- Sweden: War Crimes Trial Against Iranian National Commences
- ICJ: Professor Hilary Charlesworth Nominated For Election As A Judge
- Nigeria: Shell Agrees To Pay £95 Million Over Oil Spills
- Sudan: Foreign Minister Announces Sudan Will Hand Over Omar Al-Bashir And Other Officials To The ICC
- ICC: Venezuela Is “Unwilling” To Investigate Crimes Against Humanity
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: State Court Rejects Croatia’s Extradition Request Of Vinko Martinovic
- Kosovo: District Court Throws Out A Municipality’s Request To Annul The Apartment Contract Of A Serbian Returnee
- Libya: Prosecutors Issue Arrest Warrant For Saif al-Islam Gaddafi Over Suspected Ties To Russian Mercenaries
- IACtHR: Advisory Opinion Holds That Unlimited Presidential Re-Election Violates The Convention And The American Declaration
- Australia: Uncovered USB-Stick In Defamation Trial May Constitute Evidence Of Alleged War Crimes By Australian Soldiers In Afghanistan
- IPCC: Experts Warning Over Unprecedented Disasters Threatening Humanity
- UN: Intensified Fighting In Tigray ‘Disastrous’ For Children
- UNSC: Global Response Needed To Counter Rising Security Threats At Sea
- UNSMIL: ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Abduction Of Top Government Staffer In Libya
- UN: Military Leaders In Myanmar Attempting To Legitimise Power
- OHCHR: Human Rights Defender Faces Criminal Charges For Speaking Out In Armenia In Support Of The Yezidi Minority
- OHCHR: Condemnation Of Abuses As Taliban Advance Continues
- UNECE: Global Climate Objectives Fall Short Without Nuclear Power In The Mix
- OHCHR: Arrests of Palestinian Rights Defenders Part Of ‘Wider Crackdown’
- OHCHR: Human Rights Experts Push For Surveillance Technology Moratorium
- UN: Youth Must Be Included In Disarmament And Non-Proliferation
- UN: The Fast-Moving Afghanistan Crisis Is A “Humanitarian Catastrophe
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
Sweden: War Crimes Trial Against Iranian National Commences
On 10 August, the trial against Hamid Noury, an Iranian national accused of committing war crimes and murder during the final phase of the Iran-Iraq war, commenced before the Stockholm District Court. This marks the first time anyone has been brought before a court to stand trial for the purge. Mr Noury is accused of having played a leading role in the alleged government-ordered execution of political prisoners at the Gohardasht prison in Karaj, Iran, in 1988. He has been in custody in Sweden for almost two years. Under Swedish law, courts can try Swedish citizens and other nationals for crimes against international law committed abroad. An estimated 5,000 political prisoners were allegedly executed across Iran at the end of the conflict with its neighbour Iraq. According to Swedish authorities, Noury worked as a prosecution official at the Gohardasht prison when a large number of executions took place there between 30 July and 16 August 1988. He is suspected of involvement in the execution of prisoners who belonged to or sympathised with the exiled People’s Mujahidin Organisation of Iran (MEK) opposition group, labelled as a “terrorist group” in Iran, as well as, the murder of other jailed dissidents. It was reported that prosecutor, Kristina Lindhoff Carleson submitted to the court during the trial hearing that Noury and others “organised and participated in the executions by selecting which prisoners should appear before a court-like commission that decided which prisoners should be executed.” Mr Noury has denied the accusations levelled against him. His trial is expected to run until April 2022. Iran itself has never acknowledged the killings.
ICJ: Professor Hilary Charlesworth Nominated For Election As A Judge
On 11 August, the independent Australian National Group – a body of eminent Australian jurists who serve as members of the Permanent Court of Arbitration in The Hague – has nominated Professor Hilary Charlesworth for election as a Judge of the International Court of Justice. Professor Charlesworth is a leading scholar and jurist, with a Doctor of Juridical Science from Harvard Law School. She made significant contribution to the study and practice of international law and served as judge ad hoc at the International Court of Justice. The election will take place at the United Nations headquarters in New York on 5 November to fill the vacancy resulting from the passing of Judge James Richard Crawford on 31 May 2021, whose term was due to conclude on 5 February 2024.
Nigeria: Shell Agrees To Pay £95 Million Over Oil Spills
On 11 August, Shell agreed to pay £95 million to communities in south-eastern Nigeria whose land was ravaged by oil spills in the 1970s according to lawyers from both sides. Environmental NGOs, including the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (Mosop), accused Shell of more than 20 years of environmental degradation and negligence in Ogoni country, a region of the Niger Delta with mangroves devastated by oil pollution. Shell was first convicted in 2010, but the company had repeatedly challenged the ruling. The company finally reached a settlement in the Abuja High Court with the community on Wednesday. The Shell Petroleum Development Company of Nigeria Limited (SPDC), said in a statement that “the order to pay 45.9 billion Naira (£94.9 million) to the plaintiffs is intended to fully and finally satisfy the judgment.” Lucius Nwosu, the legal counsel for the Ejama-Ebubu communities in Rivers State confirmed the decision to the French AFP, stating “they had come to the end of their shenanigans and they have resolved to accept the offer,” and added, “this decision follows the determination of this community to get justice.”
Sudan: Foreign Minister Announces Sudan Will Hand Over Omar Al-Bashir And Other Officials To The ICC
On 12 August, Sudan’s Foreign Minister Mariam al-Mahdi announced that it would hand over long-time autocrat Omar al-Bashir to the International Criminal Court (ICC) along with other officials wanted over the Darfur conflict. State media quoted Mahdi saying the “cabinet decided to hand over wanted officials to the ICC.” Al-Bashir ruled as an autocrat for three decades before being deposed amid protests in 2019. He faces charges of genocide, war crimes and crimes against humanity in Darfur. He is the first suspect to be tried over the Darfur conflict, facing 31 counts including murder, rape and torture. He has been wanted by the ICC since 2009, when it issued a warrant for his arrest. The decision to hand him over came during a visit to Sudan by ICC chief prosecutor Karim Khan. Sudan has been led since August 2019 by a transitional civilian-military administration that has pledged to bring justice to victims of crimes committed under Bashir.
ICC: Venezuela Is “Unwilling” To Investigate Crimes Against Humanity
On 12 August, the Office of the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) said in a declassified document that could pave the way for charges, that the Venezuelan government is unwilling to investigate crimes against humanity by security forces. The ICC opened a preliminary investigation in 2018 into alleged rights abuses by the regime of President Nicolas Maduro, notably for the violent repression of anti-government protests in 2017. Former prosecutor Fatou Bensouda said in December 2020 there was a “reasonable basis” to believe that crimes against humanity were committed, but that she needed to see whether Venezuela was bringing perpetrators to justice in their own domestic jurisdiction. A report issued when Prosecutor Bensouda stepped down in June, which was only made public on 12 August, “concluded that the authorities are unwilling genuinely to investigate and/or prosecute such cases.” According to the report, Venezuelan authorities had only brought a “highly limited” number of criminal cases relating to the mass protests, in which around 100 people died. The new ICC prosecutor Karim Khan will have to make the decision on whether to ask judges to open an investigation. The ICC’s investigation so far had found that Venezuela security forces and pro-government militia had committed the crimes of imprisonment, torture, rape and persecution, the report said. Venezuela has rejected the accusations as a “farce.”
Bosnia and Herzegovina: State Court Rejects Croatia’s Extradition Request Of Vinko Martinovic
On 12 August, a Bosnian state court rejected a request from Croatia to remand Vinko Martinovic, alias “Stela” after the release of an international arrest warrant, for murder (dated back to 1996). The Court rejected Croatia’s temporary custody request because the extradition agreement could not be applied retroactively, and instead barred Martinovic from leaving the country and seized his travel documents. The final decision on Mr Martinovic’s extradition to Croatia, however, is due to be made by the Bosnian justice minister. Mr Martinovic has been convicted in Croatia in his absence for the killing of a Bosniak woman in 1996, after breaking into her house with his military unit. The Croatian Supreme Court last year increased his sentence to ten years in prison. However, several hours before the initial verdict was announced, he fled to Bosnia and Herzegovina. He was arrested in the Bosnian town of Mostar on 11 August 2021. Previously, Mr Martinovic was sentenced to 18 years in prison by the International Criminal Tribunal for the Former Yugoslavia for his participation in a campaign of ethnic cleansing in 1993 in Mostar and was released in 2012.
Kosovo: District Court Throws Out A Municipality’s Request To Annul The Apartment Contract Of A Serbian Returnee
On 12 August, it was reported that the Basic Court of Gjakova/ Djakovica in Kosovo on Thursday dismissed the municipality’s request not to allow the only ethnic Serb returnee, Dragisa Gasic, to live in and renovate the apartment she has returned to. In early June, the municipality had requested that the Court annul the rent contract for the apartment Ms Gasic had been living in until June 1999. Despite the law being in Ms Gasic’s favour, her apartment had previously been broken into on 27 July 2021. Following the burglary, she claims Kosovo police did not notify her about any arrests. Ms Gasic left it in June 1999, when thousands of Kosovo Serbs fled their homes in fear of retaliation by Kosovo Albanians who were returning after the withdrawal of Serbian forces from Kosovo following 78 days of NATO airstrikes. Gjakovs/Djakovica was one of the most heavily damaged towns during Kosovo’s 1998-99 war. Ms Gasic returned after Kosovo’s Property Comparison and Verification Agency allowed her to use her apartment again after it had been occupied by other persons since the Kosovo war.
Libya: Prosecutors Issue Arrest Warrant For Saif al-Islam Gaddafi Over Suspected Ties To Russian Mercenaries
On 13 August, it was reported that prosecutors in Libya have issued an arrest warrant for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi, the son of the late Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, over suspected ties to Russian mercenaries. The order for Saif al-Islam Gaddafi’s arrest was circulated internally to Libyan security bodies by prosecutor Mohammed Gharouda on 5 August but was only made public after a BBC investigation into the Wagner group was broadcasted. The Wagner group was first identified in 2014 when it was backing pro-Russian separatists in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. Since then, it has been involved in regions including Syria, Mozambique, Sudan, and the Central African Republic. The BBC’s investigation reveals that the Wagner group’s activities in Libya have been linked to war crimes committed against Libyan citizens. Saif al-Islam Gaddafi has long been suspected of having connections to Russia. He was seen as a likely successor to his father and described by Libyan intelligence officials as “Russia’s favourite candidate to rule Libya.” Once anti-government protests broke out in Libya in early 2011, Gaddafi joined the state’s bloody crackdown on protesters. He was captured by rebels in late 2011 and freed six years later. During his detention, he was sentenced to death in absentia by a court in Tripoli over the killing of protesters in 2011. He is also wanted by the International Criminal Court (ICC) for crimes against humanity committed during the crackdown.
IACtHR: Advisory Opinion Holds That Unlimited Presidential Re-Election Violates The Convention And The American Declaration
On 13 August, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) announced in an English press release that the Court has issued an Advisory Opinion on 7 June 2021, in response to the question submitted by the Republic of Colombia on the “unlimited presidential re-election in the context of the Inter-American Human Rights System.” The Court specifically addressed the following questions: 1) Is unlimited presidential re-election a human right protected by the American Convention on Human Rights? and 2) Is unlimited presidential re-election compatible with representative democracy in the Inter-American Human Rights Protection System? The Court defined unlimited presidential re-election as “when a person serving as President of the Republic remains in office for more than two consecutive periods of reasonable duration” without the possibility of changing the length “during the term.” The Court first concluded that unlimited presidential re-election is not an autonomous human right, as it is recognised neither in the Convention, nor in the American Declaration, nor generally in the body of international human rights law, international treaties, regional custom, or general legal principles. Second, the Court noted that the ban on unlimited presidential re-election can be compatible with the Convention, as long as, it is established by law. Additionally, regarding the compatibility of indefinite presidential re-election with human rights law, the Court underscored that a lack of limits on presidential re-election weakens opposition parties and political movements by offering no clear expectation of an opportunity to access the exercise of power. In the Advisory Opinion, the Court warned that the greatest danger currently facing the democracies of the region is not an abrupt break of the constitutional order, but the steady erosion of democratic safeguards that may lead to an authoritarian regime, even if elected by popular vote. Thus, Court concluded that allowing unlimited presidential re-election violates the principles of a representative democracy, and therefore, the obligations established in the American Convention and the American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man.
Australia: Uncovered USB-Stick In Defamation Trial May Constitute Evidence Of Alleged War Crimes By Australian Soldiers In Afghanistan
On 13 August, during a defamation trial of a war veteran Ben Roberts-Smith, against an Australian television network, Nine, the issue of USBs containing classified information from the Australian Special Air Service Regimen (“SAS”) missions in Afghanistan was heard before the Sydney Federal Court. Mr Roberts-Smith’s ex-wife and a family friend dug up six USB storage sticks, buried in a child’s lunchbox in the Mr Roberts-Smith’s family backyard, before handing the classified files to police. The USBs reportedly contained classified information including operational reports from SAS missions in southern Afghanistan, drone footage of military operations and classified photographs. The issue of the USBs – and their alleged burial in the backyard – are key elements of the allegations that Mr Roberts-Smith, a Victoria Cross recipient and one of the most decorated Australian soldiers, deliberately withheld information from an investigation by the inspector general of the Australian defence force into alleged war crimes committed by Australian soldiers. Included on the USBs is a file named “JTAC SitRep Whiskey 108,” Whiskey 108 being the codename of the site of one of the key allegations of Roberts-Smith’s defamation trial against three newspapers: the compound where he is alleged to have murdered an unarmed civilian. The USBs also contained photos of troops at a bar at an Australian military base in Afghanistan drinking from a prosthetic leg taken from a slain Afghan national allegedly killed by Mr Roberts-Smith. While Mr Roberts-Smith denies ever burying the USBs in his backyard or withholding information from the war crimes inquiry, he has conceded in court he unlawfully held classified material. Previously, it was reported that Mr Roberts-Smith was being investigated by Australian Federal Police in relation to alleged war crimes in Afghanistan. He has denied all these allegations and has also pursued further defamation lawsuits against the Sydney Morning Herald and the Canberra Times for their investigations. An inquiry into allegations of unnecessarily brutal behaviour by others serving and former SAS and commando soldiers in Afghanistan is also being investigated – including for summarily executing, and otherwise abusing, unarmed suspected militants and civilians – which have been conducted since 2016 by the Australian defence force inspector general.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
IPCC: Experts Warning Over Unprecedented Disasters Threatening Humanity
Released on 9 August, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Sixth Assessment Report warns over widespread, rapid and intensifying climate change and irreversible trends, at least, during the present time frame. Human-induced climate change has been observed by scientists across the whole of Earth’s climate system, i.e. in the atmosphere, in the oceans, ice floes, and on land. According to the panel of experts, some of the shifts are in motion now while some – such as continued sea-level rise – are already “irreversible” for centuries to millennia ahead. To name a few, experts warned over increases in the frequency and intensity of heat extremes, marine heatwaves, heavy precipitations, agricultural and ecological droughts in some regions, the proportion of intense tropical cyclones, as well as, reductions in Arctic sea ice, snow cover and permafrost. Besides these worrying findings, the IPCC experts affirmed that there is still some time to limit climate change. Strong and sustained reductions in emissions of CO2 and other greenhouse gases, could quickly make air quality better and, in 20 or 30 years, global temperatures could stabilise. This positive note is, however “a code red for humanity” as highlighted by the UN Secretary-General, António Guterres, recalling that “[w]e are at imminent risk of hitting [the internationally-agreed threshold of] 1.5 degrees in the near term” and that taking stock of these “irrefutable” evidence, we must “act decisively now to avert a climate catastrophe.” All of the five possible global warming scenarios envisioned in the IPCC report indicate that global heating should reach 1.5°C, compared to the pre-industrial period, around 2030; i.e. ten years earlier than what was previously estimated by the IPCC three years ago. But it could be even worse. The most alarming scenario presented by the IPCC foresees global warming between 3.3 and 5.7°C. An assumption far from been baseless. Six years after the Paris Agreement – which, if respected, will lead to 3°C of heating – and ahead of the COP26, IPCC’s report shows that, if nothing significant is done, global temperature is more likely to reach, or exceed, 4 or 5°C of heating.
UN: Intensified Fighting In Tigray ‘Disastrous’ For Children
On 9 August, a recent escalation in fighting in Afar and other neighbouring regions led UN agencies to sound the alarm over the growing humanitarian needs in the conflict-torn Tigray region, Ethiopia. Effects of the conflict are particularly disastrous for children. In a statement on the reported killing of over 200 civilians, including more than 100 children, in attacks on displaced families sheltering at a health facility and a school in Afar on 5 August, Henrietta Fore, Executive Director of the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) expressed her deep concern. She notably highlighted that, following months of armed conflict across Tigray, some 400,000 people including at least 160,000 children, have been placed in famine-like conditions, and four million people are in crisis or emergency levels of food insecurity in both Tigray and adjoining regions of Afar and Amhara. Further, the recent intensification of fighting in Afar and other areas neighbouring Tigray has resulted in 100,000 displaced persons, adding to the two million people already forced to flee their homes. Additionally, the World Food Programme (WFP) declared that due to operational constraints – i.e. shortages of food, cash, fuel, and telecommunications – and security constraints, WPF is only reaching half of those it should be. WFP delivered food to over a million people in the northwest and parts of the southern Tigray in June and July, but it aims to reach 2.1 million people with emergency food assistance from August onwards. During the first week of August, more than 175 trucks arrived in Tigray, via the Abala corridor, but with 5.2 million people in need of humanitarian food assistance, i.e. 90% of the regional population, WFP and partners operating on the ground require at least 100 trucks to be arriving daily to meet the vast needs. Michael Dunford, WFP’s Corporate Response Director for Tigray, accordingly called for a ceasefire so that food and other emergency supplies can be delivered to communities on the verge of famine without undue delay. Last week, Dr Mohamed Abdelsalam Babiker, Special Rapporteur for the situation of human rights in Eritrea called on all parties to the armed conflict in the Tigray region to take measures to protect refugees in accordance with international human rights and humanitarian law.
UNSC: Global Response Needed To Counter Rising Security Threats At Sea
On 9 August, addressing the UN Security Council (UNSC) high-level debate, Maria Luiza Ribeiro Viotti, UN Secretary-General’s Chef de Cabinet, highlighted the need for stronger international cooperation to enhance security for seafarers. Despite an overall decrease in maritime traffic due to the COVID-19 pandemic, piracy and armed robbery of ships rose by nearly 20 per cent during the first half of 2020. Ms Viotti raised attention to the interlinked threats between the terrorist emerging from the Sahel and maritime insecurity, and has called for a response addressing “these challenges directly, as well as, their root causes – including poverty, a lack of alternative livelihoods, insecurity, and weak governance structures.” She also mentioned how maritime security is often undermined by challenges relating to territorial and maritime disputes, or the exploitation of natural resources. According to the Indian Prime Minister, who holds the rotating presidency of the UNSC this month, “today, this common maritime heritage of ours faces various types of threats” including piracy, terrorism, climate change and natural disasters. Recalling States’ obligations under international law, including under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, Ms Viotti stressed that “this framework is only as strong as countries’ commitments to full and effective implementation” and that “commitment [needs to be translated] into action.” Ghada Waly, Executive Director at the UN Office on Drugs and Crime (UNODC) reported that the 2009 Global Maritime Crime Programme, initially established to address the Somali piracy threat is now its largest initiative, with a budget that has grown from $300,000 to over $230 million. Nonetheless, challenges to maritime security keep growing. Echoing Ms Viotti statement on the need for addressing the root causes, Ms Waly underscored the need to reduce vulnerabilities, and encouraged the UNSC to take actions towards the effective implementation of the existing legal framework, capacity building, enhanced cooperation, and prevention responses.
UNSMIL: ‘Deeply Concerned’ Over Abduction Of Top Government Staffer In Libya
On 10 August, the UN Support Mission in Libya (UNSMIL) publicly expressed its deep concern about the abduction and disappearance of Mr Rida Faraj Fraitis, Chief of Staff for the First Deputy Prime Minister of the Government of National Unity (GNU), and his colleague, by unidentified armed men on 2 August 2021. The abduction occurred following Mr Fraitis’s visit to GNU premises in Tripoli and since then “[t]he fate and whereabouts of both Mr Fraitis and his colleague remain unknown and UNSMIL fears for their safety and security.” Since March of this year, the GNU – the UN-backed administration – has been leading a new unified Libyan push towards ending years of civil conflict and division. Up until this year, Libya was split between the former Government of National Accord based in Tripoli and a rival administration based in the east. In the past year, UNSMIL has documented several cases of illegal arrests and detention, enforced disappearances, torture, as well as, extrajudicial killings of citizens, officials, journalists, civil society members and human rights defenders. Accordingly, the UN mission has expressed their concern about individuals who support Libya’s democratic transition, as targets- causing serious implications for the peace and reconciliation process, and the full unification of national institutions. Ján Kubiš, Special Envoy of the UN Secretary-General and Head of UNSMIL recalled that all of these conducts are strictly prohibited under international human rights law, and stressed that “Libya must end the entrenched culture of impunity in the country.”
UN: Military Leaders In Myanmar Attempting To Legitimise Power
On 10 August, Christine Schraner Burgener, the UN Special Envoy for Myanmar, expressed her concern over the situation amid a severe third wave of COVID-19 infections, and its continued risk of a prolonged military ruling. Last week, senior army general Min Aung Hlaing announced he was appointing himself Prime Minister and pledged to hold elections by 2023. The UN Special Envoy further warned that the National League of Democracy (NLD), which won the November 2020 elections, could also soon be forcibly disbanded. Six months after seizing power in a coup, Myanmar’s military leader now “appears determined to solidify his grip on power with the latest caretaker government announcement, [… as] an attempt to promote legitimacy against the lack of international action taken,” Ms Schraner Burgener said. She, however, “made [it] clear that the UN does not recognise the Government, so it’s up to the Member States. Accordingly, as long as the Member States do not make any decision, Myanmar’s Permanent Representative in New York, Kyaw Moe Tun, remains the country’s legitimate UN Ambassador, with Ms Suu Kyi and President Myint as its leaders.” Ms Schraner Burgener also highlighted heightened risks for Myanmar’s people due to violence combined with the COVID-19 crisis. UN agencies and partners are working to resume provisions of health assistance, with priority given to the vaccine rollout, COVAX, and to revitalising immunisations generally. The UN Special Envoy is engaged in inclusive talks with the military, ethnic armed organisations, and other stakeholders, including the National Unity Government (NUG), formed by exiled lawmakers ousted in the coup. To avoid a civil war scenario, Ms Shraner Burgener is trying to achieve a peaceful solution to the political crisis and proposed to this end the establishment of an international observer group on Myanmar composed of China, India, Japan, Thailand, the U.S.A., the U.K., Norway, and Switzerland, in addition to the UN, the European Union and the Southeast Asian regional bloc (ASEAN).
OHCHR: Human Rights Defender Faces Criminal Charges For Speaking Out In Armenia In Support Of The Yezidi Minority
In a joint statement dated 10 August, Mr Fernand de Varennes, Special Rapporteur on Minority Issues, Ms Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situations of human rights defenders, and Ms Irene Khan, Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of the rights to freedom of expression, called on Armenia to drop “intimidating” criminal charges against the human rights defender Sashik Sultanyan, founder of the Yezidi Center for Human Rights. Mr Sultanyan is a prominent youth activist and a former minority fellow at the Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR). He is accused of criminal incitement of hatred and violence in connection with an interview he gave last year to the website Yezidinews.am in which he spoke out in support of minority rights. Experts said that Mr Sultanyan is being targeted for raising minority issues in Armenia and advocating for the human rights of Yezidis, and denounced the “chilling effect” of this practice on other human rights defenders. They made it clear that “[i]t is not incitement to hatred and violence to raise human rights concerns about the treatment of minority[.] On the contrary, it is protected speech under the right to freedom of expression.” Yezidis form the largest ethnic minority group in Armenia. The majority of their ancestors settled in the country during the 19th and 20th centuries fleeing religious persecutions inflicted by the Ottoman Turks and the Sunni Kurds. UN Special Rapporteurs added that “[p]eople like Mr Sultanyan and his organisation perform a valuable role by bringing human rights issues to the attention of the Armenian authorities” and that instead of using “spurious criminal charges to try to silence them, [t]he government should discuss grievances about their participation in society directly with the Yezidis and other minorities.” Armenia’s National Security Service began a criminal investigation against Mr Sultanyan in November 2020, and the case went to court on 4 of August 2021. If convicted, he could face three to six years in prison. The UN is currently engaged in a dialogue with national authorities.
OHCHR: Condemnation Of Abuses As Taliban Advance Continues
On 10 August, Michelle Bachelet, UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, urged action to prevent calamitous consequences for the people of Afghanistan. As civilian casualties continue to mount and reports of violations that may amount to war crimes and crimes against humanity continue to emerge, Ms Bachelet voiced her concern over the disastrous consequences for civilians in the country. The consequences of armed conflict in urban areas are well known, and Afghanistan is no exception. As depicted by Ms Bachelet, civilians are bearing the brunt of the rising violence in the country. “[S]ince 9 July in four cities alone – Lashkar Gah, Kandahar, Herat, and Kunduz – at least 183 civilians have been killed and 1,181 injured, including children. These are just civilian casualties we have managed to document – the real figures will be much higher” she said. UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and the Human Right Office recent joint reports revealed that most of the civilian harm is being caused by ground engagements, even though airstrikes have also resulted in civilian casualties. Besides civilian death and injuries, essential infrastructures have been damaged during the course of urban fighting. The situation in the city of Lashkar Gah, the capital of Helmand province, starkly demonstrates how urban warfare harrowingly impacts civilians. In less than two weeks since 28 July, when the fighting started in the city, the UN received reports of at least 139 civilians killed and injured. Communication with the city is intermittently cut off, as well as, water and electricity, and many wounded civilians are unable to reach hospitals- when they are not damaged, at full capacity, or affected by shortages of both food and medical supplies. While the Taliban has made sweeping military advances across Afghanistan – an estimated 192 district administrative centres so far – and impose severe restrictions on human rights in territories under their control, the High Commissioner is also warning that the proliferation of pro-Government militias being mobilised against Taliban may also put civilian in additional danger. Ms Bachelet recalled that a negotiated political settlement is the only option to put an end to the conflict and urged the international community to use its influence, on both the bilateral and the multilateral level, to bring hostilities to an end. Peace negotiations taking place in Doha this week must lead to “de-escalate the situation and reinvigorate peace process” she said.
UNECE: Global Climate Objectives Fall Short Without Nuclear Power In The Mix
On 11 August, United Nations Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE) has released a document arguing that nuclear power can help deliver on the Paris Agreement and the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The agency, in the new technology brief, warned that “time is running out to rapidly transform the global energy system,” as fossil fuels still account for over half of electricity generation in the UNECE region, which include the countries of Europe, but also countries in North America, Central Asia and Western Asia. The report highlights how only hydropower has played a greater role in avoiding carbon emissions over the past 50 years. According to the document, in the UNECE region, nuclear power is providing over 30% of electric generation in eleven countries (Belgium, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Finland, France, Hungary, Slovakia, Slovenia, Sweden, Switzerland, Ukraine) and twenty countries currently operate nuclear power plants, and fifteen countries have new reactors under construction or under development, while seven UNECE member States are in the process of developing nuclear power programmes for the first time. As nuclear power plants produce both low-carbon electricity and heat, they also offer opportunities to decarbonise energy-intensive industries, the UNECE report argues, such as scaling up low or zero-carbon steel, hydrogen, and chemical production to decarbonise hard-to-abate sectors. Nuclear power is cost-competitive in many parts of the world, the report states but the UN agency warns that to prevent radiological accidents and manage radioactive waste, risks must be properly anticipated and handled.
OHCHR: Arrests of Palestinian Rights Defenders Part Of ‘Wider Crackdown’
On 11 August, Mary Lawlor, Special Rapporteur on the situation of human rights defenders, expressed concern over arrests, harassment, criminalization and threats targeting these individuals, stating that the arrests and raids on the homes of Palestinian human rights defenders form part of a wider crackdown against those defending the human rights of Palestinians in the Occupied Palestinian Territory. Ms Lawlor expressed alarm at the arbitrary arrest and detention of Farid Al-Atrash, a human rights defender and lawyer at the Independent Commission for Human Rights (ICHR). She also voiced concern over the forcible transfer of Palestinians living in the Sheikh Jarrah and Silwan neighbourhoods in Jerusalem. The UN Special Rapporteur underlined the importance of safeguarding Palestinian human rights defenders in the Occupied Palestinian Territory, especially those who are protecting their communities’ rights to housing, healthcare and freedom of assembly and association. Furthermore, she called upon the authorities to stop targeting these human rights defenders and allow them to carry out their legitimate and peaceful work free from any kind of restrictions.
OHCHR: Human Rights Experts Push For Surveillance Technology Moratorium
On 12 August, a group of UN-appointed human rights experts in the wake of the Pegasus spyware scandal called for a moratorium on the sale of surveillance technology, warning against the danger of allowing the sector to operate as “a human rights-free zone.” They said that until robust regulations for the use of surveillance technology are implemented, and which guarantee human rights, countries should impose a global moratorium on the sale and transfer of these “life-threatening” tools. The experts recalled that this was not the first time the issue has been raised, citing a May 2019 report by the then UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Opinion and Expression, which also called for an immediate moratorium, and the international community failed to pay attention. Surveillance carried out using the Pegasus spyware, developed by the NSO Group, an Israeli firm, has denied allegations of involvement. The experts stated that given the extraordinary audacity and contempt for human rights that such widespread surveillance shows if the denial of collusion by the NSO Group is to have any credibility at all, the company must disclose whether or not it ever conducted any meaningful human rights due diligence in line with the UN Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights and publish fully the findings of any internal probes it may have undertaken on this issue. Further urging Israel to fully disclose measures it took to review the NSO Group’s export transactions, stressing “it is the duty of States to verify that companies like the NSO Group do not sell or transfer technology to or contract with States and entities that are like to use them to violate human rights.”
UN: Youth Must Be Included In Disarmament And Non-Proliferation
On 12 August, Izumi Nakamitsu, UN Disarmament chief to mark International Youth Day, in a video message to the special session of the UN Conference on Disarmament stated that with 40 per cent of the global population under 25, the international community has a special responsibility to ensure that young people can share their perspectives and concerns about the existential threats to current and future generations. She also stated that as in all other multinational domains, inclusiveness is necessary to achieve the ultimate objectives of disarmament, non-proliferation and arms control, and for the effectiveness and sustainability of the agreements that we’ve reached and the work that we do. Ms Nakamitsu said the UN Office for Disarmament Affairs (UNODA), which she heads, has also launched initiatives to engage, educate and empower young people. A key programme has been the UN Youth Champions for Disarmament, 10 advocates from across the globe, from diverse backgrounds, who help to raise awareness and promote change for a more peaceful world. Jayathma Wickramanayake, the UN Youth Envoy told the participants that the dedicated session of the Conference on Disarmament signified “a tremendous step towards engaging and empowering the leaders of tomorrow. At 1.8 billion strong, the current generation of young people is the largest in history, and around 90 per cent live in developing countries. She stated that with such numbers, it is clear that sustainable development and peace cannot be achieved unless we involve and include young people in our discussions and decision-making along with facilitating the conditions that allow them to reach and unleash their full potential.
UN: The Fast-Moving Afghanistan Crisis Is A “Humanitarian Catastrophe”
On 13 August, UNHCR said that it was particularly concerned about the impact of the intensifying conflict in Afghanistan on women and girls as 80 per cent of nearly 250,0000 Afghans forced to flee since the end of May are women and children. According to a report published last month jointly by the UN human rights office (OHCHR) and the UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), more women and children were killed and wounded in the first half of 2021 than in the first six months of any year since the records began in 2009. As widespread fighting intensifies, thousands of Afghans have fled their homes amid fears the Taliban would again impose a brutal, repressive government. The fighting has also created new challenges in reaching communities in need of food assistance around the country, warned the World Food Programme (WFP) with Tomson Phiri, WFP Spokesperson noting that 18.4 million people already require humanitarian assistance, while the conflict has displaced up to 390,000 people this year alone and in the last three months. Humanitarians are particularly concerned that the fighting is increasingly shifting to crowded urban areas, while UNHCR’s Shabia Mantoo noted that nearly 120,000 Afghans had fled from rural areas and provincial towns to the Kabul province since the beginning of the year. She further urged the international community to step up its response to this latest Afghanistan displacement crisis, appealing to neighbouring countries to “keep their borders open” as an “inability to seek safety may risk innumerable civilian lives” further insisting that countries hosting Afghans who may have international protection needs should also ensure that they can seek safety, “regardless of their current legal status.”