- ECCC: Appeals Trial Of Former Khmer Rouge Leader Khieu Samphan
- Bosnia and Herzegovina: Former Bosnian Serb Soldier Sentenced To 20 Years For War Crimes
- Poland: Appeals Court Overturns A Ruling Against Holocaust Historians
- Bosnia And Herzegovina: Prosecutors Bring Charges Against Serb Ex-Policemen For wartime Murders And Rape
- IACtHR: Ecuador Held Responsible For The Arbitrary Dismissal Of An Armed Forces Member After Denouncing The State’s Human Rights Violations
- Colombia: Former President Alvaro Uribe Denies War Crimes Accusations Before The Truth Commission
- ICC: Prosecutor Khan Issues Statement On The Escalating Violence In The Situation In Afghanistan
- Argentina: Appeals Proceedings Commence In A Universal Jurisdiction Case On Crimes Against The Rohingyas
- Serbia: War Crimes Case Against Nenad Bubalo Closed After His Death
- Spain: High Court Rejects Spanish Ministry Of Interior’s And Government of Ceuta’s Justification Of Return Of Dozens Of Migrant Children From The Enclave
INTERNATIONAL PEACE & SECURITY SECTION
- UN: Several Agencies Urge The Taliban To Fulfil Promises to Protect Vulnerable
- Afghanistan: The Taliban Captured Kabul Nearly 20 Years After They Were Last Ousted From the Capital
- Haiti: As Search for Quake Survivors Continues, Tropical Depression Grace Hits
- UNRWA: Palestinian People At Heightened Risks Both Inside And Outside National Borders
- OHCHR: Global Disability Rights Campaign ‘#WeThe15’ Launched
- UNSC: Strategy for Digital Transformation of Peacekeeping Launched
- UN: Minorities are ‘Key Partner’ in Saving Planet’s Biodiversity
- UNHCR: Tragic And Fatal Consequences for Rohingya Refugees Journeying Through Bay of Bengal And Andaman Sea
- UN: Islamic State Threat Moves Online, Expands Across Africa
- UNICEF: A Child-Focused Climate Risk Index Reveals One Billion Children At ‘Extremely High Risk’ from the Impacts of the Climate Crisis
INTERNATIONAL JUSTICE SECTION
ECCC: Appeals Trial Of Former Khmer Rouge Leader Khieu Samphan
On 16 August, the appeals trial of Khieu Samphan, the last surviving Khmer Rouge leader, at the Extraordinary Chambers in the Courts of Cambodia (ECCC) commenced. Mr. Samphan filed an appeal against his conviction on charges of genocide during the Khmer Rouge’s brutal rule in Cambodia more than 40 years ago. Under Pol Pot and his Khmer Rouge regime, two million Cambodians died during the four years in power. Mr. Samphan had previously been convicted in 2018 by the ECCC on charges of genocide relating to the Vietnamese minority. He denied responsibility for the mass murders and other abuses against Cham Muslims and ethnic Vietnamese. His defence counsel argued that the tribunal had taken a “selective approach” to witness testimony and had not given proper weight to evidence in his favour, convicting him based on a legal criteria that he could not have known at the time the alleged crimes took place. His defence counsel argued that the tribunal’s finding that Mr. Samphan “could not know” as a key member of the Khmer Rouge government was not enough to meet the burden of proof. In his testimony towards the conclusion of the appeals trial, Mr. Samphan stated “The trial chamber has demonstrated its inability to adjudicate me impartially […]It is clear that through me, the chamber was, rather, targeting the Communist Party of Kampuchea.”
A verdict on Khieu Samphan’s appeal is not expected until next year. Even if the 2018 conviction is overturned, he would still be serving the life sentence on a 2014 conviction on crimes against humanity of forced transfers and disappearances. That conviction was upheld on appeal in 2016.
Bosnia and Herzegovina: Former Bosnian Serb Soldier Sentenced To 20 Years For War Crimes
On 16 August, a court in Bosnia and Herzegovina convicted a former Bosnian Serb police officer and soldier for war crimes and sentenced him to 20 years in prison. The court found that Rade Garic had been involved in the systematic persecution of Bosnian Muslim civilians during the 1992-95 war. He was found guilty of atrocities in the eastern town of Vlasenica in 1992 and later in Srebrenica in 1995. During this trial, the court heard how Bosnian civilians were persecuted in Vlasenica.
Poland: Appeals Court Overturns A Ruling Against Holocaust Historians
On 16 August, the Polish Court of Appeals overturned a lower court ruling against two leading Holocaust historians, Prof Barbara Engelking and Prof Jan Grabowski. Both professors co-edited a book about the complicity of Catholic Poles in the genocide of Jews during Nazi Germany’s occupation of Poland. The two professors were accused of defamation. The court action was brought by the niece of Edward Malinowski, the wartime mayor of the village of Malinowo in north-east Poland. The book mentions that he may have been implicated in a local massacre of Jews by German soldiers, but his niece, Filomena Leszczyńska, argued he had in fact helped Jews. The lower court ruled in February that Prof Engelking and Prof Grabowski’s claim had been “inaccurate” and ordered them to apologize to Ms. Leszczyńska. The appeals judge, however, in overturning the lower court’s ruling found that the litigation constituted “an unacceptable violation of the freedom of scientific research and the freedom of expression,” and that the “courtroom was not the right place for a historical debate.” While Prof Engelking and Prof Grabowski welcomed the verdict, Ms. Leszczyńska’s legal team has announced its intention to appeal to the supreme court. The ruling comes amidst a tense political climate in Poland, in which critics have accused the nationalist government of attempting to whitewash Poland’s role in WWII.
Bosnia And Herzegovina: Prosecutors Bring Charges Against Serb Ex-Policemen For wartime Murders And Rape
On 16 June, the Bosnian state prosecution announced that it would be bringing charges against Ranko Cesic, Slobodan Ljubicic and Stojan Petrovic for committing a crime against humanity in the Brcko area between April and December 1992. Ranko Cesic had previously been convicted for other wartime crimes by the International Criminal Tribunal for the former Yugoslavia (ICTY), namely torturing, raping and murdering Bosnian and Croat detainees at the Luka detention camp near Brcko in 1992. Mr. Cesic and Mr. Ljubicic are accused of killing four civilian Bosniaks, and of unlawfully and violently detaining female civilians, after raping and sexually abusing them. Mr. Petrovic has been charged with unlawfully detaining one woman and raping her. The prosecution stated that the accused committed the offences as policemen with the Interventions Squad at the Brcko Public Security Station, part of the Bosnian Serb Interior Ministry. Mr. Cesic was granted early release in 2014 after serving two-thirds of his sentence, with the ICTY finding that he had shown remorse and had cooperated with prosecutors by testifying in other war crimes cases of the tribunal. The charges brought by the Bosnian state prosecution now await confirmation by the Bosnian state court.
IACtHR: Ecuador Held Responsible For The Arbitrary Dismissal Of An Armed Forces Member After Denouncing The State’s Human Rights Violations
On 16 August, the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACtHR) issued a press release of the judgement in the case of Grijalva Bueno v. Ecuador rendered on 3 June 2021. The IACtHR declared that the State of Ecuador was responsible for the violation of judicial guarantees (Articles 8(1), 8(2), 8(2)(b), 8(2)(c) and 8(2)(f)), freedom of expression (Article 13(1)) and judicial protection (Article 25(1) and 25(2)(c)), established in the American Convention on Human Rights, to the detriment of Vicente Aníbal Grijalva Bueno. The applicant had been improperly dismissed from the Ecuadorian Navy in 1993, after he had reported the involvement of military personnel in acts of torture and forced disappearances. Ecuador made a partial acknowledgement of international responsibility due to the violations that occurred in the context of the dismissal procedure and the failure to execute the Judgment of the Court of Constitutional Guarantees. The IACtHR held in its judgement that the State must ensure practical conditions for public officials to be able to report human rights violations freely without being victims of threats, retaliations and other types of harassment. Based on the violations, the Court ordered diverse measures of reparation.
Colombia: Former President Alvaro Uribe Denies War Crimes Accusations Before The Truth Commission
On 16 August, it was reported that Colombia’s former President Alvaro Uribe, testified before the Truth Commission about war crimes committed when the far-right politician was the head of state. Testifying from his estate in Rionegro, he dismissed the legitimacy of the Truth Commission that is part of a peace process that his far-right Democratic Center party has fiercely been opposed to. He agreed to testify as part of his “commitment to contribute to the truth” despite his refusal to “recognise institutions that formed” as part of the 2016 peace deal between the now inactive guerrilla group FARC and former President Juan Manuel Santos. However, he denied any responsibility for the surge in paramilitary death squads when he was governor of his native Antioquia province. At this point in time at least 6,400 people were killed by members of the military during extrajudicial executions when Mr. Uribe was president between 2002 and 2010. Uribe admitted to signing the creation of 69 paramilitary front companies called “CONVIVIR” as governor of Antioquia between 1995 and 1997. He stressed, however, that he was not responsible for their paramilitary activities, as the national government was responsible for their oversight. The former president also denied any responsibility in the surge of extrajudicial executions by the military after he took office in 2002. Truth Commission President, Francisco de Roux, announced the Commission would verify the claims made by Mr. Uribe as it is trying to clarify the events during the armed conflict.
ICC: Prosecutor Khan Issues Statement On The Escalating Violence In The Situation In Afghanistan
On 17 August, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC), Karim A. A. Khan QC, issued a statement on the escalating violence in Afghanistan. He began by stating that he echoes the views expressed by the United Nations Security Council over reported incidents on the territory of Afghanistan that may amount to violations of international humanitarian law under the Rome Statute. Recalling the Appeals Chamber Decision of 5 March 2020, he stated that the ICC may exercise its jurisdiction and investigate any act of genocide, crime against humanity or war crime committed within the territory of Afghanistan since 1 May 2003. He called on all parties to the hostilities to fully respect their obligations under international humanitarian law, including ensuring the protection of civilians. Prosecutor Khan concluded his statement by citing a passage from the Holy Qur’an in Surah Al Ma’idah: “whosoever killed a person – … it shall be as if he had killed all mankind; and whosoever gave life to one, it shall be as if he had given life to all mankind”, which Prosecutor Khan reiterated also reflects the values of the Rome Statute.
Argentina: Appeals Proceedings Commence In A Universal Jurisdiction Case On Crimes Against The Rohingyas
On 17 August, appeals proceedings of the only pending universal jurisdiction case on crimes against the Rohingya people committed in Myanmar commenced before the Federal Criminal Appeals Court in Buenos Aires, Argentina. In 2019, the Burmese Rohingya Organisation UK (BROUK) filed a criminal complaint in Argentina over the crimes committed in Myanmar against Rohingyas, including mass killings, sexual violence, torture and forced displacement. On 12 July 2021, the lower court dismissed the case based on the existence of an ongoing investigation before the ICC on crimes committed against the Rohingyas. The complainant subsequently appealed the decision. In the appeals trial, Rohingya women described in a court of law, under the aegis of universal jurisdiction, how the Myanmar military carried out a brutal massacre in their village. The women testified remotely from the world’s largest refugee camp in Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh, telling the court how soldiers killed their husbands, and went on to rape many other women in their village and then burned their homes to the ground. The appeals hearing forms part of this process in which the Argentinian judiciary is considering whether to take up the case. If the Buenos Aires Appeals Court rules in the affirmative, this would constitute a landmark decision, as it would be the first universal jurisdiction case related to the situation of the Rohingya in the world. According to a BROUK press release, the “case in Argentina will cover the full range of crimes committed entirely in Myanmar against the Rohingya, including mass murder, enforced disappearances, widespread torture, sexual violence, and mass imprisonment. This is different to the ICC case, which is limited to only crimes which have at least partially been committed on Bangladeshi territory.” The President of the Appeals Court has announced that a prompt decision in the coming days would follow. A BROUK representative has stated their willingness to take the case to the Argentinian Supreme Court.
Serbia: War Crimes Case Against Nenad Bubalo Closed After His Death
On 18 August, the Higher Court in Belgrade announced it had terminated proceedings against Nenad Bubalo, the former deputy commander of the military police of the Bosnian Serb Army’s 15th Bihac Brigade, who had died. Previously in September 2017 the Bosnian state prosecution filed an indictment charging Bubalo. Bubalo’s case was then transferred to Serbia for prosecution, and an indictment was filed in Belgrade in May 2021. The Bosnian state prosecution charged Bubalo with crimes against humanity, but the Serbian War Crimes Prosecution changed the charge to war crimes against the civilian population, “in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Serbia”. The Bosnian prosecutors had alleged that Bubalo participated in a widespread and systematic attack and committed murders and persecution of Bosnian civilians in June and July 1992. The prosecution also said that during an exhumation of a mass grave at the Bezdan pit in 1997, the remains of the captured Bosnian civilians were found among 83 bodies.
Spain: High Court Rejects Spanish Ministry Of Interior’s And Government of Ceuta’s Justification Of Return Of Dozens Of Migrant Children From The Enclave
On 18 August, the Spanish High Court rejected the justification of the Spanish Ministry of Interior and the Authorities of Ceuta for the return of minors from the Spanish enclave of Ceuta, a city on the Northern Coast of Africa, bordered by Morocco. The Court made it clear in its order that the Spanish-Moroccan agreement between the Authorities of Ceuta and Morocco is not exempted from Spanish law, thus Spanish immigration law would still be applicable to minors. Under these regulations, the return, i.e. repatriation of minors, must be based on individual reports (on the familial circumstances of the minor, as well as from the diplomatic representation of the country of origin), may only be carried out when the minor has been heard during a formal hearing and must be endorsed by the Prosecutor’s Office. The Authorities of Ceuta, however, have acknowledged that no such prior reports had been made. The Prosecutor’s Office has thus requested that the Ministry of Interior provide evidence that this procedure has been followed. Without such evidence there is no justification to suggest that the legal procedure as required by the applicable laws of Spain had been followed, making the previous return of dozens of children from the enclave of Ceuta unlawful.
INTERNATIONAL PEACE AND SECURITY SECTION
UN: Several Agencies Urge The Taliban To Fulfil Promises to Protect Vulnerable
On 15 August, during a victory speech broadcasted on Afghan television, Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban in Afghanistan, affirmed that his administration “will get involved to serve the nation and to provide the people with security and hope in the future”. Two days later, Enamullah Samanghi, member of Islamic Emirate’s cultural commission promised a general amnesty for all, women’s access to governmental functions, and girls’ right to education. But, given the Taliban’s record of human rights violations, these statements have been greeted with some scepticism and many UN agencies expressed their grave concerns. On 17 August, UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) Spokesperson, Shabia Mantoo, urged refugee host nations “to halt possible returns of Afghan nationals”. Head of the Organisation for Migration (IOM), António Vitorino, appealed “to all parties to ensure unhindered access for all humanitarian actors” and further urged “to maintain dialogue”. UN Geneva Spokesperson, Rhéal LeBlanc, noting that no UN staff had been evacuated from Kabul, said that “[i]t’s clear that the Taliban and other authorities have the responsibility to protect and ensure the safety of UN staff whether they be national or international”. The same day, Karima Bennoune, UN Special Rapporteur in the field of cultural rights, warned of a “cultural disaster” adding that “[i]t is deplorable that the world has abandoned Afghanistan to a fundamentalist group like the Taliban whose catastrophic human rights record, […], when in power, is well documented”. Earlier this week, UN Assistance Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA) and UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) released their joint report on ‘Children and armed conflict in Afghanistan’, according to which child casualties hit their highest levels ever during the first half of 2021. Virginia Gamba, UN Secretary-General’s Special Representative for Children and Armed Conflict, further warned over the long-term effect of such reckless conduct of hostilities, saying that “[s]uch harm is otherwise bound to affect generations to come”. The joint report is further pointing at worrisome trends such as the rise of attacks on hospitals, on protected personnel, and on girls’ schools, as well as the recruitment of boys for combat functions. Finally, on 18 August, citing a more than threefold rise in the number of trauma cases, the World Health Organisation (WHO) said that medical lifeline for millions must not be cut.
Afghanistan: The Taliban Captured Kabul Nearly 20 Years After They Were Last Ousted From the Capital
On 16 August, dramatic images of scenes of panic at Kabul airport were circulated in the media as residents were desperately trying to flee the country, resulting in five deaths and in the suspension of commercial flights. Outside of the airport’s chaos, checkpoints have been set up throughout the city, and insurgents were collecting regular forces’ weapons. On the eve, the Taliban flag was flown over the capital, with very little resistance from the Afghan army. After fleeing the country, President Ashraf Ghani officially declared that the Taliban had “won”, while Mullah Abdul Ghani Baradar, co-founder of the Taliban in Afghanistan, congratulated his troops on this “huge victory” from inside the presidential palace. On 16 August, speaking at an emergency UN Security Council meeting, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the Taliban to “exercise utmost restraint to protect lives”, and expressed concern over the country becoming, once again, a haven for terrorists. One year after the signature of what was called a “landmark agreement” between the U.S. and the Taliban, everyone is wondering what went wrong. Afghan army’s capabilities were critically weakened by a combination of factors (e.g. illiteracy among troops, corruption on a massive scale and poor leadership). Thus, what the Taliban were able to achieve on the battlefield was far more important than what they will ever likely achieve through peace talks in Doha. U.S. President Joe Biden said he stood “squarely behind” his decision to withdraw, adding that “American troops cannot […] be fighting in a war […] that Afghan forces are not willing to fight for themselves”. As insurgents declared the war over, a new diplomatic battle of influence begins. While other countries are scrambling to evacuate their nationals (e.g. the U.S.) and are anticipating “illegal migration flows” (e.g. France), Chinese and Russia’s top priority is to ensure stability in the region and to avoid the spreading of violence across borders. Instability in former Soviet Union countries bordering Afghanistan (i.e. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and Tajikistan) can ultimately lead to instability on Russia’s borders. Similarly, given the narrow border shared by Afghanistan and the Xinjian region, Chinese Foreign Ministry Spokesperson Hua Chunying said China is ready to “deepen friendly and cooperative relations with Afghanistan”. Pragmatism implies therefore, that diplomatic channels must remain opened, even if it means negotiating with the Taliban.
Haiti: As Search for Quake Survivors Continues, Tropical Depression Grace Hits
As of 16 August, at least 1,297 people are known to have died and an unknown number is still missing after a 7.2-magnitude quake struck Haiti on 14 August. Federica Cecchet, IOM’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Haiti, said that these “numbers will grow as data collection progresses”. All competent UN agencies have been mobilised and international aid is arriving, but as rescue operations are still underway, the situation has been worsened by the tropical storm ‘Grace’ which hit the country on 16 August. The storm brought torrential rain, flooding and mudslides. Anticipating the risk, the UN Migration agency (IOM) declared earlier that it was focusing on finding safe buildings and shelter for the thousands of people displaced by the earthquake. As emphasised by Henrietta Fore, Head of the UN Children’s Agency (UNICEF), “essential facilities and infrastructure on which children and families depend have also been impacted – in some cases, irreparably”. Initial reports indicate more than 13,600 homes were destroyed or severely damaged, and more than 700 buildings collapsed. IOM’s Deputy Chief of Mission in Haiti declared that “[o]ne of the main priorities in the coming weeks will be the proper management of emergency shelters and humanitarian support for thousands of people who are displaced”. Significant damages to roads have hampered transportation impeding humanitarian teams to reach many areas, especially in the department of Nippes, said Pierre Honnorat, Head of the Worlds Food Programme (WFP) in Haiti. The United Nations Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA) further warned that local hospitals are already overwhelmed, despite help provided by the Red Cross. Already affected by deep-rooted insecurity and prolonged economic and political instability (further aggravated following the assassination of president Jovenel Moïse last month), Haitian people’s resilience capacity is now rudely challenged by cumulated devastating natural disasters. As of 18 August, the level of destruction and desperation was becoming increasingly evident, and death toll has surged to nearly 2,000.
UNRWA: Palestinian People At Heightened Risks Both Inside And Outside National Borders
On 16 August, the UN Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East (UNRWA) expressed its concern over the increased vulnerabilities of Palestine refugees in South Syria, following recent clashes in and around the Dera’a Governorate. Since 29 July, heavy shelling and clashes have caused loss of life, injury, the displacement of hundreds of families, and have dramatically reduced UNRWA’s ability to provide critical services to the 3,000 individuals living in the camp. Medication and food stocks have been depleted since 2 August, following the closure of the main humanitarian crossing Saraya on 30 July. Water and electricity have been cut off inside the camp, and clashes led to the closure of the UNRWA health clinic in Muzeirib on 1 August. In addition, UNRWA is emphasizing the increased risks of contamination by explosive remnants of war and called for all parties to the conflict to ensure unimpeded access for humanitarian assistance into the area. On 16 August, four Palestinians were killed in clashes with Israeli security forces at Jenin refugee camp in the occupied West Bank, where violence has escalated over a wildcat Jewish settlement. The Israel Border Police, which operates in the West Bank, said its forces came under fire during a search for a Palestinian suspected of involvement in alleged terrorist activities. The Palestinian presidency condemned the “heinous crime” and held the Jewish State “responsible for the escalation and its repercussions”. Presidential spokesperson, Nabil Abu Rudeina, further warned that “[t]he continuation of the Israeli policy will lead to an explosion of the situation, increased tensions and instability”. Beita residents have been demonstrating since May against the Eviatar settlement set up nearby without an official permission from the Israeli authorities, leading to frequent deadly clashes in Jenin. The settlement was evacuated in early July, but Israeli troops remain stationed there while authorities deliberate on its fate. Israel occupied the West Bank during the 1967 Six-Day War and all Jewish settlements there are considered illegal by most of the international community. Almost half a million people live in Israeli settlements in the West Bank, alongside 2.8 million Palestinians.
OHCHR: Global Disability Rights Campaign ‘#WeThe15’ Launched
On 17 August, Rupert Colville, Spokesperson for the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights (OHCHR), officially launched the 10-year campaign to empower people with disabilities and advance their human rights. Beginning just ahead of the Paralympics Games in Tokyo, WeThe15 campaign aims to end discrimination against people with disabilities and to be a worldwide movement for greater visibility, inclusion, and accessibility. It will shine a light on and will build greater knowledge of the barriers and discrimination people with disabilities face on a daily basis at all levels of society. To mark the start of this global campaign, the Palais Wilson in Geneva (Headquarters of the OHCHR), and more than 125 iconic landmarks spanning several countries and time-zones, have been lit up in purple, the international colour of disability. There are more than one billion people with disabilities worldwide. They form part of the human diversity. At a time when diversity and inclusion are hot topics, the 15% who have disabilities want effective change to remove the inequality and inactivity. Like race, gender and sexual orientation, the campaign aims to have a movement all persons with disabilities can rally behind. WeThe15 has brought together a large coalition of international organisations from the world of sport, human rights, policy, business, culture, and entertainment. Over the next decade, these organisations will work in collaboration with governments, businesses, and the public to bring about change for the world’s largest marginalised group.
UNSC: Strategy for Digital Transformation of Peacekeeping Launched
On 18 August, Antonio Guterres, UN Secretary-General outlined the Strategy for Digital Transformation, stating that the organisation and its 12 peacekeeping missions around the world must fully embrace new technology in the face of ever-changing challenges while reminding that peacekeeping has always been conceived in an analogue world. Outlining the objectives of the Digital Transformation Strategy, the top UN official said that it aims to drive technology innovation at Headquarters and in the field. Moreover, it also seeks to maximize the potential of current and new technologies to help peacekeeping missions carry out their mandates including an improved capacity to spot threats to civilian lives. He further stated that peace operations should be better capable of detecting, analysing and addressing threats against civilians and peacekeepers, as well as political and humanitarian missions, in a timely and integrated way. The Security Council unanimously adopted a resolution which called upon Member States that are either hosting or have hosted UN peacekeeping operations to take all appropriate measures, in accordance with national and international law, to bring to justice those who kill or attack UN personnel. Through its resolution 2589 (2021), the 15 Ambassadors also requested the UN Secretary-General to also establish a comprehensive online database of the attacks against UN staff and peacekeepers, which should be accessible to host countries, troop- and police-contributing countries and countries of nationality of civilian personnel.
UN: Minorities are ‘Key Partner’ in Saving Planet’s Biodiversity
On 19 August, David Boyd, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and environment warned that the UN Post-2020 Global Biodiversity Framework should not fulfil its goals at the expense of further violations of human rights against indigenous people and other rural people while acknowledging that the plan is essential for conserving biodiversity. He further stated that these individuals and groups must be acknowledged as key partners in protecting and restoring nature and their human, land and tenure rights and knowledge along with conservation contributions must also be recognized, respected, and supported. The call came ahead of a UN biodiversity summit known as COP15 which is to be held virtually in October and in person next April in Kunming, China where representatives of 190 Governments will seek to finalise the UN backed draft agreement. The draft text was released in July, highlighting the need to address threats to biodiversity, human well-being and the future of life on Earth, while seeking to establish a “world living in harmony with nature” by 2050. The UN Special Rapporteur expanding on his report to the General Assembly in October 2020, “Human Rights Depend on a Healthy Biosphere”, has now developed a policy brief which calls for a more inclusive, just, and sustainable approach to safeguarding and restoring biodiversity, and outlining the human rights costs and limited efficacy of exclusionary conservation.
UNHCR: Tragic And Fatal Consequences for Rohingya Refugees Journeying Through Bay of Bengal And Andaman Sea
On 19 August, the UNHCR in its new report highlighted that last year was the deadliest for Rohingya refugees journeying through the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea. Some two-thirds of these refugees attempted perilous voyages, risking even further abuse by smugglers. The report titled “Left Adrift at Sea: Dangerous Journeys of Refugees Across the Bay of Bengal and Andaman Sea” describes how over the last year the COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation, prompting many States in South East Asia to tighten their borders and this has resulted in the hugest number of refugees being stranded at sea since the region’s boat crisis in 2015. Since 2020, many refugees have been “marooned for months” on “unseaworthy boats, falling prey to abuses by smugglers, becoming gravely ill through insufficient food and water, and enduring the harsh conditions at sea, including searing heat as well as treacherous waves and storms”. These risks have been “prolonged on the occasions where States have ‘pushed back’ boats to prevent disembarkation”. UNHCR urged all States in the region to search for refugees in distress at sea and rescue them to places of safety and this must include working towards a regional mechanism for predictable and equitable disembarkation; providing access to asylum procedures for those who disembark; implementing dignified reception arrangements; and providing protection and assistance to refugees who disembark. Indrika Ratwatte, UNHCR Regional Director for Asia and the Pacific warned that “collective failure to act will have tragic and fatal consequences”.
UN: Islamic State Threat Moves Online, Expands Across Africa
On 20 August, Vladimir Voronkov, UN counter-terrorism chief presented the “Thirteenth report of the Secretary-General on the threat posed by ISIL (Da’esh) to international peace and security” to the UN Security Council, noting that two decades after the 11 September terrorist attacks in New York, terror networks Al-Qaida and the Islamic State, also known as Da’esh, still continue to pose a grave threat to peace and security, adapting to new technologies and moving into some of the world’s most fragile regions. He further noted that the world is currently witnessing a situation that is rapidly evolving in Afghanistan and could have far reaching implications around the globe. He pointed out that several members of the Taliban have been designated as terrorists by the UN Security Council. He also cited the continued detention of thousands of individuals with alleged links to terrorist groups as another factor exacerbating the threat. The deteriorating conditions in detention facilities and displacement camps in northeast Syria are serving as a rallying cry for terrorist activities and they have already fuelled instances of terrorist radicalization, fund-raising, arms smuggling, training and incitement to terror. He echoed calls from officials across the UN for Member States to voluntarily repatriate all concerned individuals, with particular focus on children. In September, the Office of Counter-Terrorism (UNOCT) and the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) will jointly launch a global framework to support countries requesting assistance with protection, voluntary repatriation, prosecution, rehabilitation and reintegration of individuals with suspected links to designated terrorist groups returning from Iraq and Syria.
UNICEF: A Child-Focused Climate Risk Index Reveals One Billion Children At ‘Extremely High Risk’ from the Impacts of the Climate Crisis
On 20 August, UNICEF released analysis titled ‘The Climate Crisis Is a Child Rights Crisis: Introducing the Children’s Climate Risk Index’, which is the first comprehensive analysis of climate risk from children’s perspective. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, such as cyclones and heat waves, as well as their vulnerability to those shocks based on their access to essential services. The Children’s Climate Risk Index (CCRI) reveals that 240 million children are highly exposed to coastal flooding; 330 million children are highly exposed to riverine flooding; 400 million children are highly exposed to cyclones; 600 million children are highly exposed to vector borne diseases and 920 million children are highly exposed to water scarcity. The report also reveals a link between the place where greenhouse gas emissions are generated and where children are enduring the most significant climate-driven impacts. The 33 extremely high-risk countries collectively emit just 9 per cent of global CO2 emissions. Conversely, the 10 highest emitting countries collectively account for nearly 70 per cent of global emissions. Only one of these countries is ranked as extremely high-risk in the index. Children in the Central African Republic, Chad, and Nigeria are among the most at risk of climate change, according to UNICEF’s first child-focused climate risk index.