Weekly News Recap (3-9 May 2021)




USA: Federal Judge Accused Trump DOJ of Misleading Court and Congress

On 3 May, Judge Amy Berman Jackson of the US District Court for the District of Columbia issued a summary judgment accusing then-Attorney General William Barr of misleading the court during the investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election. Jackson concluded that Barr and his DOJ (the Department of Justice) were “disingenuous” to the court at the time of the investigation and now, and that it is time for the public to see the memorandum’s true findings. Jackson ruled that the memo contained “strategic, as opposed to legal” advice that was inappropriately withheld, and that Barr had already reached a predetermined conclusion that then-President Donald Trump would not be charged with obstruction of justice.


IACHR: Precautionary Measures Granted in Cases from Nicaragua and Venezuela

On 4 May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about the adoption of Resolution 37/2021 of 30 April, by which it granted precautionary measures in favor of Gustavo Adolfo Mendoza Beteta, who would be deprived of liberty in the Jorge Navarro prison (known as “La Modelo”) and her family nucleus, made up of María del Rosario Beteta Castañeda, Domingo Mendoza and Marbely Leal López. The Commission considered that the situation meets prima facie the seriousness, urgency, and irreparability requirements contained in Article 25 of the IACHR Rules of Procedure. According to the request, as a result of the work of opposition to the current Nicaraguan government, the beneficiary Mendoza Beteta would be deprived of liberty in inadequate conditions and being subjected to threats and acts of violence by state agents. In this context, his family would also be the target of harassment.

On 5 May, the IACHR informed about the adoption of Resolution 38/21 of 30 April, in which it granted precautionary measures in favour of Noris Alberto Perozo, after considering that he finds himself in a situation of serious and urgent risk of irreparable damage to his rights in Venezuela. According to the request, the beneficiary finds himself in a situation of risk given that he is preventively deprived of his liberty, suffers from several serious diseases, and is not receiving the medical care that he allegedly requires. Despite the request for information made to the State, the Commission did not receive any information that controverts the facts alleged throughout the proceeding.



ECtHR: Violation of a Journalist’s Freedom of Expression

On 4 May, the Chamber’s judgment in the case of Akdeniz and Others v. Turkey, was handed down. The case concerned an interim injunction ordered by the domestic courts banning the dissemination and publication of information on a parliamentary inquiry into allegations of corruption against four former ministers, which had been instigated following an operation conducted by the Istanbul police and prosecutor’s office on 17 and 25 December 2013. The Court went on to unanimously hold that there had been a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the Convention in respect of Banu Güven. Indeed, the impugned injunction, which had amounted to a preventive measure aimed at prohibiting any future dissemination or publication of information, had caused major repercussions on the applicant’s exercise of her right to freedom of expression on a topical issue. Such interference had lacked a “legal basis” for the purposes of Article 10, and had therefore prevented Ms Güven from enjoying a sufficient level of protection as required by the rule of law in a democratic society.


USA: Police Officer Charged in George Floyd’s Murder Petitioned for New Trial

On 4 May, former Minneapolis police officer, Derek Chauvin’s lawyer petitioned the court for a new trial. Derek Chauvin was found guilty of all three counts related to the murder of George Floyd in May last year. The attorney for the former officer filed court documents arguing that the earlier trial was unfair as there was misconduct by both the jurors and prosecutors. A 12-member jury took less than a day in declaring Chauvin guilty, following a three-week trial in which 45 witnesses took the stand and several hours of video footage was exhibited to the jury. The guilty verdict against a police officer is considered to be a milestone in racial history in the U.S and was applauded by many Americans. Mr Chauvin faces up to 40 years in prison.



Germany: Constitutional Court Upheld Night Curfews in COVID-19 Fight

On 5 May, Germany’s constitutional court dismissed emergency appeals against the government’s decision to impose night curfews in areas with high COVID-19 infections as some regions are eyeing a loosening of lockdown restrictions. Germany, last month passed a law giving Chancellor Angela Merkel’s government more powers to fight the third wave of the coronavirus, including curfews between 10 p.m. and 5 a.m. in regions with high infection rates.


KSC: Trial Panel I Assigned to Mustafa Case

On 5 May, President of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) Ekaterina Trendafilova assigned Judges Roland Dekkers, Mappie Veldt-Foglia, Gilbert Bitti, and Vladimir Mikula (reserve) to Trial Panel I. The assignment follows the notification by the Pre-Trial Judge that the complete case file in the case of the Specialist Prosecutor v. Salih Mustafa will be ready for transmission to a Trial Panel on 7 May 2021. The case against Mr Salih Mustafa is the first to be ready for transmission to a trial panel.


ICC: Dominic Ongwen Sentenced to 25 Years of Imprisonment for 61 Crimes Against Humanity and War Crimes

On 6 May, Trial Chamber IX of the International Criminal Court (ICC) sentenced Dominic Ongwen to 25 years of imprisonment. The following crimes were committed in Northern Uganda between 1 July 2002 and 31 December 2005: the crimes of murder and persecution in the context of the attacks on Pajule, Odek, Lukodi and Abok IDP camps, the crimes of sexual slavery, rape, forced marriage and forced pregnancy, the crimes of enslavement and torture as sexual and gender-based crimes, and the crime of conscription of children under the age of 15 and their use to participate actively in the hostilities. A total of 4095 victims have been granted the right to participate in the proceedings. The highest individual sentences awarded to Ongwen are 20 years’ imprisonment for certain crimes of utmost gravity, and for other individual crimes he was sentenced to eight or 14 years of imprisonment. The judges comprising the majority were of the view that a joint sentence of 25 years “adequately reflects the strongest condemnation by the international community of the crimes committed by Dominic Ongwen and acknowledges the great harm and suffering caused to the victims,” and also allows for his possible reintegration into society. 


Qatar: Attorney General Ordered Arrest of Finance Minister on Corruption Charges

On 6 May, the Qatari attorney general has ordered the arrest of Finance Minister Ali Sharif al-Emadi on charges related to the abuse of his office. The Minister of Commerce and Industry, Ali bin Ahmed Al-Kuwari, was announced as al-Emadi’s immediate replacement. Al-Emadi had served in a variety of roles in the Qatari government and financial sector, including serving as the chairman of the Qatar National Bank and on the board of the powerful Qatar Investment Authority (QIA), Qatar’s enormous sovereign wealth fund. Among the charges being brought against Al-Emadi are damage to public funds, exploiting his post, and abuse of power.


KSC: Victims’ Counsels Assigned in Thaçi et al case and Mustafa case

On 7 May, the Registrar of the Kosovo Specialist Chambers (KSC) assigned Mr Laws to represent the victims in the case of the Specialist Prosecutor v Hashim Thaçi, Kadri Veseli, Rexhep Selimi and Jakup Krasniqi. The Pre-Trial Judge accepted nine individuals as victims participating in the proceedings on 21 April 2021. Mr Laws was admitted to the List of Victims’ Counsel on 30 October 2020. On 7 May, the Registrar also assigned Dr Pues to represent the victims in the Case of the Specialist Prosecutor v. Salih Mustafa. The decision comes a week after the Pre-Trial Judge accepted the applications of five victims to participate in the proceedings. Dr Pues was admitted to the List of Victims’ Counsel on 25 October 2018.



ECtHR: Judgment Concerning the Judicial System of Poland

On 7 May, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) ruled that a Polish company had been denied its right to a proper hearing due to the illegal appointment of a Constitutional Court judge, opening the way for further challenges to Poland’s top court. Poland’s ruling Law and Justice (PiS) party has introduced a series of judiciary reforms that critics, including the European Union’s executive, may harm the independence of the courts. PiS legislators have also elected three constitutional court judges to roles already filled by the previous parliament. The case concerned one of those judges, and the ruling by Europe’s rights court raises the prospect that other verdicts of the Polish constitutional court will be questioned. This is the first time, as far as an EU member state is concerned that the national constitutional tribunal is found to be unlawfully composed.




Myanmar: Journalists under Severe Threat

On 3 May, Mr Thar Lun Zaung Htet, the founder of Khit Thit Media outlet affirmed their commitment to continue reporting from Myanmar until democracy is achieved. Having founded the Media outlet in 2018, Mr Thar Lun Zaung Htet noted, that reporting in the country has become so dangerous that journalists who take pictures with their phones risk being arrested or shot by security forces. Chief of the UN Human Rights Myanmar Team, Mr James Rodehaver noted, that the military Junta is executing a clear plan to deny free access to information in the country. The plan involves a crackdown of media outlets including outlawing or censoring access, shutting down the internet, and brutal attacks on journalists. Furthermore, during protests and demonstrations, the military has shown a clear intent to target and singles out media personnel, with brutal attacks that are intended to scare them from covering the events.


OHCHR: Deep Concerns about Developments in Cali, Colombia

On 4 May, Marta Hurtado, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights stated, that the UN was deeply concerned with developments in Colombia. In the city of Cali, police fired on protestors protesting against proposed tax reform. During the five days of demonstrations, 19 people were killed with over 800 wounded by the police. Further, human rights activists have been threatened and harassed by the authorities. The Columbian Presidency announced that controversial tax reform legislation would be withdrawn from Congress, but protestors have taken to the streets. The government has mobilised soldiers and police against the protestors. UN high commissioner for Human Rights spokesperson Marta Hurtado reminded state authorities of their responsibility to protect human rights for all people including the right of peaceful assembly, right to life, and security of the person.



OSCE: Ceasefire Violations Recorded in Ukraine

On 3 May, OSCE Special Monitoring Mission to Ukraine (SMM) reported ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk region. In the Donetsk region, there were 287 ceasefire violations that including 45 explosions between 30 April and 3 May 2021. In the Luhansk region, 166 ceasefire violations that included 14 explosions were recorded. The report notes that ceasefire violations in the two regions have increased lately compared to the previous monitoring period.


New Zealand: Parliament Declared Human Rights Abuses in China

On 5 May, New Zealand’s Parliament unanimously declared that Uyghurs are suffering from “severe human rights abuses” in Xinjiang, China. However, the Labour government has decided not to label the acts as genocide and has decided instead to debate the motion in more general terms. The UK, Canada and Netherlands have each condemned the abuses as genocide. New Zealand’s decision not to label the Chinese Communist Party’s activities in Xinjiang as genocide has received several criticisms domestically and internationally. Members of New Zealand’s Uyghur community expressed disappointment in the Labour government’s decision. Some described it as “trade being prioritized over freedom and human rights in New Zealand.”



USA: Department of Homeland Security Seeks to Reunite Four Migrant Families Separated at the Border

On 5 May, US Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas announced plans to reunite four migrant families separated at the Southern border under the former President Trump’s Administration. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DOS) Secretary will head the newly formed Family Reunification Task Force that was created by President Biden’s executive order, back in February. Under the executive order, parents were granted humanitarian parole to enter the U.S. to find their children. There are hundreds of families separated by Former President Trump’s “zero tolerance’’ to immigration policy, with some of the separations happening back in 2017.


UN: COVID-19 Response in Myanmar Threatened by Attacks on the Healthcare System

On 5 May, the UN team in Myanmar reported attacks on medical facilities and personnel. Over 158 attacks have been reported with more than 139 doctors arrested and charged since the military coup in the country. According to the UN Country Team (UNCT), there are concerns that the continued attacks of the healthcare system are threatening vital health services, as well as being the COVID-19 response efforts in the country.  currently, 51 health facilities across the countries under occupation by the military. Those arrested or detained include highly specialized doctors that cannot be replaced easily, causing a significant impact on both the quality and quantity of health services available.


OSCE: Social Re-Use of Confiscated Assets from Organized Crime in Serbia

On 5 May, the Serbian Directorate for Administration of Seized Assets, eight (8) local civil society organizations (CSOs) and OSCE experts discussed the opportunities for re-use of assets confiscated from organized crime. Serbian law allows seized and confiscated assets to be re-used for social purposes, though few CSOs put it into practice. Sarah Groen, Deputy Head of the OSCE Mission to Serbia stated that, illicit activities of organized crime groups affect our societies and economies while presenting a serious threat to security and stability in the region. The availability of the confiscated property to be used in communities for social uses, allows the involvement of civil society in the fight against organized crime but also increases trust in institutions and the rule of law.


UNSG: Pledge to Keep Memories Alive for Those Who Died in Service During 2020

On 6 May, the United Nations paused for a moment of silence to honour 336 personnel who lost their lives because of COVID-19, other illnesses, malicious acts, natural disasters and other incidents. the highest number ever in a single year. Secretary-General António Guterres noted that 2020 was a year like no other in the United Nations. The fallen heroes represent more than 80 nations coming from every corner of the globe and reflected the diversity and richness of experience of the United Nations. The Secretary-General underlined the UN’s commitment to continue improving and reviewing practices related to safety and ongoing care.


UNSC: UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs Reported about Chemical Weapons in Syria

On 6 May, the UN Security Council received new evidence on the international efforts in the eradication of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. The United Nations High Representative for Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu updated members on recent developments in the work of Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Syria. The OPCW in Syria was first mandated by the Council in Resolution 2118 (2013) which called for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. According to the briefing, Ms Izumi Nakamitsu noted that there was a detection of a chemical warfare agent in the samples collected in late 2020. The OPCW has opened an issue on this matter which will be discussed during the next round of its Declaration Assessment Team’s consultations, later this May.


Leave a Reply