Weekly News Recap (19-25 Apr 2021)




KSC: Pjetër Shala Pleaded Not Guilty and First Decision on Victims’ Participation in Thaci et al. Case

At his initial appearance before the Kosovo Specialist Chamber’s (KSC) Pre-Trial Judge Nicolas Guillou on 19 April, Pjetër Shala pleaded not guilty to all counts of the indictment. The confirmed indictment alleges that Mr Shala is responsible, under various forms of individual criminal responsibility, for the war crimes of arbitrary detention, cruel treatment, torture and murder committed in the context of and associated with a non-international armed conflict in Kosovo.

On 21 April, Pre-Trial Judge Guillou issued the first decision on victims’ participation in the Thaci et al. case. Nine applicants were admitted to the proceedings as participating victims (to be represented as one group) and seven applicants were rejected. The Pre-Trial Judge instructed the Victims’ Participation Office to revert back to one applicant in order to receive more information before making a determination thereon.



USA: Restoration of Gun Ownership Rights under the Second Amendment to Keep and Bear Arms

On 19 April, the US Supreme Court denied certiorari in three cases involving the restoration of gun ownership rights. The cases involved a federal law (USC § 922(g)(1)) that imposed a lifetime ban on the ownership of firearms for persons convicted of crimes punishable by prison terms of more than one year, which includes many non-violent crimes. The crimes in the three cases were driving under the influence, willfully making a false statement on tax returns, and criminal copyright violation, and smuggling. In declining to hear the cases, the Court leaves intact lower court rulings that have held that the federal ban does not contravene the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms.


ECtHR: Notice of a Case Involving Aleksey Navalnyy’s Imprisonment

On 19 April, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) has decided to give notice to the Government of Russia of the application Navalnyy v. Russia. Mr Navalnyy is in detention in the IK-2 correctional colony. He is due to serve two years and six months, which is a result of the conversion of his parole to imprisonment following breaches of the terms of parole. The Government of Russia has been invited to submit its observations by 12 July 2021. These will then be transmitted to the applicant, who will be invited to submit any observations and his claim for just satisfaction (Article 41 of the Convention). The Court ruled that any documents pertaining to the applicant’s medical condition deposited with the Registry should not be made accessible to the public (Rule 33 § 1) and should be treated as confidential. Relying on Articles 2 and 3 of the European Convention of Human Rights the applicant complains that his imprisonment carries a risk to his life, and that he is being subjected to ill-treatment by wayof, in particular, sleep deprivation, inadequate nutrition resulting from the refusal of food parcels by the correctional colony, severe psychological pressure, including verbal abuse by wardens, head shaving and denial of requisite medical assistance.


India: Principle of Non-Refoulement Applied to Refugees from Myanmar

On 20 April, the Manipur High Court granted interim relief to seven refugees from Myanmar. The Court opined that the principle prohibiting the forcible return of refugees to countries where they may face persecution can, prima facie, be read within the ambit of Article 21 of the Indian Constitution. The case concerned seven Myanmarese nationals, including three children, who had been taking refuge at Moreh in Tengnoupal District, Manipur. The Court ordered that no coercive steps or adverse action shall be taken in relation to the Myanmarese persons, be it by the State or by the Central Government authorities. This Court was conscious of the fact that India is not a signatory to the 1951 Geneva Refugee Convention and the 1967 New York Protocol. The Court however emphasized that India is bound by the Universal Declaration of Human Rights and is party to the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. Therefore, the Court found that the protection afforded by Article 21 of the Indian Constitution is not limited to citizens and can be availed by non-citizens, as well.



The Netherlands: The Hague Court Sentenced Ahmad Al-Y for Participating in the Terrorist Organization Ahrar al-Sham

On 21 April, the Court in The Hague sentenced Ahmad Al-Y, a 31-year-old Syrian to 6 years in prison for participating in the terrorist organization Ahrar al-Sham in 2015 and for committing the war crime of assault on personal dignity (Article 6 of International Crimes Act in conjunction with common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions). In 2015, Al-Y fought with Ahrar al-Sham in the battle of al-Ghab in Syria. In a video posted to Youtube, Al-Y is shown taunting dead bodies by kicking and spitting on them, among other things. In the view of the Court, it resulted in such a humiliating and degrading treatment that it can be said that there was an assault on personal dignity. The court gave Al-Y a lower sentence in comparison to similar cases. The court’s rationale was that Al-Y is not a foreign fighter but a Syrian and the actions took place in Syria. Ahrar al-Sham also operates on a smaller scale than other terrorist organizations like the Islamic State.


South Korea: Japanese Occupation Sexual Slavery Case Dismissed

On 21 April, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed a suit for compensation brought by South Korean women forced to work in “comfort stations”, brothels operated by the Japanese military before and during World War II. It is estimated that 200,000 girls and women, most of them Korean, became victims of wartime sexual slavery at the hands of Japanese authorities. Only 15 of the 240 South Korean women registered as victims are presently alive. The Court ruled that the Japanese government enjoys sovereign immunity under customary international law, which exempts it from the jurisdiction of courts in other countries. The plaintiffs are likely to appeal the ruling.



Germany: Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court Sentenced a German Woman for Her Involvement with Islamic State in Syria

On 21 April, the Düsseldorf Higher Regional Court sentenced a 35-year-old woman from Leverkusen to a total imprisonment of 4 years and 3 months. The defendant moved to Syria with her then three-year-old daughter in February 2015, where she joined the terrorist organization Islamic State, marrying a high-ranking member of the extremist group and living in several apartments whose inhabitants had been driven out. The court convicted her of participating in a foreign terrorist organization, neglecting her duties of care toward a minor and war crimes against property, along with weapons offenses and being an accessory to a crime against humanity.



IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favour of Yoel Suárez Fernández

On 22 April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) adopted Resolution 34/21, by which it granted precautionary measures in favour of Yoel Suárez Fernández, after considering that he finds himself in a situation of serious and urgent risk of irreparable damage to his rights in Cuba. According to the request, the beneficiary is being subjected to threats, harassment, intimidations and detention by state actors, purportedly because of his work as an independent journalist and writer in Cuba. The Commission regretted not having received the State’s observations, even though these were requested in accordance with Article 25.5 of its Rules of Procedure.



IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favour of Kevin Roberto Solís

On 22 April, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 33/21, by which it granted precautionary protection measures in favour of Kevin Roberto Solís, after considering a situation of seriousness and urgency of risk of irreparable damage to his rights in Nicaragua. According to the request, the beneficiary, a university student, social activist and opponent, is deprived of liberty. The beneficiary’s request refers to beatings received during his detention, as well as an alleged lack of medical attention and his conditions of detention. Nicaragua was requested to adopt the necessary measures to protect the rights to life, personal integrity, and health of Mr Kevin Roberto Solís and to ensure that his detention conditions are in accordance with applicable international standards.



Colombia: Precedent on Who Can Be Considered Most Responsible for Serious Crimes Committed in the Armed Conflict 

On 22 April, the Special Jurisdiction for Peace set a precedent for who can be considered as the ‘most responsible’ for the most serious crimes of the Colombian armed conflict. The Special Jurisdiction for Peace made it clear that those who, due to their hierarchical position in the criminal structure, be it of a military, political, economic or social nature, have fulfilled an essential role in the criminal organization, can be considered the most responsible. This was ruled by the Appeals Section when deciding on the appeal of a retired army corporal Jhon Jairo Moreno Jaimes requesting his release after being convicted in 2017 for being a member of the public force at the time of committing the crime and being deprived of liberty for less than five years. The officer appealed this decision, being sure that when convicted as an accomplice, he should be immediately released, since it was obvious to him that he did not bear the greatest responsibility. However, the Appeals Section of the Special Jurisdiction for Peace denied the appeal.


USA: Man Pleaded Guilty to Attempting to Provide Material Support to Foreign Terrorist Organizations

On 23 April, Elvis Redzepagic pleaded guilty before a federal court in the United States to attempting to provide material support and resources to the Islamic State (ISIS) and the al-Nusrah Front, both having been designated by the U.S. Secretary of State as foreign terrorist organizations. According to court documents, Elvis Redzepagic, from Commack, New York, began communicating in early 2015 with an individual he believed to be both the commander of a battalion in Syria and a member of ISIS or the al-Nusrah Front, and attempted to join that individual’s battalion to engage in violent jihad. In Facebook messages from October 2015, Redzepagic explained that “jihad” is when “you fight for the sake of God” and “die for the sake of Allah.”  Redzepagic stated that he traveled to Turkey to “perform Jihad and join Jabhat Al-Nusra.” He predicted, “there will come a time when people will only know to say Allahu Akbar.” Redzepagic admitted that at the time he attempted to enter Syria, he was prepared to strap a bomb to himself. If convicted, he faces up to 20 years in prison. A federal district court judge will determine any sentence after considering the U.S. Sentencing Guidelines and other statutory factors.


Hong Kong: Independence Activist Sentenced to 12 Years for a Bomb Plot

On 23 April, the Hong Kong’s High Court has sentenced a former member of a now-dissolved pro-independence group to 12 years of imprisonment for a bomb plot in the heaviest sentence to date over charges stemming from the anti-government protests and civil unrest of 2019. The man was arrested in July 2019 along with two other people. Weapons and hazardous chemicals, including 1.5 kg of TATP, Molotov cocktails, long knives and strong acid, were seized in a warehouse he rented inside a building of Tsuen Wan. In sentencing Louis Lo Yat-sun, Justice Andrew Chan Hing-wai said the 29-year-old defendant “came close to declaring war” on society by creating “terror among citizens” with his involvement in Hong Kong’s largest seizure of high explosives in two decades.




UN: Call to Protect and Stand with the People of Myanmar

On 19 Monday, UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in Myanmar Tom Andrews urged the international community to stand and protect the Myanmar people. Tom Andrews highlighted the need to protect and care for the Myanmar civilians fleeing the violence unleashed by the Junta. Over 700 people have been killed in a crackdown on peaceful protestors by the security forces after the military takeover on 1 February. The UN expert urged neighbouring countries to prepare for a refugee crisis and respect the people’s fundamental right to enter their countries as they are running away from brutality.


UN: UK’s Racism Report Condemned by UN Experts

On 19 April, UN human rights experts rejected the UK government-backed report into racism and ethnic disparities in the country. The experts argued that the report distorted and falsified historic facts and could fuel racism, racial discrimination and negative racial stereotypes.  The Commission on Race and Ethnic Disparities, which was set up by the UK government after the Black Lives Matter anti-racism protests erupted last year, presented its report on 31 March. The UN Working Group of Experts on People of African Descent noted that it is stunning to read a report on race and ethnicity that repackages racist tropes and stereotypes into fact, twisting data and misapplying statistics and studies into conclusory findings and ad hominem attacks on people of African descent. 


UN: Experts Demanded UAE to Provide Concrete Information about Sheikha Latifa

On 20 April, UN experts called on the Government of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) to provide meaningful information on the fate of Sheikha Latifa Mohammed Al Maktoum as well as assurances of her safety. Sheikha Latifa is the daughter of the Emir of Dubai and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and is held by the government after attempting to flee the country in 2018. UN experts have raised concerns with the Emirati Government about her alleged enforced disappearance and incommunicado detention, and the violation of her right, as a woman, to live a life free of discrimination and violence. According to the information received, she continues to be deprived of liberty, with no access to the outside world.


UNICEF: Report on Tigray Conflict

On 20 April, UNICEF’s spokesperson James Elder reported about the situation in in Ethiopia’s Tigray region after returning from a visit. He said more than a million people were displaced, noting that fighting was continuing, and security remained a major issue. Elder described the situation as a disturbing picture of severe and ongoing child violations, an education and nutrition emergency and extensive destruction to systems on essential services that children rely on. The conflict is the result of months of escalating tensions between the Ethiopian Government and the dominant regional force, the Tigray People’s Liberation Front (TPLF), which culminated in Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed ordering a military offensive after rebels attacked a federal army base. 


UNICEF: Rise in Migrant Children in Mexico Recorded

On 20 April, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean Jean Gough reported that the number of migrant children in Mexico has increased to 3500 since the start of 2021. Children comprise at least 30 per cent of migrants in Mexican shelters, who come from Honduras, Guatemala, El Salvador and the country itself.  Half have travelled without their parents, which is among the highest proportions ever recorded in Mexico. The agency estimates that an average of 275 additional migrant children find themselves in Mexico every day after being detected by the authorities, waiting to cross into the US, or being returned. 


OSCE: Unity Across Organizations and Countries Key to Countering Terrorism

On 20 April, participants in the online OSCE-wide Counter Terrorism Conference agreed that unity across organizations and countries can help counter radicalization and violent extremism. Ann Linde, OSCE Chairperson-in-Office and Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs stated that terrorism is cruelty in its purest form and innocent people are targets and the sites of terrorists’ attack are difficult to predict. She added that OSCE participating States need to unite and never give up in their ambitions to prevent and combat terrorism, as well as to stand up for human rights, democracy and the rule of law. This year’s annual OSCE-wide Counter-Terrorism Conference, organized by Sweden’s 2021 OSCE Chairpersonship with the support of the Action against Terrorism Unit of the OSCE Transnational Threats Department, has had more than 500 registered participants from across the OSCE area.


Libya: Progress Welcomed by the Libya Quartet

On 20 April, the members of the Libya Quartet which brings together the UN, the League of Arab States, the African Union and the European Union have welcomed significant progress towards advancing an inclusive and comprehensive political solution in Libya. UN Secretary-General António Guterres stated on Twitter that the UN stands with the people of Libya and will work towards a better future for the country. The UN has been supporting peace efforts in Libya, which descended into chaos and conflict following the overthrow of President Muammar Gaddafi in 2011, resulting in the country being divided between the internationally recognized Government of National Accord (GNA) and the rival Libyan National Army (LNA). Mediation facilitated by the UN led to an historic ceasefire agreement, signed last October by military representatives from each side, known as the 5+5 Joint Military Commission (JMC), paving the way to political dialogue and a roadmap that includes elections in December. A new interim unity government was sworn in last month. The Quartet met just days after the UN Security Council passed a resolution endorsing the Secretary-General’s proposal to support the mechanism monitoring implementation of the ceasefire.  It calls for teams from the UN’s mission in the country, UNSMIL, to work alongside JMC monitors. 


UNSG: Solidarity with Chad after the Death of President

On 20 April, UN Secretary General (UNSG) announced that UN is in solidarity with Chad after the death of the country president on Tuesday. President Idriss Déby Itno died from injuries sustained in the clashes with rebels over the weekend according to multiple sources. President Déby Itno was a key partner for the United Nations and made significant contributions toward regional stability in efforts to combat violent extremism, organized crime, and terrorism in the Sahel.  President of the UN General Assembly Volkan Bozkir also expressed condolences to the people of Chad.


WFP: Food Aid Operation in Myanmar Begins to Reach Two Million

On 22 April, the World Food Programme (WFP) reported that two million people are facing a growing food crisis due to the ongoing political crisis in Myanmar. However, WFP Myanmar country Director Stephen Anderson announced that help will start to reach some of the affected areas. The operation will focus on poor townships in Myanmar where population displacement has taken place. More people have lost their jobs and are unable to afford food. The UN agency reported that families in poor regions in Myanmar have been pushed to the edge eating less nutritious food, skipping meals, and incurring debts to feed themselves.


UNSC: Middle East Envoy’s Briefing on Palestinian Elections

On 22 April, UN Middle East envoy Tor Wennesland noted high expectations as Palestinians go to elections on 22 May 2021. The successful completion of inclusive Palestinian elections is critical step towards establishing a democratic legitimacy of the Palestinian Government. Palestinian elections will pay way for uniting West bank and Gaza with a single democratic authority, a major step toward peace and reconciliation. The UN has been supporting the Palestinian elections preparations through engagement with parties and the Central Elections Committee. According to evaluations from the UN, the election body has been conducting its mandate with professionalism and integrity hence raising hopes for a new future.


OSCE: Ukraine SMM Chief Monitor Paid Tribute to Joseph Stone and Called for More Action Against Mines

On 23 April, Chief Monitor of the OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine, Halit Çevik, paid tribute to Medic Joseph Stone who was tragically killed in 2017 by a mine in a non-government controlled area near Pryshyb in Luhansk region. Halit Çevik mourned the loss of a friend and colleague who was committed to lasting peace in eastern Ukraine. Explosive objects, unexploded ordinance, and mines have claimed lives of more than 8o civilians and injured more than 241 in the eastern Ukraine. Çevik added that marking off or clearing the deadly objects is both a key step on the road to peace and a lasting legacy to a brave medic who made the ultimate sacrifice.


USA: Biden Becomes First US President to Recognise Armenian Genocide

Joe Biden has become the first US president who formally recognized the Armenian genocide, more than a century after the mass killings by Ottoman troops, opening a rift between the new US administration and Ankara. As reported on 24 April, Biden called Recep Tayyip Erdoğan on 23 April to inform him US would make designation on 106th anniversary of the genocide. The conversation was reported to be tense and the issue was not mentioned in official accounts of the exchange. Biden’s statement was immediately denounced by Ankara.


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