty Facial Recognition

On 13 April, a federal lawsuit has been filed on behalf of Robert Williams, who was falsely arrested last year based on faulty facial recognition technology that has been banned in several cities throughout the US. Williams was arrested last January in front of his home after facial recognition technology falsely identified him as a shoplifter. Facial recognition technology has been criticized by activists for its high rate of inaccuracy



ECtHR: Journalist’s Right to Liberty and Freedom of Expression Violated in Turkey

On 13 April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment against Turkey in the case of Ahmet Hüsrev Altan v. TurkeyIn July 2016, Turkey accused Ahmet Altan of the attempted coup d’état. In 2016, the Turkish novelist wrote several articles criticizing the government and President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan. In September 2016, he was indicted by the 1st Magistrate’s Court for “attempting to overthrow the constitutional order,” and, in February 2018, he was sentenced to life imprisonment. In addition, he was charged with being a member of the Fetullahist Terrorist Organisation (FËTO), which the government held responsible for the attempted coup. The ECtHR ruled that Turkey had violated the rights of the Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan under the European Convention on Human Rights. It held that his right to freedom of expression (Article 10) had been violated, noting that since “his detention had not been based on a reasonable suspicion that he had committed an offense, the interference with the right to freedom of expression could also not be justified in law.”


Colombia: The Special Jurisdiction for Peace Began a Study of Precautionary Measures on Forced Disappearance in Buenaventura  

On 13 April, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace began the process of examining precautionary measures that seek to protect and preserve the Estero de San Antonio in Buenaventura, where the bodies of people presumed disappeared had been thrown. The decision responds to the request made by 16 organizations, including the Inter-Church Commission for Justice and Peace, the Nydia Erika Bautista Foundation for Human Rights and the organization Mothers for life. The General Prosecutor’s Office, Legal Medicine, the National Commission for the Search of Disappeared Persons and the Ombudsman’s Office were also requested to provide the information they are aware of on the facts of forced disappearance that occurred in Buenaventura attributable to the actors of the internal armed conflict.


ECtHR: Failure to Enforce Sentence Imposed on Sex Offender in Moldova Breached Convention

On 13 April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment in the case of E.G. v. Republic of Moldova, ruling that there had been a violation of Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights and a violation of Article 8 (right to respect for private life). The case concerned a sexual assault on the applicant in February 2008, and in particular the failure to enforce the sentence imposed on one of her three attackers.The offender in question had been granted an amnesty while the authorities were still looking forhim and he had never served his sentence. The benefit of this amnesty had subsequently been annulled. However, the period of about one year during which he had benefited from the amnestyhad enabled him to leave Moldova, shortly before the last annulment decision. The Court found that the sexual assault on the applicant had constituted a serious breach of the victim’s right to protection from bodily harm and mental distress. The measures taken by the State for the enforcement of the offender’s sentence had not been sufficient in the light of its obligation to enforce criminal sentences handed down against the perpetrators of sexual assaults. The granting of the amnesty and the authorities’ failure to enforce the sentence had been incompatible with thepositive obligations of the Moldovan State under Articles 3 and 8 of the Convention.


UK: Ruling on a Suspicious Death in Immigration Centres

On 14 April, the UK’s High Court Upper Tribunal Immigration & Asylum Chambers ruled that the Home Office failed to properly investigate death in immigration centers. On September 2019, Mr Oscar Lucky Okwurime was found dead in his room in the Heathrow Immigration Centres. Ahmed Lawal, a friend of Okwurime, could provide evidence regarding his death. However, the Home Office decided to deport Mr Lawal before he could submit evidence. The Court held that the decision to deport Mr Lawal before he had submitted evidence was unlawful as they failed to obtain evidence regarding the death.



ECtHR: Deportation Order of Refugee After Status Revoked

On 15 April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) held a decision regarding an order for deportation of refugee after status revoked. In 2015, the Paris Criminal Court sentenced the Russian national of Chechen origin K.I. to five years’ imprisonment for participation in a criminal conspiracy to commit an act of terrorism between 1 September 2012 and 19 November 2013, in France, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Turkey and Syria. After being convicted for a terrorism offence and because his presence in France represented a serious threat to French society, the French Office for Refugees and Stateless Persons revoked his status of refugee in July 2020 and the order on his deportation to Russia was ordered. As regards the general situation in the North Caucasus region, the Court held that there would be a violation of Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights if, having had his refugee status withdrawn, the applicant were to be returned to his country of origin without any prior assessment by the French authorities of the actual and current risk that he claimed to be facing in the event of his deportation.


Australia: Ruling on Google’s Data Collection

On 16 April, the Federal Court of Australia found that Google had misled some consumers about personal location data collected through Android mobile devices. The case concerned the specific Google settings related to its location data collection, location history and web & app activity. The Court found that when consumers accessed the Location History setting on their Android device during the same time to turn that setting off, they were misled because Google did not inform them that by leaving the Web & App Activity setting switched on, Google would continue to collect, store and use their personally identifiable location data.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favor of 7 Pregnant Women from the Wichí Indigenous People in Argentina

On 16 April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 32/2021, by which it granted precautionary measures in favor of 7 indigenous women from the Wichí community who would be hiding during their pregnancy in the town of El Potrillo, for fear of the authorities of the province of Formosa, in Argentina. Due to the above, they would be unable to access the medical care they would require for their pregnancy and upcoming labor, thus finding themselves in a situation of seriousness and urgency of risk of irreparable damage to their rights. According to information provided by the applicants, the situation is framed in a context of complaints about alleged abuses by provincial authorities in the implementation of measures to combat the COVID-19 pandemic, and allegations of historical discrimination against the Wichí community in the province, coupled with a perception by women that the authorities would seek to arrest them to initiate investigations for alleged false statements that were disseminated in a report that relates the situation in which they live. In this sense, the beneficiaries would fear being subjected to forced caesarean sections, being separated from their babies at birth, or that their babies could be delivered dead. Therefore, they would be hidden in vulnerable conditions, without access to drinking water.



UNSC: Africa’s Great Lakes Region and Conflict Prevention

As reported on 12 April, the Special Envoy for the Great Lakes region Huang Xia presented the Secretary-General’s biannual report on the implementation of the 2013 Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework for the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) and the region. On the same occasion, he briefed the Security Council on the formulation of the upcoming UN Strategy for Peace Consolidation, Conflict Prevention and Conflict Resolution in the Great Lakes Region. According to his words, the actors involved, including the UN, the African Union, the International Conference on the Great Lakes Region and the Southern African Development Community (SADC), are mobilising the Contact Coordination Group to take non-military measures to curb destabilising actions by armed groups in the region. He praised positive diplomatic steps forward taken by some local governments, as well as, a number of ‘exemplary verdicts’ adopted against high-level members of armed groups by national courts of the DRC and the International Criminal Court (ICC). Also, he regretted frequent episodes of violence connected to local elections and emphasised the role of COVID-19 in exacerbating the many challenges currently faced by the region. Afterwards, several Council members took the floor highlighting the importance of the Peace, Security and Cooperation Framework in facing instability and the pressing need to address violence, human rights violations, and the impact of COVID-19 in the region.



OPCW: Second Report about Chemical Weapons Use in Syria

On April 12, the Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) Investigation and Identification Team (IIT) released its second report attributing another chemical weapons attack in Syria to the Assad regime. The IIT report concluded that the Assad regime is responsible for the war crimes and crimes against humanity. The OPCW’s conclusions emphasized that the Assad regime retains sufficient chemicals to develop new chemical weapons.

On the same day, the European Union High-Representative – Josep Borrell – commented the presentation of the second report. In his statement he strongly condemned findings from the report, such as the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian Arab Air Force in the Syrian Arab Republic in February 2018, hence the lack of compliance with UN Security Council Resolution 2118. He called for the identification and accountability of those responsible, since the use of chemical weapons ‘by anyone – be it a State or a non-State actor – anywhere, at any time, and under any circumstances, is a violation of international law and can amount to the most serious of international crimes – war crimes and crimes against humanity’. Also, he reiterated the EU support for the OPCW and the ‘restrictive measures’ already imposed on high-level Syrian officials and scientists and further to be taken ‘as appropriate’.




UNHCHR: Comments on Last Developments in Myanmar

On 13 April, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (UNHCHR) Michelle Bachelet severely commented on the situation in Myanmar. She called on ‘States with influence’ to take urgent actions ‘to halt the commission of grave human rights violations and possible crimes against humanity’, labelling ‘statements of condemnation and limited targeted sanctions’ as insufficient. The statement is set within the context of an increase in indiscriminate violence, use of military-grade weaponry by the responsible for the military coup of 1 February 2021. In this regard, she called for the disruption of arms and other supplies to the military leadership in other to hinder the commission of further abuses. The High Commissioner also warned that such a violent escalation somehow echoes the dynamics of conflict in Syria whose terrible consequences we are still witnessing ten years later, thus calling for a concrete response from the international community. Other comments involved unfair trials, unjust and arbitrary detentions, the cut of internet-based services, and the harsh pressure currently faced by any level of Myanmar’s economy, infrastructures and society.



NATO: Secretary-General Met the Ukrainian Foreign Minister

On 13 April, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg received the Ukrainian Foreign Minister Dmytro Kuleba at NATO Headquarters ‘to discuss the security situation in and around Ukraine’.  From the joint press release, strong support from NATO emerges, whilst Russia’s military build-up is seen as ‘unjustified, unexplained and deeply concerning’. The speech addressed various subjects including, the ‘support for Ukraine’s sovereignty and territorial integrity’, the lack of recognition for ‘Russia’s illegal and illegitimate annexation of Crimea’, and clearly expressed ‘NATO stands with Ukraine’ as ‘Allies continue to provide significant practical support’. From the words of the Ukrainian Foreign Minister, ‘Russia has to understand that Ukraine belongs to the world of democracies, to the Western world, and the West will not allow Russia to shatter Ukrainian democracy and sovereignty. This is the message, the very clear and very simple message, that our friends and partners can convey to Russia. Ukraine is not part of the Russian world and will never be considered as such’ and ‘the price of prevention, will still be lower than the price of stopping the war and mitigating its consequences. So it’s better to act now to prevent Russia from further escalating the situation’. Then NATO-Ukraine Commission followed. On 15 April, NATO Council issued a statement showing solidarity with the United States, following the possible adoption of further measures.




UNSC: Head of UNMIK Reported Following February Elections in Kosovo

On 13 April, the Special Representative of the Secretary-General and Head of the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo (UNMIK) Zahir Tanin commented on the outcome of the legislative elections held on 14 February 2021, while presenting the latest report of the Mission to the UN Security Council. According to him, the high turnout registered and the results of these elections express the collective desire for ensuring an effective fight against corruption in the public sector and the realisation of higher socio-economic standards, other than proper measures against the COVID-19 pandemic. The statement highlighted the importance of building a meaningful dialogue with Serbian authorities and avoiding ‘anti-Serbian’ policies and narratives. Also, the presence and support of the international community through the European Union Rule of Law Mission in Kosovo (EULEX), the Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE), the Kosovo Force (KFOR) and their work to support the Specialist Chambers and the Specialist Prosecutor’s Office are fundamental. Afterwards, several states’ representatives took the floor expressing diverse positions on the topics treated.





UNSC: Women, Peace and Security in Times of COVID-19

On 14 March, the Secretary-General’s Special Representative on Sexual Violence in Conflict Pramila Patten urged states to guarantee funds, health care and protection programmes for victims of sexual and gender-based violence; military expenditures should be converted into investment towards human resilience. Such initiatives appear today more necessary than ever, indeed, according to her report increasingly concerning numbers of rape and gang rape are ascertained by humanitarian workers in conflict zones. However, there is still a high rate of unreported cases and numbers are growing due to lockdowns and other restrictions related to the COVID-19 pandemic. Particularly, she stressed the importance of more specifically addressing and prosecuting sexual and gender-based violence in the context of terrorism. High-level experts and UN officials took the floor calling on the fight against impunity for such crimes. The discussion with the Security Council states’ representatives followed.


UN: Violence by Israeli Settlers against Palestinian Civilians

On 14 April, the UN experts warned that during the first three months of 2021, more than 210 settler violent incidents were recorded, with one Palestinian fatality. The experts emphasized that international law requires the occupying power, in all circumstances, to protect the population under occupation. Article 27 of the Fourth Geneva Convention stipulates the protected population “shall at all times be humanely treated, and shall be protected especially against all acts of violence or threats…”


NATO: Allies Forces Withdrawal from Afghanistan

On 14 April, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg declared that the Allies agreed on the withdrawal of the NATO Resolute Support Mission forces in Afghanistan. The operation will begin by May 1 and its completion is expected within a few months. On the same occasion, the North Atlantic Council issued a Ministerial Statement, where it recalled the origins and aims of the mission started after 09/11. From both these documents emerge the intention to keep supportive relationships with Afghanistan and to wish a ‘sustainable peace’ to the Afghan people.




UN: Concern Regarding USA’s Anti-Terrorism Program “Rewards for Justice”

On 14 April, the UN human rights expert, Ms. Alena Douhan said that the United States’ anti-terrorism program “Rewards for Justice” was violating the human rights. The program, operated by the U.S. State Department, offers money for information about people outside the United States whom the U.S. Government designates as being associated with terrorism, but who have not been charged with any crimes. The UN experts said that the US violated the principle of the presumption of innocence and right to a fair trial.


UNSC: Special Envoy for Yemen Reported on the Dramatic Situation in the Country

On 15 April, the Special Envoy of the Secretary-General for Yemen Martin Griffiths reported to United Nations Security Council (UNSC) about the dramatic situation in Yemen. According to the Special Envoy’s monitoring, the conflict is escalating in the Marib region where civilians are in great danger. He is of the opinion that a ceasefire is fundamental for allowing higher standards of life to those involved through more livable conditions across the conflict lines and the continuous passage of humanitarian supplies. In this regard, the intervention of the Under-Secretary-General for Humanitarian Affairs and Emergency Relief Coordinator Mark Lowcock drew attention to the disruption caused by the second wave of COVID-19 infections in a famine Yemenis context. Following, several states’ representatives took the floor.


OSCE: Aid Course for Medical Personnel in Tajikistan And Chairperson Visit

As reported on 15 April, the OSCE Programme Office in Dushanbe, Tajikistan, offered a ten-day ‘medical training course on providing first aid and evacuation to injured persons during explosive ordinance disposal’ at the Regional Explosives Hazards Training Centre. Personnel from both governmental and non-governmental entities benefited from the training. On the same day, the OSCE Chairperson-in-Office, Swedish Minister for Foreign Affairs Ann Linde concluded her visit to Tajikistan. During the high-level meeting with President Emomali Rahmon and Foreign Minister Sirojiddin Muhriddin she stressed the importance of upholding the concept of ‘comprehensive security’ encompassing the ‘interrelatedness between political and economic security, human rights, democracy, the rule of law and equality’.


USA: OFAC Sanctions Russian Persons in the Crimea Region of Ukraine

On 15 April, the U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Office of Foreign Assets Control (OFAC) designated five individuals related to Russia’s occupation of the Crimea region of Ukraine and its severe human rights abuses against the local population. There were the following individuals, included in this list. Kulinich, a Ukrainian and Russian national, is theso-called Minister of Property and Land Relations in the so-called Republic of Crimea. Karanda, a Russian national, is the so-called Minister of Internal Affairs for the so-called Republic of Crimea. Mikhailiuk, a Russian national, is the so-called Chief of the Russian Intelligence Services’ Federal Security Service (FSS) Department in Crimea and Sevastopol. Prior to his illegitimate position in Crimea, Mikhailiuk was the head of the FSS departments in Russia’s Vologda and Kaliningrad oblasts. Terentiev, a Russian national, is the so-called Head of the Main Directorate of the Investigative Committee in the so-called Republic of Crimea and Sevastopol. All property and interests in property of these individuals that are in the United States or in the possession or control of U.S. persons must be blocked and reported to OFAC.


UN: Experts Expressed Deep Concern Regarding Decision of Japan to Discharge Fukushima Water

On 15 April, the UN human rights experts stressed the danger of the decision of Japan to release more than 1 million tonnes of contaminated water into the sea from the Fukushima nuclear plant. The UN experts said the water might contain quantities of radioactive elements, which could pose risks to humans and the environment for over 100 years. The Japanese Government suggested that the treated water stored in the tanks was not contaminated. The UN experts remind Japan of its international obligations to prevent transboundary environmental harm, and to protect the marine environment.


US & Russia: Sanctions and Expulsions of Diplomats

On 16 April, the US Department of the Treasury imposed several sanctions on Russia under the Executive Order (EO) ‘Blocking Property with Respect to Specified Harmful Foreign Activities of the Government of the Russian Federation’. The EO includes several measures such as the prohibition for ‘US financial institutions from participating in the primary market for ruble or non-ruble denominated bonds issued […]’ by certain entities and the ‘lending’ of ruble or non-ruble denominated funds to such entities. Also, it targeted several companies operating in the “technology sector” and accused of supporting Russian Intelligence Services and related ‘malicious cyber actors’. On the same day, the Kremlin replied by announcing the expulsion of 10 US diplomats and the blacklisting of several officials. The list released by the Foreign Ministry includes ‘Rice, a former ambassador [to] the United Nations and now head of the Domestic Policy Council, and Bolton, who was dismissed as national security adviser by […] Donald Trump in 2019’.



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