Weekly News Recap (27 September-3 October 2021)

International Justice Section



ICC: Prosecutor Files An Application For Expedition Order In the Situation In Afghanistan

On 27 September 2021, the Prosecutor of the International Criminal Court (ICC) filed an order before Pre-Trial II of the International Criminal Court seeking authorization to resume investigations into the situation in the Islamic Republic of Afghanistan (Afghanistan). In 2020, the prosecutor was authorized to carry on investigations, but due to an entreaty by the Afghan government, the Prosecutor discontinued the investigation leaving it to the Afghan national authorities to investigate. However, the Office of the Prosecutor still engaged with the Afghan government in sharing the burden of investigation until 15 August 2021, when the government got changed.  The change in government necessitated the extant application to resume investigations on crimes allegedly committed by the Taliban and the Islamic State – Khorasan Province (IS-K). The Prosecutor has found out that with the current situation in Afghanistan, there is no longer the prospect of genuine and effective domestic investigations into the crimes committed. Consequently, the Prosecutor has stated that its investigation would focus solely on this to the total exclusion of other matters if his application is granted.


ECtHR: Notification And Application Of Interim Measures In The Case of R.A. And Others v. Poland By 32 Afghans

On 27 September 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) gave notice to the government of Poland of the application in R. A. and Others v. Poland (application no. 42120/21) and has asked them to submit their observations on the admissibility and merits of the application. The court has also decided to apply and extend interim measures. This case concerns 12 Afghan nationals who have been confined in a makeshift camp for approximately 7 weeks on the border between Belarus and Poland. According to them, they became stranded after they crossed the Belarusian – Polish border in a forest. They claim to have fled Afghanistan when the Taliban took over power and are afraid to return either for fear of persecution. The Polish government, on the other hand, has refused to grant them asylum and according to the claims of the 32 Afghan complainants, it has also failed to implement the interim measures indicated by the Court.


Bosnia and Herzegovina: Prosecutor Challenges The Acquittal Of Ex-Bosnian Soldier

On 29 September 2021, the District prosecutor in the case involving ex-Bosnian Solider, Milenko Gojgolovic, filed an appeal at the Supreme Court of Bosnia’s Serb-dominated Republic of Srpska.  The appeal challenges the decision of the district Court of Eastern Sarajevo which acquitted Milenko Gojgolovic of the charge of raping a prisoner at the Susica detention camp in Vlasenca during the war in 1992.  Milenko Gojgolovic was a member of the Territorial Defense force in Vlasenica which was later renamed.  In 2019, he was indicted for war crimes and crimes against humanity – more specifically, for rape. The Court of first instance acquitted him early in September 2021. The prosecutor dissatisfied with the acquittal has now filed an appeal challenging the.


ECtHR: Grand Chamber Hearing Of H.F. And M.F. V. France And J.D. And A.D. V. France

On 29 September 2021, the European Court of Human Rights (ECtHR) sat over the hearing of the case of H.F. and M.F. v. France and J.D. and A.D. v. France. The case involved the unsuccessful request by the applicants’ for the repatriation by the French authorities of their respective daughters and grand children, who are being held in the al–Hol camp in North-Eastern Syria run by the Syrian democratic forces. The Applicant’s daughter and granddaughter were held up since January 2019. An application seeking the release of the applicants’ daughter and granddaughter was rejected by the judge and further appeal was dismissed.  The applicants consequently instituted the matter at the European Court of Human Rights in 2019. During the hearing, many state parties were given leave to intervene including seven state parties to the Convention, the Commissioner for Human Rights of the Council of Europe, and several other NGOs.


ICC: Gicheru’s Trial To Open On 15 February 2022

On 30 September 2021, Trial Chamber III of the International Criminal Court (ICC) scheduled the opening of trial in the case of Prosecutor v. Paul Gicheru for 15 February 2022. This decision came after the status conference which was held on 24 September 2021. This case involves a Kenyan based Lawyer, Paul Gicheru who is charged for offences against the administration of justice consisting in corruptly influencing witnesses regarding cases from the situation in Kenya.  The case also involved charges against Philip Kipkoech Bett. The case against the latter was severed from the case against Mr. Gicheru in December 2020 after Mr. Gicheru submitted himself to the ICC.  His first appearance took place in November 2020.


Bosnia And Herzegovina: Former Bosnian Serb Ex-Soldier Convicted Of Wartime Murder

On 30 September 2021, the Bosnian State Court found ex-soldier, Cvijan Tomanic guilty of crimes committed during the Bosnian war in 1992. According to the verdict, the court found that Tomanic was involved in the murder of one and inhumane treatment of others. The most pronounced widespread crime committed by Tomanic was in late May or early June 1992 when Tomanic alongside other people went to a village where Bosniaks were hiding in woods. The three men who came out of the woods were inhumanly treated, two of which were later killed. Upon these findings, the court sentenced Cvijan Tomanic to 7 years imprisonment. Tomanic failed to appear in court but it did not affect the judgement. The verdict can be appealed.


CJEU: Domestic Workers In Spain Get Legal Backing For Unemployment Benefits

On 30 September 2021, the advocate General of the Court of Justice of the European Union gave its opinion in case no. C389/20. According to the Advocate General, legislation which excludes domestic workers in Spain from unemployment benefits, where those workers are almost exclusively women, is contrary to EU laws as this constitutes indirect discrimination based on sex. The case analyzed in Luxembourg has to do with a domestic worker who works for a natural person. The worker has been affiliated with that special system since January 2011. In November 2019, the worker presented to the General Treasury of Social Security (TGSS) a request for a contribution to unemployment protection in order to acquire the right to the corresponding benefit.

However, the TGSS denied his application because Spanish legislation expressly excludes the possibility of contributing to the special system in order to obtain unemployment protection. Consequently, the European Court was asked to interpret the directive on the principle of equal treatment in matters of social security and to determine whether that directive involve indirect discrimination on grounds of sex. Contrary to the Spanish Government’s claim, the Advocate General finds that the exclusion laid down by the national legislation creates a particular disadvantage for domestic workers. 


Rwanda: Popular YouTuber Jailed For 15 Years On Grounds Of Anti-Kagame Post

On 30 September 2021, Kigali High Court in Rwanda found Yvonne Idamange liable for inciting violence after she criticized President Paul Kagame on her channel.  Yvonne is a popular YouTuber who has over 18,900 subscribers and an average of 100,000 views per video. The accusations against Yvonne were based on comments on her popular YouTube channel “idamange” in which she accused Kagame and his Government of exploiting the genocide without giving enough welfare to the survivors. Yvonne was arrested in February and in the words of the police, she was arrested exhibiting behaviour that mixes criminality, politics and madness.  Accordingly, although absent in court due to allegations of bias, she was convicted of 6 charges , sentenced to 15 years in prison and fined the equivalent of $2,000 – less than the 30 years and $6,000 sought by the prosecution.


ICJ: Alleged Violation Of Sovereign Rights And Maritime Spaces In The Caribbean Sea (Nicaragua V. Colombia)

On 1 October 2021, the International Court of Justice concluded its hearing of the case of Nicaragua v. Colombia. The case concerns an alleged violation of sovereign rights and maritime space in the Caribbean Sea.  The hearing which opened on 20 September 2021 concluded on the 1 October 2021.  During the hearing, Nicaragua alleged these violations for the reasons explained in the written and oral phase and further asked the Court to declare that the Republic of Colombia has breached its international obligations to respect Nicaragua’s maritime zone as delimited by the Court in 2012. Five other orders were sought from the Court.

Colombia on the other hand on 29 September presented its final submissions refuting all the claims of Nicaragua and submitting a counter claim, further asks the Court to declare that the inhabitants of San Andres Archipelago, in particular the Raizales, enjoy fishing rights in the traditional fishing grounds located beyond the territorial sea located beyond the Island of San Andres Archipelango. As such, they alleged that Nicaragua had violated the traditional fishing rights of the inhabitants of the area. The judgement of the Court will be announced in a public hearing on date to be announced later.


Kosovo: Court Urged To Convict Ex-Policeman For Wartime Killing

On 1 October 2021, the prosecutor in the case involving Goran Stanisic (accused) asked the court to convict him for his involvement in the killings of 13 ethnic Albanian Civilians in an attack of the village of Sllovi/Slovinje during Kosovo war in 1999.  The prosecutor brought several witnesses who testified against the guilt of Stanisic. One of the witnesses narrated how Stanisic was involved in the murder of many.  The accused pleaded his absence during the commission of the crime. . Stanisic’s lawyer questioned the credibility of the prosecution witnesses stating that although he does not deny the fact that innocent civilians were killed on the said dates in those villages, Stanisic was not guilty and should accordingly be acquitted.



UN: 25th Anniversary Of Test Ban Treaty Marked With Call For Nuclear Weapons Free World

On 27 September 2021, the UN Security Council marked the 25th anniversary of the Comprehensive Nuclear Test Ban Treaty (CTBT) calling for its entry into force and the elimination of nuclear weapons everywhere. Robert Floyd the Executive Secretary of the Comprehensive Nuclear-Test-Ban Treaty Organization (CTBTO) pointed to its “near universal adherence”, with 185 signatures and 170 ratifications.  Further stating that the Treaty “has created and sustained a norm against nuclear testing so powerful, that less than one dozen tests have been conducted since adoption and only one country has violated it this millennium.” Despite its 185 signatures, the Treaty is yet to enter into force, which would require ratification by eight countries (the US, China, Iran, Israel, Egypt, India, Pakistan and North Korea) and till to this day, there are still 13,400 nuclear weapons around the globe; with some countries continue to seek nuclear capabilities, and others are working to expand their nuclear arsenals.  Addressing Council Members, the UN Under-Secretary-General of Disarmament Affairs, Izumi Nakamitsu, pointed to a “worrisome trend towards the modernization and expansion of nuclear arsenals.”


UN: Endless Suffering Of Children Continues Due To War

On 27 September 2021, a new report was released ‘Third report of UN Secretary General on Children and Armed Conflict in Yemen’ detailed how children were victims of the indiscriminate use of mortar and artillery shelling, ground fighting, anti-personnel landmines and other explosive remnants of war and in total, more than 3,500 children suffered one or more grave violations; chief among these was the denial of humanitarian access, killing and maiming, and the recruitment and use of children. Virginia Gamba the Special Representative of the Secretary-General for Children and Armed Conflict stated that “the atrocities and immense suffering” would likely leave a generation of Yemeni children “scarred for life”, further stating that it is urgent for all parties to actively work towards a political solution of the conflict if they hope to save children from further harm. The report outlined the UN’s dialogue with parties to conflict, and the progress made by the Government of Yemen in the implementation of its action plan to end and prevent child recruitment and use of children, signed in 2014 and of the Roadmap adopted in 2018, which “has led to a significant decrease for this violation.”  The Special Representative echoed the UN Secretary-General’s call for a nationwide ceasefire by all parties to the conflict, and to continue their engagement with the UN Special Envoy for Yemen towards the resumption of an inclusive political process to reach a comprehensive negotiated political settlement. The Special Representative also added that consideration of the rights and needs of children into the discussions will also be critical for sustainable peace and for the future of the country and that adding that the Practical Guidance for Mediators to Protect Children in Situations of Armed Conflict issued by her office, is an important and useful tool in the context of Yemen. 




UNSC: Now Is the Time To Push For Political Resolution In Syria According To UN Envoy

On 28 September 2021, Geir Pedersen, UN Special Envoy told UN Security Council that following  decade long of appalling suffering and losses in Syria amid a current period of relative calm, now is the time for pushing towards a political process to end the fighting. He urged that a sustained international support towards ending the brutal conflict, and ensuring the country’s sovereignty, unity, independence and territorial integrity, in line with a 2015 Council resolution is required. Last week, Michelle Bachelet, the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, reported that more than 350,000 people have been confirmed as killed in the Syrian war, though the actual number is likely to be higher. Mr. Pedersen added to this “grim announcement”, noting that 12 million Syrians are displaced and tens of thousands remain detained, abducted or missing.   Syria is also facing impacts from the economic collapse in neighbouring Lebanon, as well as the COVID-19 pandemic and sanctions.  The country is also divided into several “de facto zones, with international players jostling in the theatre”, with skirmishes peppering more than a year of relative calm.  UN Special Envoy also stated that with military frontlines largely frozen for 18 months, and concerns from parties regarding the status quo, the time to push for a political process is now and also that the resolution 2254 recognizes the close link between a nationwide ceasefire and a parallel political process. The UN Envoy stressed the importance of achieving a genuine intra-Syrian political dialogue that would leas to genuine process of political reform and emphasise that women must participate in the process.


DRC: Abuse Allegations Amid Ebola Outbreak ‘A Sickening Betrayal Of The People We Serve’ According To WHO Director

On 28 September 2021, Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, WHO Director-General stated that sexual abuse and exploitation allegedly carried out by World Health Organization (WHO) staff during the UN health agency’s response to an Ebola outbreak in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) is “a sickening betrayal of the people we serve“. An independent panel commissioned by WHO identified more than 80 alleged cases of abuse during the outbreak, including allegations implicating 20 WHO staff members. WHO Director General stated that the release of the findings represented a “dark day for WHO” adding that it was also a betrayal of “our colleagues who put themselves in harm’s way to serve others”. The Independent Investigation into the tenth Ebola outbreak in DRC began in the provinces of North Kivu and Ituri in October 2020. The epidemic was declared over on 25 June that year, after persisting for nearly two years in an active conflict zone. It led to 2,300 deaths and was declared the world’s second-largest outbreak of the deadly and highly transmissible virus on record.  The review team identified 83 alleged perpetrators, both Congolese nationals and foreigners, where in 21 cases, it was able to establish with certainty that the alleged perpetrators were WHO employees and The majority of the alleged abusers, were Congolese staff, hired on a temporary basis. WHO’s regional director for Africa, Matshidiso Moeti, said the agency was “humbled, horrified and heartbroken” by the findings of the inquiry. The 35-page report states that “the scale of incidents of sexual exploitation and abuse, all contributed to the increased vulnerability of alleged victims”, who “were not provided with the necessary support and assistance required for such degrading experiences”. WHO chief Tedros said there would be “severe consequences” for perpetrators and all leaders would be held “accountable for inaction”. 


Somalia: To Boost Women’s Political Participation ‘Sustained Focus, Investments’ Needed

On 28 September 2021, Amina Mohammed, UN Deputy Secretary General stated that that there are unresolved issues surrounding parliamentary quotas, and women’s participation in elections in Somalia and that a 30 per cent quota is a crucial first step towards the equal representation of women in all sectors of life ranging from business to public service, and from elections to appointments. She said there was real concern that women’s representation in the current elections will decrease and also painted a picture of an array of roadblocks for female candidates, which she observed are often impeded by rural tribal leaders, all of whom are men. She further  highlighted that Somalia’s political environment is not conducive to women, with many male leaders promoting male candidates through political networks and connections that their female counterparts lack and also added that Somali women also struggle to access financial support to run campaigns challenges compounded by violence and discrimination. The Deputy Secretary-General cited the country’s 2016 milestone that nearly a quarter of parliamentary seats were occupied by women, noting that those figures “demonstrate that progress is possible even in the most difficult circumstances”. Meanwhile Shukria Dini, Co-founder and Executive Director of Somali Women’s Studies Centre, noted that Ms. Mohammed’s visit left many women “more encouraged and energized” to pursue participation issues, which have democratic and human rights origins. She spoke of “straightforward demands” regarding parliamentary seats, protection for women candidates and the rejection of male candidates who sought seats reserved for women candidates.


FAO: New Report Highlights Urgent Need To Restore Africa’s Degraded Landscape

On 29 September 2021, FAO released a new report titled Review of Forest and Landscape Restoration in Africa 2021 during the Africa Climate Week, and the UN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration showed that more needs to be done to tap the continent’s opportunity to return land to sustainable production, protect biodiversity, and shield livelihoods in the battle against climate change. The analysis has been published by FAO together with the African Union Development Agency-NEPAD. Abebe Haile-Gabriel, FAO’s Assistant Director-General and Regional Representative for Africa stated that despite efforts, every year more forest disappears, costing the continent a three per cent loss of GDP. According to the review up to 65 per cent of productive land is degraded, while desertification affects 45 per cent of Africa’s land area and while the overall trend is moving downward, net loss of forests is still increasing in Africa, with four million hectares of forest disappearing every year. Moreover, Africa’s drylands are increasingly more vulnerable to climate change and their restoration is a priority for adaptation and building resilient and sustainable food systems. The report identifies local ownership as being fundamental for success, while high-level political support and access to finance are also crucial.  Nora Berrahmouni, FAO Senior Forestry Officer covering Africa, and one of the review’s lead authors stated that the efforts should extend well beyond tree-planting, forest and landscape restoration is an all-encompassing approach to returning trees and forests to landscapes where they have been lost and is of great benefit to sustainable food production, building resilience and disaster risk reduction.


PACE: Call For A New Protocol To The European Convention On Human Rights On The Right To A Healthy Environment

On 29 September 2021, the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) called for an ambitious new legal framework, both at national and European level, to anchor “the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment” and presented a draft of an additional protocol to the European Convention on Human Rights which would make such a right enforceable in law in all countries which ratified it. In a resolution and recommendation based on a report by Simon Moutquin (Belgium SOC), the Assembly said such a legal text would finally give the European Court of Human Rights “a non-disputable base for rulings concerning human rights violations arising from environment-related adverse impacts on human health, dignity and life”. The Assembly pointed out that around half the world’s countries have recognised such a “right to a healthy environment” in their constitutions, including 32 Council of Europe member States. Only Europe does not have a regional agreement or arrangement recognising such a right, it added.

The Assembly’s draft will now be considered by the Council of Europe’s Committee of Ministers (CM), which has the final say on whether to draft a new protocol to the Convention. It took no action on a similar request from the Assembly in 2009. The parliamentarians also recommended that the CM draw up an additional protocol to the European Social Charter on the right to a safe, clean, healthy and sustainable environment. Furthermore, the preparation of a feasibility study for a “5P” (preventing, prosecuting, protecting, policies, parliaments) convention on environmental threats and technological hazards threatening human health, dignity and life should be launched, they said, and Recommendation CM/Rec(2016)3 on human rights and business revised with a view to strengthening corporate environmental responsibility.


UNICEF: More Than 25,000 Children Have Been Orphaned Since The Start COVID-19 Pandemic In Indonesia

On 30 September 2021, it was reported that according to a nationwide mapping by the Ministry of Women Empowerment and Child Protection (MoWECP) and UNICEF since the start of the pandemic, 25,430 children in Indonesia have lost one or both caregivers due to COVID-19. The mapping finds that the majority of children (57 per cent) have lost a male caregiver, over a third (37 per cent) have lost a female caregiver, and around five per cent have lost both caregivers. Most of the children are currently being looked after by a female caregiver, some by their extended families while 114 children are unaccompanied and are not being cared for by any adult. The MoWECP, UNICEF and partners are working together to continuously identify children who have been orphaned due to COVID-19 in Indonesia, facilitate access to mental health and psychosocial support for children and caregivers, and strengthen coordination efforts to ensure children remain in family-based care. Children who have lost a caregiver due to COVID-19 are identified using RapidPro, software that collects data via SMS, WhatsApp and other communications channels. UNICEF has customized RapidPro for this purpose so that social services across the country can collect key information, such as age, gender, location and who they are staying with via WhatsApp. Debora Comini, UNICEF Representative stated that the number of children orphaned due to COVID-19 has sharply increased over the past year and half, but it is not a short-term issue and we must make sure that orphaned children are properly protected, not just now but in the years to come.


Myanmar:  ‘Urgent’ International Response Needed According To UN Chief

On 30 September 2021, Antonio Guterres, the UN Secretary General stated that there is need for a collective approach to prevent a multidimensional catastrophe in the heart of Southeast Asia and beyond. Further stating that there is are grave humanitarian implications, including rapidly deteriorating food security, an increase in mass displacements and a weakened public health system compounded by a new wave of COVID-19 infections, require a coordinated approach in complementarity with regional actors. In order to put “Myanmar back on the path to democratic reform,”, it was “urgent to mount a unified international and regional response,” said the UN chief, calling again for the immediate release of President Win Myint, State Counsellor Aung San Suu Kyi and other Government officials, detained after the military takeover. Further he called for “immediate humanitarian access and assistance, especially to vulnerable communities”, including some 600,000 Rohingya Muslims still in northern Rakhine state and the more than 700,000 who fled a 2017 military crackdown and are now in camps in neighbouring Bangladesh. The report of Secretary General ob Situation of human rights of Rohingya Muslims and other minorities in Myanmar, covered the period from mid-August 2020 to mid-August 2021, was approved by 119 countries, with 36 abstaining, including China, and one, Belarus, voting against it. And n the report, Mr. Guterres welcomed the appointment of Brunei’s Second Foreign Minister Erywan Yusof in August as Special Envoy to Myanmar, by the Association of Southeast Asian Nations, ASEAN, and called for “timely and comprehensive implementation” of the UN-backed five-point plan “to facilitate a peaceful solution”, and urged the regional grouping to work with the UN’s own Special Envoy to Myanmar. 



Ethiopia: Expulsion Of UN Staff Could Put UN Operations At Risk

On 1 October 2021, it was reported that the decision to expel United Nations staff from Ethiopia could affect aid operations and distribution in the war torn north of the country where needs and displacement are on the rise. Engagement between the UN and the Government continues after the Ethiopian authorities on 30 September declared seven of the organization’s staff personae non grata and ordered them to leave the country within 72 hours. The affected personnel were five members of the UN humanitarian affairs office, OCHA, a representative from the UN Children’s Fund, UNICEF, and a team leader from the UN human rights office, OHCHR. And in a statement on 30 September, UN Secretary-General António Guterres expressed shock at the announcement, saying “all UN humanitarian operations are guided by the core principles of humanity, impartiality, neutrality, and independence.” Jens Laerke, OCHA spokesperson in Geneva, said the agency was equally shocked and expects the decision to be “changed, or be reviewed, or modified in some way.” The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Michelle Bachelet, has deplored the decision, her office, OHCHR, said on Friday, while rejecting accusations of “meddling”. While the UNICEF characterized the decision by Ethiopia as “regrettable and alarming”; further stating that as the humanitarian situation in the country deteriorates – with children bearing its biggest brunt their work is more urgent than ever and expressing full confidence in its teams on the ground.




Kenya: Flash Appeal Launched As 2.5 Million Face ‘Dire Situation’

On 1 October 2021, OCHA stated that immediate action is need to respond to severe drought that is ravaging communities in Kenya’s dry regions- categorised as Arid and Semi-Arid Land (ASAL). OCHA warned that two and half million people are already experiencing deep food insecurity after two back-to-back rainy seasons failed and by November, it will have nearly tripled since the same time last year.  Stephen Jackson, UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya stated that the people in the ASAL region are facing a dire situation as he launched the humanitarian Flash Appeal for the Kenya Drought response further stating thatpeople in Wajir, Northern Kenya, had not seen rain for over a year and that acute malnutrition rates are rising rapidly, posing an imminent risk to children and pregnant and lactating women.  The Kenya Drought Flash Appeal calls for nearly $139.5 million to deliver relief to 1.3 million people whose lives have been hardest hit by the crisis and an estimated $28.5 million has already been received from donors, including $5 million from the United Nations Central Emergency Response Fund. The appeal brings together 45 humanitarian partners, including UN agencies, international non-governmental organizations (NGOs), national NGOs and the Kenya Red Cross Society, to complement the Government’s response to the drought crisis in the ASAL region. The UN Resident Coordinator pointed out that Kenya’s Government has already been responding to the crisis and that Ksh 1.7 billion (around $17 million) in public funds has already been allocated and Kenya has announced a further Ksh two billion ($20 million).  Kenya urgently needs approximately $60 million for food and job security, $40 million for nutrition, $20 million for Water, Sanitation and Hygiene (WASH), some $10 million for health investments, and $7 million for education and other related sectors, the UN Resident Coordinator for Kenya said. 


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