Weekly News Recap (7-13 June 2021)




USA: The Supreme Court Denied Permanent Residency to Non-Citizen Granted Temporary Protected Status

On 7 June, the US Supreme Court ruled that non-citizens with temporary humanitarian relief from deportation cannot partake in the “adjustment of status” process to obtain lawful permanent residency in the US without first leaving the country. The petitioners, Mr Sanchez and Ms Gonzalez were granted lawful permanent residency through Sanchez’s employer, who filed an immigration visa petition for Sanchez. Although this status was approved and granted, both Gonzalez and Sanchez were not inspected at the border at the time they entered the US, which is a requirement for one to go through the adjustment of status process. The Court ruled in favour of the government and rejected Sanchez and Gonzalez’s claim.



South Korea: Rulings on Wartime Cases

On 7 June, the Seoul Central District Court dismissed a damages lawsuit brought against 16 Japanese companies by 85 plaintiffs and their bereaved families, who said they were made to work for them during Japan’s 1910-1945 colonial rule of the Korean Peninsula. The ruling was contrary to South Korean Supreme Court rulings in 2018, in which they had ordered two Japanese companies to compensate South Korean plaintiffs for wartime forced labour. The decision was in line with the Japanese government’s position that the issue of compensation was resolved “finally and completely” by the bilateral agreement, under which Japan provided South Korea with $300 million in grants and $200 million in loans. The ruling said that if a compulsory execution for compensation follows a ruling in favour of the plaintiffs, and if an international court subsequently rules against South Korea over the case, that would damage the country’s relations with Japan and the United States, and its national security. With South Korean courts having routinely issued rulings that are not in line with the policies pursued by the sitting government, be it liberal or conservative, the South Korean judiciary is likely to remain an unpredictable factor in Japan-South Korea relations.


IRMCT: The Appeals Chamber Rejected Mladić Genocide Appeal

On 8 June, the Appeals Chamber of the International Residual Mechanism for Criminal Tribunals (IRMCT) pronounced the judgement in the case of Prosecutor v. Ratko Mladić. Mr Mladić, 78, led Bosnian Serb forces during Bosnia’s 1992-95 war. He was convicted in 2017 on charges of genocide, crimes against humanity and war crimes including terrorising the civilian population of the Bosnian capital Sarajevo during a 43-month siege, and the killing of more than 8,000 Muslim men and boys in the eastern Bosnian town of Srebrenica in 1995. He had been convicted by trial and ordered to serve life in prison but appealed against both the verdict and sentence. The Chamber dismissed Mladic’s appeal “in its entirety.” The Appeals Chamber confirmed the Trial Chamber’s ruling, finding Mladić guilty of genocide, persecution, extermination, murder, deportation, and inhumane acts as crimes against humanity; and murder, terror, unlawful attacks on civilians and taking of hostages as violations of the laws or customs of war.




Ghana: The Court Denied Bail to 21 LGBTQ Rights Activists

On 8 June, the Circuit Court of Ghana denied bail to 21 LGBTQ rights activists, who were arrested nearly three weeks ago for an unlawful gathering. The 21 individuals, comprising of 16 women and 5 men, will reappear in court on 16 June for their next hearing. The activists were arrested in a hotel on 20 May after a raid by the police and members of the press. They are accused of holding an unlawful assembly that was meant to promote the LGBTQ agenda. The activists had previously applied for bail, but their applications had been denied allowing prosecutors more time to investigate the matter. In their latest attempt, the Circuit Court denied again their applications stating its inability to overturn the ruling of the high court. Members of the LGBTQ community often face discrimination in Ghana. Ghana’s Criminal Code prohibits LGBT. While the Human Rights Watch reports that there have not been any convictions based of section 104 of the Criminal Code, it notes that the law is often used to conduct arbitrary arrests of persons suspected to be homosexuals and extort money from them.


ECtHR: The Court Rules Bulgaria to Compensate for Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of Two Nationals

On 8 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Ilievi and Ganchevi v. Bulgaria held that Bulgaria violated Article 3 (prohibition of inhuman or degrading treatment) of the European Convention on Human Rights. The two applications concerned a police operation conducted in the respective homes of the applicants. Relying on Article 3 of the Convention, the applicants complained of ill-treatment at the hands of the police during the police operation in their respective homes. The Court awarded compensation in amount of 3,000 euros (EUR), each, to Mr Ilievi and to Mr Ganchevi.


ECtHR: Ruling on the Pre-trial Detention of a Journalist for Membership of a Terrorist Organisation

On 8 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) in the case of Bulaç v. Turkey, held there was a violation of Article 10 of the Convention. The applicant, Ali Bulaç, is a Turkish national who was born in 1951 and lives in Istanbul. At the material time, he was working as a columnist for Zaman, a daily newspaper which was closed following the publication of Legislative Decree No. 668 of 27 July 2016, in the framework of the state of emergency, declared after the failed military coup of 15 July 2016. On 30 July 2016, Mr Bulaç was placed in pre-trial detention, the Justice of the Peace having found that his articles had condoned the organisation designated by the Turkish authorities as FETÖ/PDY (“Fetullah terrorist organisation/Parallel State Structure”). On 10 April 2017, the public prosecutor’s office submitted an indictment against him, mentioning eight articles written by Mr Bulaç and published in Zaman between 21 December 2013 and 6 February 2016, and stating that Mr Bulaç had had no hesitation in encouraging a possible military coup. The ECtHR recognised Mr Bulaç as a victim and awarded compensation for non-pecuniary damage in the amount of EUR 12,240.


ECtHR: No Violation of Right to a Fair Trial in a Case Concerning Drug Smuggling

On 8 June, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) passed a judgement in Case Dijkhuizen v. the Netherlands. On 13 March 2008, the applicant was convicted, along with several co-accused, and sentenced to nine years’ imprisonment for the smuggling of 1,623 kg of a substance containing cocaine into the Netherlands. He appealed against that conviction. Following an adjournment, appeal proceedings resumed on 25 November 2013. However, the applicant had in the meantime been arrested in Peru, despite an order to make himself available to the police or the courts in the Netherlands when necessary. He was unable to attend hearings in person. His conviction was upheld on 21 November 2014 but his sentence was reduced to seven years and six months’ imprisonment. Relying on Article 6 (right to a fair trial), the applicant complained that he was prevented from attending the appeal hearing in his criminal case, whether in person or by video-conference, impinging on his defence rights. The ECtHR held that there was no violation of the right to a fair trial.


Russia: Court Banned Three Organizations Linked to Prisoner of Conscience Aleksei Navalny

On 9 June, the Moscow City Court banned three organizations linked to Mr Aleksei Navalny, including the Anti-Corruption Foundation, the Citizens’ Rights Protection Foundation and Mr Navalny’s headquarters. The Court’s decision banned the activities, labeling these organizations as extremist. According to the new amendments to “anti-extremism” legislation signed by Vladimir Putin last week, anyone who is found, that worked for, or otherwise participated in the activities of these “extremist” organizations are barred from running for any elected office for a period of three to five years. Up to 200,000 people who contributed to Navalny’s crowdfunding efforts could fall afoul of the new law, according to Leonid Volkov, Navalny’s associate, as the new law can be applied retroactively.



CJEU: The General Court Annulled the Fund-Freezing Measures Imposed on Viktor Yanukovych and His Son

On 9 June, the General Court of the Court of Justice of the EU (CJEU) annulled the EU Council’s 2019 acts, extending the fund-freezing measures imposed on Viktor Yanukovych, former President of Ukraine, and his son, Oleksandr Yanukovych. After the suppression of the demonstrations in Independence Square in Kiev (Ukraine) in February 2014, the Council of the European Union adopted restrictive measures against certain individuals in March 2014, including Mr Viktor Fedorovych Yanukovych, President of Ukraine at the time of those demonstrations, and his son, Mr Oleksandr Viktorovych Yanukovych, a Ukrainian businessman. Those measures ordered the funds of the individuals listed to be frozen because they were subject to criminal proceedings in Ukraine for the involvement in crimes in connection with the embezzlement of State funds and their illegal transfer outside Ukraine. The General Court annulled the contested acts in so far as they relate to Mr Fedorovych Yanukovych and Mr Viktorovych Yanukovych, as the Council of the EU failed to demonstrate that the rights of the defence and the right to effective judicial protection were respected in the criminal proceedings underlying that extension which are being conducted against those individuals by the Ukrainian authorities.


CJEU: Ruling on an Application for Subsidiary Protection During an Armed Conflict

On 10 June, the Court of Justice of the European Union in the case of CF, DN v. Bundesrepublik Deutschland (C-901/19) held that when considering an application for subsidiary protection, the Member States must examine all the relevant circumstances which characterise the situation of the country of origin of the applicant, to determine the intensity of an armed conflict. Two Afghan nationals from the province of Nangarhar (Afghanistan), submitted asylum applications in Germany to the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees. Following the rejection of those asylum applications, the applicants brought proceedings before Higher Administrative Court of Germany, requesting that they be granted subsidiary protection and again received a refusal. The Court of Justice of the European Union stated that the subsidiary protection status must, in principle, be granted to a third-country national or stateless person who faces a real risk of suffering serious harm if returned to his or her country of origin or to the country of his or her former habitual residence.



UN: Call for Protection as Burkina Faso Terror Attack Leaves 132 Dead

On 7 June, the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR) insisted that the communities of rural Burkina Faso urgently needed greater protection from violent extremists, after a deadly assault on the weekend claimed the lives of at least 132 innocent people. It has been one of the deadliest in years in the West African nation as reported by the government. Reports further indicated that the unidentified assailants had initially targeted a gold mine near a village in the Province of Yagha, closely bordering Niger before attacking the community’s market. Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General condemned the unacceptable human toll of the incident and underscored an urgent need to redouble support to Member States fighting the growing threat of violent extremism throughout the Sahel. Mahamat Saleh Annadif, Secretary-General for West Africa and the Sahel, reaffirmed the UN’s solidarity with the Government and people of Burkina Faso and their efforts to fight terrorism and consolidate peace and development. United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, (OCHA) stated that such attacks have become relatively commonplace in parts of Central Sahel and have increased eight-fold between 2015 and 2020.


UNICEF: Working to Restore Water Supply Amid Cholera Threat in DRC After Volcanic Eruption in May

On 7 June, UNICEF reported that the eruption of Mount Nyiragongo on 22 May melted mains water pipes and damaged a huge 5,000m³ reservoir. The agency and partners are working towards restoring water supply to nearly 200,000 people including some 100,000 children who have been affected by the volcanic eruption in the past month in Goma, in the eastern Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC).  Hye Sung, UNICEF emergency specialist stated that cholera is a particularly dangerous disease for the young, the very old and the undernourished, and an outbreak could have disastrous consequences for children. UNICEF is working on the water issue, together with domestic and international partners, through supporting the State-owned water company to redirect and protect a by-pass piping system that will send supply from the pumping station next to Lake Kivu, into part of the main water system. UNICEF has installed 15 emergency chlorination station close to the lake, as previous cholera epidemics in Goma started when residents collected dirty, contaminated water for drinking. The agency along with the humanitarian partners Caritas and AVUDS has been among the first agencies to have trucked water to tens of thousands of displaced people in the nearby towns of Sake, Rutshuru and Minova, and it is now doing the same in Goma. 


UNHCR: A More Concerted Action is Required for the Betterment of Protection of  LGBTIQ+ People Forced from Home

On 7 June, the 2021 Global Roundtable on Protection and Solutions for LGBTIQ+ People in Forced Displacement, a landmark international conference opened to address the urgent need to better protect lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, and queer (LGBTIQ+) people around the world who have fled violence or persecution and are seeking refuge inside their own countries or across borders.  Gillian Triggs, Assistant High Commissioner for Protection at UNHCR said that LGBTIQ+ people around the world face violence and discrimination from their governments, their communities and even from their own families; he also hoped that this Roundtable will energize the international community to inspire more genuine protection for LGBTIQ+ people on the move. The Roundtable will take place from 7-29 June, during which some 600 participants will explore the forces driving displacement, the challenges facing those seeking asylum, the push for inclusion in national services and the effects of the COVID-19 pandemic on LGBTIQ+ people. The recommendations of the LGBTIQ+ Roundtable will be shared in a joint press conference on 30 June with Victor Madrigal-Borloz, the UN Independent Expert on Protection Against Violence and Discrimination Based on Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity, and Gillian Triggs, UNHCR Assistant High Commissioner for Protection.


UN: To End AIDS ‘Epidemic of all Inequalities’, HIV Fight Should be Stepped Up by 2030

On 8 June, Volkan Bozkir, UN General Assembly (UNGA) President said that even though the world has made great strides since the first case of AIDS was reported four decades ago, the tragic reality is that it remains and it is the most vulnerable who remain in jeopardy. He also stated that now is the time to recommit to the 2030 targets and accelerate efforts to end AIDS by 2030. Ending AIDS is both a pre-requisite and a result of implementing the Sustainable Development Goals, he reiterated. While he acknowledged that AIDS-related deaths have been reduced by 61 per cent since the peak in 2004, he also warned that under-investment has caused many countries to fall short of the global targets set out five years ago, to fast-track the international response. Winnie Byanyima, UNAIDS chief said that AIDS is not over as there is an AIDS death every minute and urged States to unblock roads to a cure and end inequalities that kill. She also called for an end to fees surrounding debt restructuring, arguing that wealthier governments should step up not step back on healthcare funding for low and middle-income States. 


UN: End War on Nature and Ensure Ocean Health as Part of Recovery From the COVID-19 Pandemic

On 8 June, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General stated that our seas are choking with plastic waste which can be found in the remotest atolls and the deepest ocean trenches. He further added that overfishing has caused an annual loss of almost $90 billion in net benefits, heightening the vulnerability of women who are vital to the survival of small-scale fishing businesses. He called for ending the war on nature as more than three billion people worldwide, mainly in developing countries, rely on the ocean for their livelihood. Furthermore, as part of World Ocean Day celebrations, the UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) announced the selection of an initial series of actions to drive what it calls the “ocean knowledge revolution” led by diverse partners from science, government, civil society and other sectors, that fall under the UN Decade of Ocean Science for Sustainable Development which will run through 2030. Audrey Azoulay, the UNESCO Director-General stated that programmes such as restoring the Great Barrier Reef, mapping 100% of the ocean floor in high resolution, would make up the first set of Ocean Decade Actions that will contribute to helping deliver the ocean we want by 2030.


UN: 100,000 Civilians Flee Junta’s Heavy Weapons in Myanmar as ‘Mass Deaths’ Alerted

On 9 June, Tom Andrews, UN Special Rapporteur for Myanmar, noted that the Kayah State attacks were just the latest in a series throughout Myanmar that had caused mass displacement and suffering from Mutraw in Karen state, to Mindat in Chin state and Bago city. He further stated that the people in Myanmar were in dire need of food, water, medicine and shelter after reported clashes with volunteer community militias. The UN country team said that many had sought safety in host communities and forests across Kayah and southern parts of neighbouring Shan state. Being an independent rights expert, Tom Andrews emphasised that the lives of thousands of men, women and children were under threat from indiscriminate attacks on a scale not seen since the 1 February coup, which is likely to amount to mass atrocious crimes. The UN country team called upon the security forces to allow for a safe passage of humanitarian supplies and personnel, and to facilitate their ability to directly provide aid to all those who need it.


UN: Horrendous Attack on Demining Partner HALO Trust in Afghanistan

On 9 June, the UN called for investigation into the horrendous act that occurred in eastern Afghanistan on HALO Trust, a humanitarian group that has been working to remove landmines. HALO Trust said the attack occurred around 9:50 pm (local time) on Tuesday, when around 110 men from the local communities in northern Afghanistan, were in their camp after finishing work on a nearby minefield when gunmen burst into the camp in Baghlan-e-Markazi district and opened fire. Ten people were killed, and 16 others were injured. Stéphane Dujarric, UN Spokesperson strongly condemned the attack and stated that HALO Trust is a global partner in operations to clear landmines and other explosive devices, for the betterment of the lives of vulnerable people. He called for a full investigation to ensure that those responsible for this horrendous attack are held accountable and brought to justice. UNAMA, the UN mission in the country also condemned the attack and said that the warring parties have a fundamental responsibility to safeguard the humanitarians in the areas they control, further adding that all those parties claiming to desire peace for the Afghan people need to demonstrate concrete action to support their claims and put an end to the terrible crimes as witnessed in Baghlan. The UN has underlined its commitment to staying in Afghanistan, where aid workers, particularly women, are facing increased attacks and harassment.


UNICEF: Child Labour Rises to 160 Million and as a Result of COVID-19 Pandemic 9 Million Additional Children are at Risk

On 10 June, a new report by UNICEF and the International Labour Organization (ILO) has been released stating, that the number of child labour has risen to 160 million, and that there has been an increase of 8.4 million children in the last four years, with millions more being at risk due to the impacts of COVID-19. The report titled, ‘Child Labour: Global Estimates 2020, Trends and the Road Forward’ is being released ahead of World Day Against Child Labour on 12 June and warns that progress to end child labour has stalled for the first time in 20 years which has reversed the previous downward trend that saw child labour fall by 94 million between 2000 and 2016. Henrietta Fore, UNICEF Executive Director, called for better social protection programmes and urged that the governments and international development banks prioritize investments in programmes that can get children out of the workforce and back into school. To reverse the upward trend, ILO and UNICEF are calling for adequate social protection, including universal child benefits; increased spending on quality education and getting all children back into school, including those forced out before COVID-19; and investment in child protection systems, rural public services and livelihoods. 



WFP: UN Agencies Scale Up Responses to Address the Looming Catastrophe of Famine in Tigray

On 10 June, David Beasley, Executive Director of World Food Programme (WFP) appealed for immediate access to deliver life-saving assistance to Ethiopia’s Tigray region, where ongoing fighting between governmental and regional forces has put roughly 350,000 people at risk of famine. WFP has joined hands with the Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) in calling for urgent action to address food insecurity in northern Ethiopia and avert the looming famine in Tigray.  Their appeal followed the release of the latest Integrated Food Security Phase Classification (IPC) analysis published by the UN and aid partners on 10 June. The report said the more than 350,000 people in Tigray are facing catastrophic conditions, representing the highest number in a single country over the past decade. WFP is working to reach 2.1 million people in the Northwestern and Southern zones of Tigray and requires $203 million through the end of the year to ramp up its activities to support food growth. FAO requires $77 million through the end of 2022. Unfortunately, no funding has been secured. UNICEF is the lead agency for nutrition and is focusing on screening and treating children suffering from severe wasting. The UN agency requires $10.7 million to support children in Tigray, and in Amhara and Afar regions which includes providing ready-to-eat therapeutic food, routine medication and treatment of wasting. 


UNHCR: Insecurity in Northern Mozambique Continues to Forcibly Displace Thousands

On 11 June, Babar Baloch, UNHCR Spokesperson stated that the agency is gravely concerned for the safety of civilians in northern Mozambique as armed conflict and insecurity in the coastal city of Palma continues to displace thousands of people two and a half months after a brutal attack by non-state armed groups. People are fleeing daily, in a desperate search for safety both in Mozambique and across the border in Tanzania. Those fleeing have told UNHCR staff that the situation in Palma remains very unstable, with regular gunfire at night and torching of houses. Since 24 March, some 70,000 people have fled Palma which has brought the total number of displaced people in Cabo Delgado province to nearly 800,000 according to humanitarian estimates. Since January this year, more than 9,600 of them have been forcibly returned through the Negomano border according to the Mozambican authorities with some 900 people being pushed back into Mozambique from 7 to 9 June. UNHCR teams have been supporting people arriving in desperate condition, many of who have been separated from their family members. UNHCR has reiterated its call for those fleeing the conflict to have access to territory and asylum, and, in particular, for the principle of non-refoulement (no forced return) to be respected, so that refugees are not forced back into danger.


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