Weekly News Recap (17-23 May 2021)




IACHR: Precautionary Measures in Favor of Relatives of Human Rights Defenders in Nicaragua Expanded

On 17 May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) issued Resolution 44/2021, by which it expanded precautionary measures in favor of identified relatives of human rights defenders in Nicaragua. The Commission considered that the situation meets prima facie the requirements of gravity, urgency and irreparability according to Article 25 of its Regulations. According to the request, the family members were in a specific situation of risk in the current context of Nicaragua. In 2019, the IACHR issued Resolution 62/19 by which it identified that 16 defenders were at risk due to the conditions of deprivation of liberty.


USA: Court Refused a Community Caretaking Exception to the Fourth Amendment Requirements

On 17 May, the US Supreme Court ruled on the case of Caniglia v. Strom. This case involved a welfare check, which led to police searching and seizing the petitioner’s guns against his wishes. Officers used false pretext to gain his wife’s consent, then claimed that such warrantless searches and seizures were permissible under the “community caretaking” doctrine established in Cady v. Dombrowski. The Court held that there is no standalone “community caretaking” exception to the Fourth Amendment that would allow police to conduct a warrantless search and seizure of a person’s home as part of a welfare check.


ECtHR: Sports Sanctions against the Turkish Football Federation

On 18 May, the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) held a judgment against the Turkish Football Federation unanimously in the cases of Sedat Doğan v. Turkey (application no. 48909/14), Naki and Amed Sportif Faaliyetler Kulübü Derneği v. Turkey (no. 48924/16) and Ibrahim Tokmak v. Turkey (no. 54540/16). The three cases concerned sports sanctions and financial penalties imposed on the applicants by the Turkish Football Federation (TFF) due to statements made to the media or messages posted or shared on social media. The applicants lodged appeal proceedings against the sanctions by the Federation’s Arbitration Committee. The Court noted, in each of the three cases, that the reasoning given by the national bodies in their decisions to impose sanctions on the applicants demonstrated a failure to carry out an adequate balancing exercise between, the applicants’ right to freedom of expression and, the right of the TFF’s leadership to respect for their private lives and the other interests at stake, such as maintaining order and peace in the football community. The ECtHR held that there had been a violation of Article 6 § 1 (right to a fair hearing) and a violation of Article 10 (freedom of expression) of the Convention.


ECtHR: Pre-trial Detention of Two Journalists Who Published Emails from a Turkish Minister

On 18 May, the European Court on Human Rights issued a decision in the case of Öğreten and Kanaat v. Turkey. The case concerned the detention (from December 2016 to December 2017) of two journalists for membership of terrorist organisations. Both journalists had published, in the press entities in which they worked, emails from the account of the Turkish Energy Minister (Mr Berat Albayrak, son in-law of the President of the Republic), which had been hacked and published on the Wikileaks site in December 2016. The Court held that the applicants’ alleged offences were linked to the exercise of their rights under the Convention, specifically their freedom of expression and the applicants’ detention was unlawful and arbitrary.


ECtHR: Violation of Company’s Rights during an Election Campaign in Russia

On 18 May, the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) held a judgement against Russia in the case of OOO Informatsionnoye Agentstvo Tambov-Inform v. Russia (application no. 43351/12). The case concerned the publication of articles and an online poll on a website during an election campaign. The applicant company was convicted of production, dissemination or placement of campaigning material in breach of electoral legislation and fined 50,000 Russian roubles (RUB). The Court found – and the Government had not made out otherwise – that the applicant company had not acted in bad faith and the case and legislative framework had not differed greatly from another case previously examined by Court. The Court noted that the applicant company had been convicted for not setting out its methodology for the poll and specifying the region for the polling. The Court found that the methodology was self-evident and that without a more detailed submission concerning the rational for the regulatory framework by the Russian government, the Court was unable to conclude otherwise, and found a violation of the Convention. The Court held that Russia was to pay the applicant 5,000 euros (EUR) in respect of pecuniary and non-pecuniary damage and EUR 2,500 in respect of costs and expenses.


Court of Justice of the EU: The Disciplinary Regime Applicable to Judges for Damage Caused by Error

On 18 May, the Court of Justice of the European Union ruled on a series of Romanian reforms in the areas of judicial organisation. The disputes in the main proceedings follow on from a wide-ranging reform in the field of justice and the fight against corruption in Romania, a reform that has been monitored at EU level since 2007 under the cooperation and verification mechanism established by Decision 2006/928 on the occasion of Romania’s accession to the European Union. The Court held that national legislation governing the financial liability of the State and the personal liability of judges in respect of the damage caused by a judicial error can be compatible with EU law only in so far as the putting in issue, in an action for indemnity, of a judge’s personal liability for such a judicial error is limited to exceptional cases and is governed by objective and verifiable criteria, arising from requirements relating to the sound administration of justice, and also by guarantees designed to avoid any risk of external pressure on the content of judicial decisions. To that end, clear and precise rules defining the conduct which may give rise to the personal liability of judges are essential, in order to guarantee the independence inherent in their task and to avoid exposing them to the risk that their personal liability may be incurred solely because of their decisions. The fact that a decision contains a judicial error cannot, in itself, suffice to render the judge concerned personally liable.


ECtHR: No Violation of the Freedom of Expression in a Case Concerning Journalists in Georgia

On 20 May, the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a decision in the case of Amaghlobeli and Others v. Georgia (application no. 41192/11). The case concerned the scope of journalistic freedom to engage in news-gathering activities in the customs-control zone of a border checkpoint. Two of the applicants had entered such a zone, had interviewed travelers and taken photographs, and had refused to leave when requested to do so by customs officials. The applicants complained that the imposition of a fine for engaging in those activities in a restricted State-controlled zone had constituted an interference with their rights under Article 10 of the Convention. The Court found that the domestic courts had examined the issue with care and in line with the Court’s case law and that there had been no violation of Article 10.


ECtHR: The Lockdown Ordered by Romania to Tackle the COVID-19 Pandemic not to be Equated with House Arrest

On 20 May, the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) held a decision in the case of Terheş v. Romania (application no. 49933/20). The case concerned lockdown measures which were ordered by the Romanian government from 24 March to 14 May 2020 to tackle the COVID-19 pandemic. The restrictions included limits on leaving one’s home. The Court held that the measure complained of could not be equated with house arrest and the level of restrictions on the applicant’s freedom of movement had not been such that the general lockdown could be deemed to constitute a deprivation of liberty. In the Court’s view, the applicant could not, therefore, be said to have been deprived of his liberty within the meaning of Article 5 § 1 of the Convention.


IACHR: A Case Involving Mexico Presented before the IACtHR

On 20 May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) informed about its 6 May presentation of the case of Daniel García Rodríguez and Reyes Alpizar Ortíz with respect to Mexico before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case refers to the torture, violations of due process and personal liberty against Daniel García Rodríguez and Reyes Alpízar Ortíz, who were held in preventive detention for more than 17 years. the Commission observed that the victims were detained without being presented with a prior judicial order and without complying with the conditions established in the Code of Criminal Procedures. With respect to the allegations of torture, the IACHR determined that Mexico did not provide a satisfactory explanation that disproves said allegations and the evidence of its occurrence. Based on this, and taking into account that the purpose was to bend their psychic resistance and force the victims to self-incriminate themselves or to link certain people in criminal acts, it was considered that the victims were subjected to torture; and given that the evidence obtained under torture was not excluded until it had been duly investigated and disproved, it was concluded that Mexico violated the rule of exclusion of evidence obtained under duress.


ECtHR: Azerbaijan Failed to Conduct an Effective Investigation

On 20 May, the European Court on Human Rights (ECtHR) held a decision in the case of Lapshin v. Azerbaijan (application no. 13527/18). The case concerned an incident during the applicant’s imprisonment in Azerbaijan (2017). The applicant had been arrested for having crossed the State border outside the checkpoints during journeys to Nagorno-Karabakh. The applicant had been attacked and beaten in his prison cell by a group of masked me. The investigator of the District Prosecutor’s Office asserted that the incident had been a suicide attempt, while the applicant alleged it had been attempted murder. The applicant was resuscitated and hospitalised in an intensive-care unit. The following day the applicant was pardoned by the President of Azerbaijan and, upon his discharge from the hospital three days later, was expelled to Israel. The Court observed a number of serious deficiencies and inconsistencies during the investigation by the authorities. The Court found that the inquiry into the prison incident had been ineffective and in breach of the respondent State’s procedural obligations under Article 2 of the Convention. It found that the respondent State had failed to satisfy the burden of proof resting on it to provide a satisfactory and convincing explanation as regards the incident which had put the applicant’s life in danger. There had therefore been a violation of Article 2 – right to life.


Hong Kong: The Court Refused a Jury Trial in first Case under the New Security Law

On 20 May, the Hong Kong Court of First Instance denied a bid for a jury trial by the first person charged under the country’s new security law. Tong Ying Kit was charged under sections 20, 21 and 24 of the New Security Law for “incitement to secession” and “terrorist activities” after he rammed his motorcycle into several riot police officers. Tong has been in custody since last July along with 300 other protesting activists. The common charges these activists are facing concerns chanting protest slogans or publishing protest material online, which the Hong Kong government deems to be actions of insurrection. It is a traditional common law practice in Hong Kong for the High Court (Court of Appeal and Court of Final Appeal) to have jury trials, which were denied in this case.


Canada: The Court ruled that Iran Intentionally Shot Down the Ukrainian Plane

On 20 May, the Ontario Superior Court of Justice ruled that the January 2020 military shootdown of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 in Tehran was an intentional “act of terrorism” and that Iran owes compensation to the Canadian families of those killed in the incident. On 8 January 2020, Iran deliberately shot down Flight 752, killing all 176 passengers and crew. The Iranian government said that was done by error, the plane being mistaken by a hostile missile. Foreign states are not typically within the jurisdiction of the Canadian courts, but a 2012 Canadian law limited that immunity for countries listed as “foreign state supporters of terrorism,” including Iran. Canada does not have formal diplomatic relations with Iran, and claiming damages will likely be lengthy and complex, but it has been done before. Jonah Arnold, one of the lawyers for the plaintiffs, has represented clients in other lawsuits against Iran, including a 2017 decision that led to the seizure of some Iranian assets in Canada. He said the country still has other assets in Canada and abroad that the plaintiffs can target.



USA: The Court Denied a Request from Native American Tribes to Shut the Dakota Access Oil Pipeline

On 21 May, a U.S. federal court judge denied a request from Native American tribes to shut the Dakota Access oil pipeline after a key environmental permit was scrapped last year, arguing that the tribes had failed to prove the line’s continued operation would cause irreversible harm. The pipeline, operated by Dallas-based Energy Transfer LP, entered service in 2017 following months of protests by environmentalists, Native American tribes and their supporters. The pipeline’s opponents said its construction destroyed sacred artifacts and posed a threat to Lake Oahe, a critical drinking supply, and the greater Missouri River. A coalition of businesses, trade associations and labor groups called Grow America’s Infrastructure Now (GAIN) applauded the court’s decision.



UNSC: Statement of the ICC Prosecutor on the Situation in Libya

On 17 May 2021, ICC Prosecutor welcomed the new interim government in Libya while maintaining that peace and stability is not possible without accountability for the serious crimes committed on Libyan soil. ICC Prosecutor Fatou Bensouda, told the UN Security Council on Monday that there is no peace without justice. Further, she warned of the unexecuted arrest warrants for war crimes and crimes against humanity, which delays justice for the victims. Among the many warrants issued for individuals in Libya, is a warrant of arrest for Mahmoud Mustafa Busayf Al-Werfalli, on war crimes. He is accused of executing 43 civilians. Since the fall of Libyan leader Muammar al-Gaddafi, the Libyan conflict has caused the death of many civilians.


OSCE: Detention of Journalists in Belarus

On 17 May, OSCE Representative on the Freedom of Media raised concerns over the detention of journalists in Belarus. According to the OSCE representative Teresa Ribeiro, a journalist was placed on administrative arrest for 15 days, for participating in an unauthorized event. The journalist working for Tut.by news portal was arrested while covering a court trial. Others include journalists from Deutsche Welle and Mogilev Region, who were also arrested while covering news events and placed in detention. The representative called for the Belarus authority to reverse the negative trends and allow media freedom to prevail in line with OSCE commitments.


OSCE: Ceasefire Violations Recorded in Ukraine

On 17 May, monitoring teams in Ukraine recorded ceasefire violations in Donetsk and Luhansk region. The Special Monitoring Mission (SMM) recorded 1,173 ceasefire violations that included 53 explosions, which is a significant increase compared to the previous reporting. In the Luhansk region, the monitoring teams recorded 192 ceasefire violations that included 67 explosions. Two were injured in the region of Luhansk, including a man who was injured by an explosive device and a young girl who was injured due to gunfire. Further, SMM recorded more ceasefire violations inside the disengagement areas near Stanytsia Luhanska, Petrivske, and Zolote. 


Myanmar: No Justification for Military Seizure of Power

On 17 May, Asian Network for Free Elections (ANFREL) found that Myanmar’s 2020 election reflected the will of the people and hence, the military had no justifiable grounds to overthrow a civilian government. In a 176-page report, ANFREL expressed satisfaction with the Myanmar 2020 general election which attracted 27.5 million voters during the COVID-19 pandemic. Myanmar has battled for democracy after decades of corruption and coups. The 2020 election was close to achieving democracy in the country, but fairness and access were hindered by the Pandemic. ANFREL report found that the military coup that overthrew a civilian government hindered democratic progress in the country.


CEDAW: Failure to Tackle Domestic Violence in South Africa is a Violation of Women Rights

On 17 May, the Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW) found that the South Africa’s criminal justice system was failing in ensuring justice to victims of domestic violence. The country has low levels of prosecution and conviction in domestic violence cases and failures by the police to serve and enforce protection orders. According to the Committee, the failure by the legal system to prosecute exposes victims and survivors to repeated patterns of violence and amounts to a violation of women’s rights in the country. Many women and girls in rural South Africa are victims of harmful practices that include abduction for marriage, child marriage, and polygamy. The committee concluded that South Africa has failed to comply with its obligation to effectively investigate, prosecute, and punish domestic violence hence violating the right of South African women to live free from domestic violence. 


UNSC: Security Situation in Sahel Africa Deteriorating

On 18 May, Jean-Pierre Lacroix, Under-Secretary-General for Peace Operations, told delegates at the UN Security Council that the fight against terrorists and other armed groups had intensified. The security situation in the Africa Sahel region has deteriorated and regional troops have deployed in combating terrorists. The first Joint Force was deployed in 2017 by G-5 Sahel countries namely Chad, Burkina Faso, Niger, Mali, and Mauritania and has been vital to the security response in the region. The five countries have experienced an escalation of attacks from extremist groups who have targeted security forces and civilians. Mr Jean-Pierre Lacroix noted that the effort to respond to security threats face logistical and operational challenges such as transport and supplies.


UN: Call for Mediation and Greater Access to Aid in Gaza

On 18 May, UN Political Affairs Chief Rosemary DiCarlo called on the international community to do all it can to de-escalate violence in Israel and Gaza which has left hundreds dead. Further, Rosemary DiCarlo called on the parties to the conflict to allow for mediation efforts aimed at a ceasefire in the region. Israeli forces and the extremist group Hamas have been fighting for the last week in a conflict that has claimed more than 200 civilians’ lives, including children. The conflict is a reminder that there is a need to find a resolution to the long conflict between Israelis and Palestinians. The UN Chief on Political Affairs noted that incidents of communal violence inside Israel was a cause for concern and the escalation of the conflict would affect peace and stability in the region.


UNICEF: Ceasefire Needed in Gaza to Avert Further Crisis

On 19 May, UNICEF Executive Director Henrietta Fore, stated that “one million children in Gaza are reeling from the mounting consequences of violent conflict with nowhere safe to turn.” At least 60 youngsters have been killed while another 444 have been injured in less than 10 days of conflict with Israel. According to UNICEF data, more than 30,000 children have been displaced in the Occupied Palestinian Territory enclave since 10 May. Currently, more than 250,000 children need mental protection and health services. The electricity in Gaza has dropped by near 60 percent, leaving hospitals vulnerable and reliant on generators to provide essential healthcare services. The humanitarian conveys meant to deliver supplies including essential services for the sick and wounded has also been held back with only 5 out of a 24-vehicle convoy being allowed to enter southern Gaza.


UNSC: COVID-19 Fuels Drivers of Instability and Conflict in Africa

On 19 May, UN Secretary-General told the UN Security Council that the Covid-19 pandemic is feeding the drivers of conflict in Africa. Mr Antonio Guterres stated that the youth and women must be involved in Africa’s plans to recover from the Covid-19 pandemic. Many countries and communities in Africa are facing complex security and peaceful environment and persistent challenges such as long-standing poverty, inequalities, climate disruption and food insecurity. Since the start of the Covid-19 pandemic, the UN Secretary-General has warned of the risks it poses to communities and people, especially in conflict areas. Some of the impacts of the Covid-19 pandemic in Africa are slowing economic growth, increased public debts, and decreasing remittances to the continent.


UNSC: Spirit of Unity, Collaboration, and Partnership Needed in Realization of Sudan Aspirations

On 20 May, Special Representative Volker Perthes told the UN Security Council that moving Sudan from a fragile situation to a stable civilian rule requires the continued collaboration, partnership, and goodwill. The key message remains that all stakeholders in Sudan need to work together for the future of Sudan. Mr Volker Perthes spoke after the Paris Conference where an agreement was reached on debt forgiveness in helping Sudan clear its arrears with international institutions. Sudan civil society groups shared their vision for a future country with democracy, freedom, economic opportunity, and justice. The country is engulfed in turmoil after protests aimed at achieving democracy lead to the military overthrow of President Omar al-Bashir on 11 April 2019.


OHCHR: Sanctions Against Myanmar’s Junta Welcomed

On 20 May, a top UN human rights expert welcomed the announcement of sanctions against Myanmar’s Junta by the United Kingdom, United States, and Canada. Mr Tom Andrews, the UN Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in Myanmar welcomed the sanctions and urged other nations to step up sanctions against the Myanmar military. The sanctions are aimed at cutting financial resources to the country’s military that overthrew the civilian government and continues to commit atrocities against the government. Specifically, the UN Special Rapporteur praised the US Executive order 14014 where the United States nationals were prohibited from providing goods, services, and funds that benefit the Myanmar military. More countries were urged to take action and impose sanctions that are aimed at forcing the military to give back power to the civilian government.


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