Weekly News Recap (31 May-6 June 2021)




India: Twitter Asked to Comply with New Information Technology Rules

On 31 May, US Social Media Giant Twitter has been directed by Delhi High Court to comply with the recently implemented IT rules, following its failure to appoint a Residence Grievance Officer (RGO). A petition was filed before the court by Twitter user Amit Acharya alleging Twitter had not been complying with the new rules when he found ‘defamatory, false and untrue’ tweets had been made about him and he could not find any RGO to take the issue to. The new rules allow Twitter users to complain about defamatory tweets and falsehoods published about them on the social media site to the RGO. Twitter, who was given a notice period of three weeks to employ an RGO, argued that it had employed an RGO in late May, thereby complying with the new rules. These rules, which came into force in May prohibit digital content publishers from hosting unlawful material, prescribe an ethical code and regulate content. The Indian government explicitly mentioned that social media companies were permitted to operate in India, do business and also earn profits, but they will have to be accountable to the Constitution and laws of India.’



ACtHPR: New President and Vice-President of the Court Elected

On 31 May, Justice Imani Daud Aboud from the United Republic of Tanzania was elected the President of the African Court on Human and Peoples’ Rights (ACtHPR) for a term of two years. The Court at its 61st Ordinary Session also elected Justice Blaise Tchikaya from the Republic of Congo as the Vice-President. The newly elected Justices are replacing Hon Justice Oré from Côte d’Ivoire and Hon Justice Justice Ângelo Vasco Matusse from the Republic of Mozambique.


ECtHR: LGBT Groups’ Right to Peaceful Assembly Violated in Romania

On 1 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment against Romania in the case of Association ACCEPT and Others v. Romania. The applicants are an association (‘first applicant’) promoting the interests of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people (LGTB) in Romania. The applicant’s organised a public screening of a movie portraying a same-sex family on the premises of a public museum, which was attended, inter alia, by the other applicants. The event was disrupted by a group of people who entered the venue shouting homophobic remarks, insulting and threatening the participants. The investigation into the applicants’ criminal complaint, for incitement to discrimination, abuse of office by restriction of rights and the use of fascist, racist or xenophobic symbols in public, was discontinued by the prosecutor and their challenges, subsequently were futile. The ECtHR observed that local authorities had failed to ‘ensure that the event took place peacefully by sufficiently containing the homophobic counter‑demonstrators.’ In this way, they fell short of their positive obligation to use any means possible to ensure that the applicants’ right to peaceful assembly had been respected. The Court further emphasised that the authorities had failed to exercise their responsibility to investigate effectively whether the verbal abuse directed towards the individual applicants constituted a criminal offence motivated by homophobia. In doing so, the authorities had shown their own bias towards members of the LGBT community.


IACHR: Case on Mexico Referred to the IACtHR

On 1 May, the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights (IACHR) filed the case of Jorge Marcial Tzompaxtle Tecpile et al., regarding Mexico, before the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR). The case refers to the illegal and arbitrary detention of Jorge Marcial Tzompaxtle Tecpile, Gerardo Tzompaxtle Tecpile and Gustavo Robles López, and the lack of judicial guarantees in the criminal proceedings against them. In its Merits Report, the Commission concluded that the victims, who were detained in January 2006 by police officers on a highway between the cities of Veracruz and Mexico City, were detained and searched without a warrant and without being caught committing a crime. The Commission observed that the State did not indicate the existence of objective reasons or parameters that could justify the detention and search. In view of the above, the Commission considered that the detention was illegal and arbitrary, and that the subsequent search of the vehicle constituted an infringement of the right to privacy. It also considered that the victims were not informed of the reasons for their detention nor were they brought promptly before a judicial authority. In addition, the Commission observed that the State did not dispute the allegations with respect to the situation of isolation and incommunicado detention that the victims suffered on at least two occasions for seven and a half hours and one and a half days, respectively. The Commission concluded that these events affected the personal integrity of the victims. It also found that, although there was no evidence of unfavorable conditions in the prisons where the victims were held, the sum of the violations derived from the arbitrary deprivation of liberty and based on a process without due judicial guarantees also affected their right to psychological integrity. Based on these considerations, the IACHR concluded that under the American Convention on Human Rights Mexico is internationally responsible for the violation of the right to personal integrity, right to personal liberty, right to judicial guarantees, right to privacy and right to judicial protection.


ECtHR: Applicants’ Appeal for Release from Compulsory Confinement Declared Invalid

On 1 June, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment againstthe applicantsin Denis and Irvine v. Belgium. The applicants, who were found to have committed the offences of theft and attempted aggravated burglary, were declared to be mentally unstable and placed in compulsory confinement by the local court under the Social Protection Act of 1930. Following the promulgation of a new law on 1 October the Compulsory Confinement Act (“CCA”), the applicants applied for permanent release, arguing that the acts they had committed no longer fulfilled the conditions for confinement under the new law. Their applications were dismissed on the ground that their mental disorders were not sufficiently stabilised and that they had not completed the three-year probation period prescribed by law to benefit from permanent release. Their appeals were also dismissed on points of law. The ECtHR took the view that the domestic courts’ approach in the present case was neither arbitrary nor manifestly unreasonable. The Court noted that the domestic courts had refused the applicants’ request for final discharge on the grounds that neither of the two cumulative conditions under section 66 of the CCA had been met; a) the completion of a three-year probationary period; b) that the mental disorder had sufficiently stabilised, to ensure that it could no longer reasonably be feared that the person placed in confinement, on account of his or her mental disorder, possibly combined with other risk factors, would commit fresh offences causing harm to or threatening the physical or mental integrity of third parties. Thus, the probation condition had not been decisive as their state of mental health had also not sufficiently improved. 


STL: Commencement of the Ayyash Trial Cancelled Due to Severe Financial Crises

On 2 June, the Special Tribunal for Lebanon (STL) Trial Chamber II declared that the commencement of the trial in the Ayyash case has been cancelled as of 16 June 2021. The order further mentioned that all decisions related to filings, and on any future filings, have been suspended for now until further notice. This declaration was made following the Registrar’s submission before the Trial Chamber II on 1 June 2021, regarding a severe shortage of funds presently faced by the STL. He stated that the imminent exhaustion of funds will have a serious impact on the Tribunal’s ability to continue with the judicial proceedings and completion of its mandate unless further contributions are forthcoming this month. The Trial Chamber II was formally seized of the Ayyash case on 21 May 2021, following the completion of the transfer of the case file to the Trial Chamber by the Pre-Trial Judge, who concluded the Pre-Trial phase. 



ICC: Decision on the Review of Detention in Abd-Al-Rahman Case

On 2 June, the International Criminal Court rejected the detention appeal filed by Mr. Abd-Al-Rahman, dismissing his arguments advanced under five grounds, that according to the court are premised on a complete misrepresentation of the Impugned Decision (the ‘Appeal Brief’), Appeal’s Chamber jurisprudence and that of applicable law. The Court observed that his submissions regarding continued pre-trial detention originated from an incorrect premise which is illustrated with the arguments advanced on his first ground of appeal. Mr Abd-Al-Rahman wrongly argued that the Appeal Chamber changed the Court’s jurisprudence that pre-trial detention is exceptional, by introducing a presumption, rebuttable with proof to the contrary, that the person charged ‘still has supporters who may have access to actual or potential witnesses.’  His subsequent arguments on the failures of the Pre-trial chamber and that of the Prosecutor to entertain certain defence motions for his release were similarly flawed, flittered with ‘mere speculations’ and did not ‘change [the] circumstances’ which would warrant his release. The Court dismissed all grounds of the Appeal.


ECtHR: Applicant’s Plea Against Liability on Grounds of Breach of His Presumption of Innocence Declared Invalid

On 3 June, the Grand Chamber of the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) issued a judgment againstthe applicant in Busuttil v. Malta. The case relates to criminal proceedings initiated against the applicant, as a director of a company, in which he was found guilty of failing to pay tax dues, with the use of legal presumptions. The applicant was born in 1947 and lives in Sliema. He was a co‑director (owning 25% of the shares) of the company from 2001 to 2006, following an invitation from the two other directors. During the period 2003-2006, the company failed to file the relevant tax forms and payments. After the applicant’s departure, the company went bankrupt under the management of the two other directors. Thereafter, the tax authorities directed the applicant to pay the outstanding tax, on behalf of the company. The applicant alleged that he had suffered a breach of his presumption of innocence as he was found guilty without the necessity of proving the criminal intent, which was necessary in order to ascertain the commission of a crime by an individual. The ECtHR found that the elements which had been proven by the prosecution were not disputed by the applicant. It further observed that the presumption under Maltese law, that a director is responsible for any act which by law must be performed by the company, was not unreasonable in the circumstances of the present case and accordingly, the applicant’s rights have not been violated.


CJEU: Germany Held Liable for Persistently Exceeding the Threshold Values for Nitrogen Dioxide

On 3 June, the Court of Justice for the European Union issued a judgment against Germany in the case of Commission v. Germany. The Court permitted the claim brought by the European Commission while observing that Germany, by not adopting, as from 11 June 2010, appropriate measures to ensure compliance with the limit values for NO2 in all the zones in question, has failed to fulfil its obligations under the directive and, in particular, the obligation to ensure that air quality plans provide appropriate measures so that the period during which the limit values are exceeded is kept as short as possible. The court also found that Germany had further infringed the directive by systematically and persistently exceeding, during that period, the hourly limit value for NO2. However, the Court acknowledged that as a Member State exceeding the limit values for NO2 outlined by the directive is not sufficient for it to be held as failing to fulfil its obligation. Nonetheless, the Court noted that Germany had violated the Air Quality Directive by systematically and persistently exceeding, as from 1 January 2010 up to and including 2016, the annual limit value for nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in 26 of the 89 zones and agglomerations evaluated.



UNICEF: Lives of Nearly 86,000 Children Threatened Due to Funding Gap in Haiti

On 31 May, UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF said that in Haiti the number of malnourished children under the age of five could be doubled this year. The disruption in health services since the global health crisis which began a year ago and a sharp decline in child immunisation has been reported by UNICEF. Fewer than 1 in 10 children is completely unvaccinated in Haiti and nearly 6 in 10 are insufficiently protected. Moreover, of those who are not fully vaccinated, 4 in 10 live mostly in impoverished urban settings which are characterised by a lack of access to essential services and violence. Jean Gough, UNICEF Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean stated that severe acute malnutrition can only be treated now to save children’s lives in Haiti and without additional urgent funding in the next few weeks, any efforts made would be futile. To meet the humanitarian needs of 1.5 million people in Haiti which includes more than 700,000 children, UNICEF would need $ 48.9 million to meet the humanitarian needs 1.5 million people in Haiti, which to date has remained unattained.


UNHCR: Renewed Commitment from the International Community is Needed to Support Afghan Refugees and Their Hosts

As reported on 31 May, Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR’s Director of the Regional Bureau for Asia and the Pacific called for a renewed commitment from the international community to stand in solidarity with millions of Afghans who are anxious about their future, and with the host countries that have provided safety to millions of Afghan refugees fleeing successive waves of violence over more than four decades. Iran which has hosted almost one million Afghan refugees, in addition to some 2.6 million undocumented or Afghan passport holders living in the country, has shown exemplary humanity and solidarity with refugees despite its own challenges. A major concern for the UNHCR is that a further increase in violence in Afghanistan will lead to exponential internal displacement and potentially lead to more Afghans being forced to seek safety in neighbouring countries and beyond. Even though the UNHCR is committed to continuing its support to Afghans, both inside and outside of Afghanistan; the lack of resources and funding has constrained its ability and the Government of Iran to maintain and increase its humanitarian efforts. UNHCR’s funding appeal for Iran of US$97.9 million for the year 2021 has so far been only funded 8 per cent.


OHCHR: UN Expert Says Violence, Hate Speech, Discrimination Against Palestinian Minority Must Stop

As reported on 1 June, Fernand de Varennes, UN human rights expert on Minority Rights condemned violence on Israel’s Palestinian minority by extreme right-wing and vigilante groups, including settlers and urged Israel to fully and equally protect all of its citizens without discrimination. The UN expert said that reports of extreme right-wing violence and disproportional use of force by law enforcement officials during protests in recent weeks, including in Sheikh Jarrah, Damascus Gate and the Al-Aqsa mosque, have led to some of the worst cases of violence against Palestinian citizens of Israel. He further stated that the decades-long exclusion and discrimination, including segregation between Arab and Jewish citizens and lack of equal treatment in terms of rights and privileges, have taken a heavy toll on the Palestinian minority. He further added that the absence of protection and bomb shelters in the Bedouin villages in the Naqab has also increased the insecurity of the Bedouin minority. The expert’s call has been endorsed by Mr. Clément Nyaletsossi Voule, Special Rapporteur on the right to peaceful assembly and association and Mr. Michael Lynk, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights in the Palestinian Territory occupied since 1967.


OSCE: Report on Rights of Children in the Criminal Justice System of Ukraine Presented

On 1 June, OSCE presented a report on the rights of children in Ukraine’s criminal justice system. Multiple interrogations, lack of psychological support, and lengthy proceedings were some of the problems children faced in Ukraine’s criminal justice system according to the report. The report was mainly comprised of results of civil society research conducted upon the initiative of Ukraine’s Parliament Commissioner for Human Rights and with the support of the OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine (PCU). The report contains recommendations for improvements, such as adopting uniform procedural guidelines for establishing ‘green rooms’, which provide a safe and friendly environment for interviewing children; recognizing the admissibility of video interrogations collected from child witnesses or victims in ‘green rooms’; establishing children’s hubs within the criminal justice system; and introducing systematic training on child-friendly justice standards for all relevant stakeholders. Henrik Villadsen, OSCE Project Coordinator in Ukraine hoped that the report and its recommendations would be useful for all professionals in making the justice system more child-friendly. The analysis that was carried out during the study was based on methodologies that the PCU adapted from the OSCE Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights’ (ODIHR) method of court monitoring for local conditions and the monitoring portion of the research was conducted in fall 2020 and covered 41 court hearings throughout Ukraine.


NATO: A New Policy on Conflict-Related Sexual Violence Endorsed by NATO Defence Ministers

On 1 June, NATO’s Defence Ministers have endorsed in a virtual meeting a new policy on preventing and responding to Conflict-Related Sexual Violence (CRSV). In June 2020 the Secretary General, Jens Stoltenberg, while speaking at the NATO Digital Dialogue on CRSV reiterated the importance of sustained attention and increased effort to address this issue. He further underscored that sexual violence continues to be perpetrated on a large scale in many conflicts around the world, clearly being an obstacle to peace and security; and an urgent responsibility to do more is needed. He also set out that a new NATO policy would provide the foundation for the Alliance’s continued commitment to the fight against CRSV. The new policy that has now been adopted outlines specific actions that NATO will take to both prevent and respond to CRSV in all NATO operations, missions, and Council-mandated activities. It also underscores NATO’s support for the international community’s efforts to end impunity for this crime.



UNHCR: Assistant High Commissioners Conclude Their Four Day Visit to Bangladesh

On 2 June, Gillian Triggs and Raouf Mazou, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioners for Protection and for Operations concluded their four-day visit to Bangladesh which included visits to the refugee camps in Cox’s Bazaar where the vast majority of Rohingya refugees reside, and the island of Bhasan Char, as well as meetings with senior Government officials. The Assistant High Commissioners met with the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner, responsible for the overall coordination of the Rohingya refugee response in Cox’s Bazaar, as well as, the Deputy Commissioner of Cox’s Bazaar. The UNCHR Assistant Commissioner Mazou also noted that the Bangladeshi government has set an example by including Rohingya refugees in the national COVID-19 vaccination plan. The UNHCR official also discussed the possibility of introducing alternative solutions for Rohingya refugees, including resettlement to third countries for the most vulnerable with specific protection needs, as well as, complementary pathways overseas, which could include employment and educational opportunities, while continuing to work together with the support of the international community towards voluntary repatriation.


WHO: Following Israel-Hamas Conflict Staggering Health Needs Emerge

On 2 June, senior UN Health agency officials called for unhindered humanitarian access to the Gaza Strip and cited growing concerns about the urgent health needs there. WHO has reported that essential medicines for trauma care and supported ambulances have been provided by them for more than 2000 injured people in Gaza, while a ceasefire between Hamas and Israel is in place. Dr. Rik Peeperkorn, WHO’s Head of Office in the Occupied Palestinian Territory stated that ten WHO triage treatment tents have also been set up outside six emergency departments in Gaza, but the situation still remains “volatile.” On 20 May, WHO launched an appeal for $7 million to support its health operations over the next six months, with the funds focusing on trauma and emergency care, mental health and psychosocial services, and essential health services including COVID-19.


UN: Military Must Respect Human Rights and Release Civilian Leaders Detained in Last Week’s Coup in Mali

On 2 June, Alioune Tine, a UN independent expert for human rights in Mali, stated that contrary to news reports, President Bah N’Daw and former Prime Minister Moctar Ouane were not freed by the military on 27 May, but instead moved to house arrest. The development follows Mali’s second coup in less than a year. He also reiterated that Mali must allow human rights officers from the United Nations Multidimensional Integrated Stabilization Mission in Mali (MINUSMA), as well as representatives of national human rights institutions and organizations, to visit them. MINUSMA continues to closely monitor political developments in the country and has reiterated its commitment to work with ECOWAS and the African Union towards a return to constitutional order through free and transparent elections.  The UN peacekeeping mission has also underscored the demand for lifting house arrest measures along with the “immediate and unconditional release” of aides and staff. The occurrence of two coups in Mali in 10 months, has led UN experts to call for national and international actors to strengthen the State institutions and the rule of law to avoid repeated crises and to ensure respect for human rights of law.


UNSC: Crucial to Identify and Hold Accountable Various Actors Making Use of Chemical Weapons in Syria

On 3 June, Izumi Nakamitsu, the UN High Representative for Disarmament Affairs updated delegates of the UN Security Council (UNSC) on the recent developments in the work of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in Syria and warned that the international community will continue sending a message of impunity until those responsible for any and all chemical weapons used in Syria are held accountable. Those efforts were first mandated by the Council in resolution 2118 (2013), which explicitly called for the destruction of Syria’s chemical weapons programme. Efforts have been made to examine allegations as to use of chemical weapons by various actors in Syria in recent years. A Fact-Finding Mission has been tasked by the OPCW to study all available information relating to the alleged use of these weapons and has continued to engage with the Syrian Government and other State Parties to the Chemical Weapons Convention. The UN High Representative has welcomed Syrian authorities’ work with the OPCW and has emphasised that cooperation will prove crucial in closing the outstanding gaps, even though there are discrepancies in Syria’s chemical weapons declaration. An urgent need to identify and hold accountable all those who have used chemical weapons in violation of international law was also underscored by her and she called upon the UNSC to urgently unite behind the re-establishment of a global norm against chemical weapons.


OHCHR: Canada Should Conduct Full-Fledged Investigation into Mass Grave at Indigenous School

On 4 June, UN independent human rights experts called upon the Canadian authorities to conduct a full-fledged investigation into the mass grave found at an indigenous residential school in British Columbia and to probe into the circumstances and responsibilities surrounding the deaths, including conducting forensic examinations of the remains found. A 2015 report of Canada’s Truth and Reconciliation Commission determined that aboriginal children were subjected to abuse, malnutrition and rape and that at least 4,000 died of disease, neglect, accidents or abuse while at these indigenous boarding schools. The experts further called upon the Government to fully implement the recommendations contained in the 2015 Report. They also reiterated that the government should conduct similar investigations in all the other indigenous residential schools in the country while recalling the rights of the victims to know the full extent of the truth about the violations that have been endured.


OHCHR: Request to Formally Recognise Right to Safe, Clean, Healthy and Sustainable Environment as a Human Right

On 4 June, UN independent experts called for the UN to officially acknowledge that living in a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment is a human right. They said that such an explicit recognition would advance the lives of billions of people on this planet. The experts issued a joint statement to mark World Environment Day, emphasisingthe global evolving perception that ‘it is indeed a human right to live in a healthy environment.’ The idea was endorsed by UN’s Secretary-General António Guterres and High Commissioner for Human Rights Michelle Bachelet, as well as more than 1,100 civil society organisations from around the world. The experts mentioned that of the UN’s 193 members, 156 have written this right into their constitutions, legislation and regional treaties, and that it is time for the UN to provide leadership by recognising that every human is entitled to live in a clean environment. Referring to perfect time for initiating ambitious actions, the experts have called for both the Human Rights Council and the UN General Assembly to act in this regard.


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